Chazal state that מנהג של ישראל תורה הוא, “The customs of the Jewish People are Torah.” Most understand this statement as teaching that we must abide by the customs of our people, just as we must abide by the Torah. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited by Rav Hershel Schachter) explains that it means that we must study the customs of the Jewish People with the same rigor as we study the texts of the Torah. Rav Soloveitchik devoted much time in his Shiurim analyzing the basis of various customs because authentic customs have a basis in the Torah.
This week we will seek to discover the development of the practice to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini. This essay will be based on an article by Rav Aharon Adler that appears in Yeshiva University’s Beit Yitzchak (30:9-17).
Tachanun as an Integral Component of Tefillah
Rav Soloveitchik was fond of noting that Tachanun constitutes an integral component of Tefillah. The Rambam (Hilchot Tefillah 5:1) lists Tachanun among the eight basic components of Tefillah such as facing east and standing during Shemoneh Esrei. The Rambam (ibid. 5:15) even notes that there are those who recite Tachanun at night! He also notes that that the accepted custom is to omit Tachanun on certain days such as Shabbat. Rav Adler observes that fundamentally we should say Tachanun even on Shabbat and Yom Tov because Tachanun is an integral component of Tefillah.
Similarly, the Ritva (Bava Metzia 59b s.v. Lo Shavkit) writes that engaging in conversation after Shemoneh Esrei before reciting Tachanun disqualifies one from reciting Tachanun. Although the Ritva’s view does not constitute the Halachic norm (see Mishna Berura 131:2), it dramatically demonstrates the link between Tachanun and Tefillah.
We should note the observation of the Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 131:2) that Tachanun is a matter of great importance. He cites the Gemara (Bava Metzia 59b) that says that Hashem is inclined to respond to the pleas we present in the context of Tachanun.
The Days When Tachanun is Omitted
The Rambam’s (ibid.) list of days when we customarily omit Tachanun is quite modest. It includes only Shabbat, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh, and the Mincha before Shabbat and Yom Tov. The aforementioned Ritva also mentions only Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh as occasions when we omit Tachanun.
An expanded list of days when we omit Tachanun appears in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 131:4-7). These include Tisha B’Av, Tu Beshvat, Tu B’Av, and the entire month of Nissan. The Mishna Berura (131:35) further expands the list to the Mincha before Tu Beshvat and Tu B’Av. However, these sources do not mention a practice to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini. The Aruch Hashulchan, (O.C. 131:12) however, records that some have the practice to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini. In fact, the Aruch Hashulchan writes that it is astonishing that Pesach Sheini does not appear on the list of days on which we omit Tachanun. He is surprised that the classic Halachic sources do not allude to the practice of some to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini.
Today, though, the accepted practice is to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini. We will try to explain how this practice developed.
Why is Tachanun Omitted on Pesach Sheini?
At first glance, the practice to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini appears puzzling. We understand that the days mentioned in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch are days of communal celebration that potentially excuse the community from reciting Tachanun. Pesach Sheini, however, appears to merely be a second opportunity for individuals who did not offer the Korban Pesach in Nissan.
In fact, if the majority of the Jewish People are Tamei on Pesach Rishon, they, too, may offer a Korban Pesach on the fourteenth of Nissan. This is because טומאה הותרא דחויא בציבור, Tamei individuals are forbidden to offer a Korban Pesach, but a Tamei community is permitted to offer a Korban Pesach. Pesach Sheini by definition can serve only as a holiday for individuals. Why should Pesach Sheini be a cause for communal exemption from reciting Tachanun if it is a holiday reserved for individuals?
The Character of Pesach Sheini
Our assumption that Pesach Sheini is characterized as a holiday for individuals requires further scrutiny. It may depend on a dispute among the Tannaim recorded in Pesachim 93a.
The Gemara presents a Tannaitic dispute whether one who converts between the times of Pesach and Pesach Sheini must offer a Pesach Sheini. Rebbe believes that he must present a Pesach Sheini since Pesach Sheini is a רגל בפני עצמו, “Holiday with an identity that is independent” from Pesach. Thus, even though the convert was not obligated to offer a Korban Pesach on Pesach Rishon (because at that time he was not Jewish), he must offer a Pesach Sheini.
On the other hand, Rabi Natan and Rabi Chanania ben Akavia believe that one who converted between Pesach and Pesach Sheini is not obligated to offer a Korban Pesach on Pesach Sheini. They reject the notion that Pesach Sheini is a רגל בפני עצמו. They believe that Pesach Sheini is simply a “Tashlumin” (make-up) opportunity for those who did not offer a Korban Pesach in Nissan. These Tannaim characterize Pesach Sheini as an extension of the Pesach in Nissan.
The Analysis of Rav Aharon Adler
Rav Adler suggests that Rabi Natan and Rabi Chanania ben Akavia characterize Pesach Sheini as a communal holiday since they view it as an extension of Pesach Rishon. Rebbe characterizes Pesach Sheini as a holiday for individuals, as it is a רגל בפני עצמו.
This dispute among the Tannaim remains unresolved. The Rambam (Hilchot Korban Pesach 5:1-2) rules in accordance with Rebbe’s view that Pesach Sheini is a רגל בפני עצמו. The Raavad (ibid.) disagrees as he indicates that the Halacha follows Rabi Natan and Rabi Chanania ben Akavia.
Rav Adler observes that a proof to the Raavad’s ruling is the fact that we read the Parsha of Korban Pesach for the Kriat Hatorah on the last day of Chol Hamoed Pesach (Megila 31a). This demonstrates that Pesach Sheini is linked to Pesach Rishon and not a רגל בפני עצמו. It would appear that according to Rebbe there is no reason to read about Pesach Sheini on Pesach Rishon.
Rav Adler argues that the practice to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini developed because the Raavad’s opinion gradually became accepted as normative. The authorities that rule that Tachanun is recited on Pesach Sheini rule in accordance with Rebbe. This explains why the Rambam believes that we recite Tachanun on Pesach Sheini.
We see that there is a cogent explanation for the development of the practice to omit Tachanun on Pesach Sheini. We should make similar attempts to analyze authentic Minhagim of the Jewish People.
There are also Kabalistic considerations that have fueled the movement to increase those days on which we omit Tachanun. One should follow his local Shul’s Minhag regarding which days warrant the omitting of Tachanun.