04/18/2013 11:41 am ET | Updated Jun 18, 2013

Man-oh-Manischewitz: Passover's Second Chance

Imagine the dismay and horror of the vintner, who, upon entering his vineyard, discovers his entire crop to be infected with a rotting mold! Entire crops could be devastated by certain pernicious molds.

Then, one day, everything changed. Someone actually tried making wine with these rotted grapes. Lo and behold -- they produced a fine, sweet wine, nothing like the syrupy Manischewitz wines that used to dominate the kosher market. Since then, these wines have actually become revered, teaching us that even when something may seem rotten, there is still a second chance. (For a kosher version, try the Yarden Noble Semillon.) Even the mold itself became affectionately known as "Noble Rot."

This upcoming Wednesday, April 24, marks a little-known holiday on the Jewish calendar: Pesach Sheini ("The Second Passover").

Second Passover? We need two of them?!

Well, truth be told, it is a little different that the original holiday: one day instead of seven (or eight in the diaspora), and we are permitted to eat chametz (leavened products).

Where does this holiday originate? The story behind this one-of-a-kind day is found in Numbers 9:6-11:

"There were [certain] men who were impure because [they had come in contact with a] human corpse and they could not bring the Passover offering on that day [i.e. the proper day for the offering]. They came before Moses... and said, 'We are unclean... [but] why should we be held back from bringing the offering of G-d in its time?...

And Moses said to them, 'Stand and hear what G-d will command concerning you.'

G-d said..., 'If any man be impure... or on a distant way [on the day of the Passover offering]..., he shall sacrifice the Passover offering to G-d, in the second month, [Iyar], on the fourteenth day in the afternoon...'"

If, as a result of either being ritually impure or even because one had willfully transgressed G-d's will, one did not bring the Passover offering at its appointed time, one was given a second chance on Pesach Sheini.

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn, explained that, "Pesach Sheini teaches us that 'Nothing is ever lost; it's never too late.'" The original Yiddish saying is: עס איז ניטא קיין פארפאלען -- es iz nittoh kein farfallen.

Sounds great. But what does it mean that, "it's never too late"? If you miss your train, isn't it too late?

Perhaps we can gain some insight from the above mentioned "Noble Rot."

At first glance, all hope is lost: the grapes are ruined and unworthy of transformation into wine. However, with a bit of ingenuity and perhaps some good luck, we see that, indeed, "nothing is ever lost; it's never too late." Even these rotten grapes can be turned into a sweet wine, thus representing our ability to transform even a bitter, difficult situation, into something "sweet."

Granted, we do not always have the vision to see how the "rot" can be turned into "sweet." Let us take this lesson from the unique holiday of Pesach Sheni: Nothing is ever lost; it's never too late.