Why should we be worse off, by not offering (the Pesach Offering) (Bamidbar 9:7)

The Ohr HaChaim wonders what exactly were these men asking when they said: “Why should we be worse off?” They themselves explained that they were impure due to contact with a corpse. The Sforno assumes that they became tamei from the mitzvah of accompanying the niftar (see Targum Yonason and Baal Haturim) and based on this, answers this question in a very novel way: Many times, a person finds himself in a situation which was brought about because of something he had done. For example, someone offered a ride to an elderly man. He parked his car in front of the elderly man’s home and went to escort him to the car. But when he came back to the car, he found that someone had hit his vehicle and driven away without even leaving a note. He wondered to himself “Why did this happen to me? I was busy doing a mitzvah!” We seem to feel that when doing a mitzvah we are living in a bubble and protected from all kinds of calamities. After all, there is the prominent idea (Koheles 8:5) “a person who is involved in a mitzvah will not have negative things happen to him” – so therefore we wonder, why did this happen to me?!

On a simple level, we can admit that there is no guarantee for across-the-board protection. On a subtler level, we wonder why was it that Hashem dealt to us something negative at a time when we were doing something positive. This, in itself, is a test that some people face. Many people pacify themselves by saying “There has to be some good hidden in this” and they believe that this is just a blessing in disguise.

These men in the desert, after searching all possibilities, could not find an understanding how something positive might one day come out of their becoming impure. The Sforno therefore tells us that the question was “How could it be that being involved in a mitzvah eventually caused a sin?” They don’t have a question about losing something physical, but rather how could it be that doing a mitzvah, results in aveirah as we know mitzvah goreres mitzvah.

I took note that the Sforno calls their inability to perform this mitzvah a “sin”! We would think that they are just exempt due to circumstances beyond their control. Yet, it seems that precisely due to their inability to perform the mitzvah of the Pesach offering is as great a tragedy as transgressing a positive commandment.

What follows, I think, is an unbelievable chizuk to people. Due to their feeling of this great tragedy, not only did they merit to bring an offering on Pesach Sheini, but a parsha of the Torah was also added through them. Their question “lama nigara” is correct: You will not lose out if you perform a mitzvah. One may not see the benefit gained right away, but if you truly feel the loss of the mitzvah, it can result in a loftier gain.