Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Acharei Mos

Seeking Forgiveness Through the Goat of Azazel and the High Priest

By

In this week’s parsha the Torah teaches us that there are two living beings that carry the sins of Israel upon them on Yom Kippur - and through them comes expiation and forgiveness of sin to all of Israel. The first is the High Priest of Israel who is charged with the fulfillment of the ritual service in the Temple and the other is the scapegoat that will be thrust off of the cliff of Azazel carrying with it the sins of Israel.

Much has been written about these two creatures and their roles in the exalted Yom Kippur service. I think that one of the insights that may be gleaned from these differing forms of the ritual of achieving forgiveness for our sins lies in the stark contrast between the creatures.

Though they are both instrumental in fulfilling this role of mediating between God and us, the contrast between the High Priest of Israel and a goat is striking. One is the holiest and most exalted of humans, clad in white and devoted solely to purity and the other is a goat that was apparently chosen at random through a “lottery” to be the sacrificial animal, which possesses no human intelligence and spirit. What are we to make of this disparity of mediators between man and God? Perhaps we can understand the role of the High Priest in this spiritual drama but the role of the goat is certainly shrouded in mystery and wonder for us. The entire matter certainly demands thought, analysis and explanation

My insight is that the High Priest brings forgiveness to Israel through living – through a life of holiness and public service. The High Priest blesses the people and he is aware that he bears the responsibility for their behavior and is charged with being the proper role model for his fellow priests and for all of Israel generally.

It is not an easy task to live a holy life of spiritual example and leadership. We often think that sanctification of God’s name is a task that is beyond our meager talents and abilities. That is not true. The true sanctification of God’s name, the true struggle for holiness and forgiveness is accomplished in our daily living. It is accomplished in our relationship and treatment of others and in our constant struggle for personal self improvement.

The other method of bringing forgiveness, dying for a cause – is that of thrusting the goat off of the cliff of Azazel. Even though martyrdom has been an unfortunate staple of Jewish existence over the ages, it is certainly not the preferable method of sanctification of God’s name. And as the Holocaust abundantly proved it is not necessarily a voluntary, thought out, determined personal choice.

Like the goat of Azazel, it is often a dumb and involuntary choice, a random choice. And even though it also brings absolution for one’s and others’ sins, it is not the true fulfillment of the human part of seeking forgiveness. Apparently the scapegoat in terms of practicality is part of our lives as Jews but we should all at least attempt to emulate the High Priest.

Shabat shalom,
Pesach kasher v’sameach

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

Tire of Babel
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

Window to the World
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5762

A Wasted Tragedy
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5762

ArtScroll

Before It Rains
Rabbi Label Lam - 5767

Great In His Own Times
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein - 5768

In His Generation
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Faxs vs. Kidney Stones
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

Hashem's Promise
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770

The Name of HASHEM
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Roots of Evil
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

Back To The Daily Grind
Shlomo Katz - 5765

Send The Guinea Pig!
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757

> Not Just Despite, but Because of!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Great Is Peace
- 5769

Immorality Around Us
Shlomo Katz - 5759

The Flood
Shlomo Katz - 5769



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information