This week we are yet again reading two portions, the first being Parshat Acharai Mot, another phenomenal Parshah.
The start of this week’s parshah relates the service done by the Kohen Gadol on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement (Yoma 85b/86a). It is a day in which one can eradicate all transgressions done against G-d, however one has to ask forgiveness directly from the person they caused harm, in order for the eradication of sin against man.
The parshah relates how a Kohan may not enter the Mikdash unnecessarily (Vayikra 16:2), after mentioning what happened to Nadav and Avihu.
Much preparation was made before the Yom Kippur service; the most important service would be of the Kohen Gadol, going into the Holy of Holies. On Erev Yom Kippur the sages would instruct and teach the Kohen Gadol what he would be doing the following day in the most precise manner. On the night of Yom Kippur itself, the Kohen Gadol was to stay up the whole night, reading various chapters in Tanach (including the books of Daniel, Chronicles and Ezra), as this was a time for atonement, the Kohen Gadol was utilizing his time absorbing in Torah.
The Yom Kippur service was huge, starting off with the daily morning service, then the high priests Mincha offering, then the Mussaf of Yom Kippur (featured in parshat Pinchus), then the first confession. The Yom Kippur service progressed with a service featuring a lottery; two identical goats were brought and two lots were drawn, one of Azazel and the other to Hashem (Vayikra 16:8). The goat that was selected to Hashem was to be a sacrifice to Hashem, and the goat selected for ‘Azazel,’ would be thrown off a cliff in the wilderness.
The law of the throwing the goat off the cliff is ridiculed by the gentiles and its logic cast in doubt by a persons evil inclination. Hashem however stated that no one has a right to criticize it. The Midrashim interpret that ‘Azazel, represents Satan or a Shaid’ The Kohen Gadol would confess all the sins of the Jewish people on to this goat and then all their sins would be erased when the goat was thrown off (Yoma 66b). A red scarlet thread was always tied to the entrance of the Kodesh section and it miraculously whitened when the goat reached the desert, this was a sign of heavenly satisfaction (Yoma 68b), however after the death of the Kohen Gadol, Shimon HaTzaddik, some years into the Second Temple era, this miracle stopped. The Service progressed with the slaughtering of the Kohen Gadols bullock and then the main part of Yom Kippur, the service in the Holy of Holies, where the Kohen Gadol would go in and then after carrying out a ketoret service, he would go into the Kodesh section and beseech Hashem for forgiveness in behalf of the Jewish nation. If the Kohen Gadol and the people were not worthy it could mean the death of the Kohen Gadol, during the 410 year era of the First Temple there were 18 Kohen Gadolim and in the 420 year era of the Second Temple, there was a whopping 300 Kohen gadolim! The position of the High priest became some what corrupt during the Second Temple era, very much reflected by the fact so many of them died in the Yom Kippur service as they were not worthy of the position.
Next up, the Kohen Gadol would sprinkle the blood of his Bullock, then he would slaughter the goat to Hashem, sprinkle the goats blood and then sprinkle the blood of the sacrifices onto the dividing curtain and the Golden Alter (Shemot 30:1/10), after pushing the goat off the cliff in the desert, the rest of the Mussaf service was carried out, the Kohen Gadol read from the Torah, there was the offering of the Rams, burning of the inner organs, the daily incense (Vayikra 16:12) and concluded by the Kohen Gadol's daily Mincha offering.
Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and abstention of work. It was on the day of Yom Kippur that Moshe came down from heaven after his third stay there with a second set of tablets and G-d forgave the Jewish people from the sin of the Golden Calf (Shabbat 88b).
The Parshah then goes on and gives a bunch of commandments, including, the prohibition of slaughtering sacrifices outside the Tabernacle, covering the blood of a slaughtered animal and not to eat any blood (Vayikra 17:11).
Then the Torah speaks about the forbidden marital relations, including, marrying close relatives, mother and daughter, a wife’s sister, adulatory with a married woman, marital relations with a ‘nidda,’ and cohabitation with animal (Vayikra 18:1/20). And more forbidden relations are mentioned also, these are all seen as an abomination by G-d.
Hashem inflicts punishment for Moral Depravity. We see in parshat Noach that the flood came about due to the immorality of the nations (Bereishit 6:13). In Parshat Vayera, when the people of Sodom attacked Lot’s house, wanting to violate him and his daughters, the City was then destroyed and turned in to a pillar of Salt by Hashem (Bereishit 19:26). We see in the book of ‘Judges’ how the nazirite, Shimshon, saw his downfall come about by wanting to marry beautiful Pelishtim women, in retribution Hashem punished him by blinding him (Sota 9b). We also see in Parshat Balak and Pinchus how Hashem got angry with the Jews after they sinned with the Moabite women, in turn, killing 24000 people in a plague (Bamidbar 25:4).
The Parshah concludes relating how the land of Israel cannot tolerate Sinful behaviour and the commandment of not delivering children to the ‘Molech Priests.’
The Haftorah for this week reading comes from Chapter 9 in the book of Amos. Hope you all have a fantastic week! This Dvar Torah is in memory of Benyamin Ben Mordechai, who passed away 6 years ago, please do good deeds in his memory.