Thursday, April 21, 2005

III-6 AchareiMot Blame it on the Scapegoat

21 April III-6 AchareiMot Blame it on the Scapegoat

Torah: Lv 16-18:30 JPS

Haftorah: Ez 22:1-19 JPS


1. Lv 16:1-17
2. Lv 16:18-24
3. Lv 16:25-35
4. Lv 17:1-7
5. Lv 17:8-18:5
6. Lv 18:6-21
7. Lv 18:22-30


Acherei Mos insitutes the Day of Atonement referring to the deaths of Nadab and Abihu. The High Priest received two he-goats. One was sacrificed; the other was released into the wilderness--similar to the rite of purification and return of the leper into society found in Metzora. After repentance, sins are forgiven. The parasha continues with prohibitions regarding eating blood representing the essence of life and closes with the prohibition against Moloch Worship with the list of prohibited sexual relationships. The parasha is strongly linked to the story of the Golden Calf (Ki Thissa) and Metzora the Leper. Repentance and redemption are main themes. Regardless of how bad you are, you can always turn and take a step closer to God.


"Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the Lord at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the Lord and the other marked for Azazel. Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the Lord, which he is to offer as a sin offering; while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the Lord, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel." Lv 16:7-10 JPS Transl

"And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the ehad of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man. Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness." Lv 16:21-22 JPS


Daily, headlines greet us with CEO's, political leaders, military authorites, and government officials, confronted with their negligence or corruption, instantly refuting the allegations by asserting that they are innocent. The CEO of didn't know about the falsified accounts; Enron executives had no idea of their corruption; the DOD had no inkling of the abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba, but certainly all those of Arab descent rounded up in the witch-hunt of Ashcroft were guilty of terrorism by genetics. After all there's always a scapegoat to shove over the edge.

In Metzora, the Kohen Gadol goes to examine the metzora outside of the camp. Through the ritual of purification, he is declared clean on the eighth day. The metzora brings two doves. One will be sacrificed and the other set free. In Acharei Mot, two identical he-goats are brought before the Kohen Gadol. Goats have a long history symbolizing the man's wilder nature. Pan the goat-footed god, represents pantheism; when the hedonistic nature of man is out of control, he represents bacchic orgies and sexual excesses. The goat appears on a Czech beer label brewed in Velke Popovice with obvious implications. A goat is also a lecherous old man.

What about these two goats? In Metzora, one bird is sacrificed; the other set free. During the days of the Second Temple, the second goat was led outside of the city to a high cliff and then shoved off.

They represent two ways of living: one, dedicated to God, consumed by the fire burning within us; the other, led astray and often pushed over the edge through reckless living.

They symbolize the relationship of Jacob and Esau, the twins, whose lives were irrevocably altered by an altercation over a bowl of porridge. They represent two diverse elements within each of us. Esau was red and hairy, a man of the field and a hunter. He stalked game, living a earthly life. He had few spiritual aspirations with his heels dug in the earth.

Jacob, we are told, spent his time in the tents studying. He wrestled with an angel. He was not content to be limited to the physical restraints of this earth, but struggled to overcome them and conquer the divine.

"By way of explanation the Midrash offers the following idea:

This goat [the scapegoat, called sair in Hebrew] refers to Esau, as it is written: "but my brother Esau is a hairy [written as soir in Hebrew] man" (Genesis 27:11) [The Hebrew words sair, "goat," and soir, "hairy" are spelled identically.]

[It is further written]: "The goat will bear upon itself all their inequities (avonotam)." In Hebrew the word avonotam can be split into two words avonot tam, meaning "the inequities of the innocent." This is a reference to Jacob about whom it is written: "Jacob was a wholesome (tam) man" (Genesis 25:27). The word tam in Hebrew means wholesome or innocent. (Bereishis Rabba 65:15)"

AISH: Acharei Mot The Scapegoat

The two goats symbolize of the two-part process of repentance. First, recognize and confess errors with the willingness to sacrifice them. Reject them. Confessing evils is not true teshuvah; it can be another form of sin through vanity. Joyce the Obese sits in the bakery, eating whipped cream while lamenting the levels of blood sugar. Bewailing the doctor's warnings does nothing to control the appetite and illness. It becomes a flag, opportunely waved to announce the scourge of diabetes and short breath, while Joyce indulges in personal suffering and false remorse. If Joyce wanted to lose weight or control diabetes, the warnings would be applied. Moreover, rather than moaning about lugging the extra tonnage, Joyce would be charting daily exercise. Sins become a vanity of our lives like the thief bragging about the Mona Lisa in his bedroom. We become enamoured by our own corruption, wallowing in it narcisstically, using it to control others. We become the god of our lives, vaunting our personal vanities and shunning the Eternal Judge.

Secondly, repentance requires turning away from the sins and not indulging them again. We must immolate the past to free ourselves for the future.

God's judgment is not like man's. A crime on earth makes the person accountable. Murder requires redress—a prison sentence, or in some cases, a death penalty. Claiming innocence doesn't alter the process and many innocent spend time in prison. With God, judgment is different. When a person confesses his sins and changes his life, he is a new man. God does not punish the new man for what the old one did..

Don't mouth prayers. Examine yourself. Make the required internal changes. We see only the superficial levels of human existence, but God examines all that is hidden.

Each of us is made in the image of God with a spark from the Etermal Being. Whether we tend that spark to burn within us or live for the moment, a person with clay feet, depends on us.


"the priest shall go outside the camp. If the priest see that the leper has been healed of his scaly affliction, the priest shall order two live clean birds...The priest shall order one of the birds to be slaughtered...and he shall set the live bird free in the open country."

III-5 Metzora Lv 14: 3-4, 7 JPS

"The next day Moses said to the people, "You have been guilty of a great sin. Yet I will now go up to the Lord; perhaps I may win forgiveness for your sin." Moses went back to the Lord and said, "Alas, thes people is guilty of a great sin in making for themeselves a god of gold. Now if You will forgive their sin [well and good]; but if not, erase me from the record that You have written!" II-9 Ki Tissa Ex 32:30-32 JPS

Yanki Tauber, Ki Tisa Good as Gold

Rev Samuel Rapaport, Tales and Maxims from the Midrash, Exodus Rabbah
"Moses, in pleading for the Israelites against their projected destruction for making the golden calf, had recourse to all sorts of, excuses in order to avert the threatened punishment." See page 107-108 Exodus Rabbah 43 -44

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Tazria: The Leprosy of Irresponsible Speech

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Metzora: Is it Basphemous to Heal People?

Rabbi Yehudah Prero, Repentance: A Story


Aish Acharei Mot The Scapegoat

Rav Kook: Acharei Mos: Ox and Goat

Rabbi Yehuda Prero, Yom Kippur: A Lesson For life

Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook-Acherei Mos/Kedoshim: In Bounds

Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook-AchereiMos/Kekdoshim: Of Demons and Goats

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights-Acharei Mos 5758

Kolel, I-6 Toldot 5765
regarding the contrasting temperaments of Jacob and Esau

Yanki Tauber, Toldot: Jacob and Esau
based on the Lubavitcher rebbe Schneerson's teachings
gives a contrasting picture of the twins

Kolel, Acharei Mos 5762

Kolel Acharei Mos 5763

Yanki Tauber, Withdrawal and Return
based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. regarding Nadav and Avihu in relationship to Yom Kippur

Rabbi Shimon Felix, Acharei Mot: The Sanctity of Elemental Relationships
My Jewish Learning

Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook 5764 : Of Death, Selfishness and Service

Jewish Encyclopedia:


Fall of Angels

Day of Atonement



Sin Offering

Related Suite Parasha

II-4 Beshellach In Over My Head
going through the Ein Sof, transformation

II-4 Beshellach In Over my Head

II-9 Ki Thissa A Golden Opportunity

II-9 Ki Thissa A Golden Opportunity

III-5 Metzora The Kohen and the Metzora

III-5 Metzora The Kohen and the Metzora

III-3 Shemini
regarding Nadab and Abihu

III-3 Shemini When Tragedy Strikes


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