Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20)



Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20)

Acharei Mot includes the Yom Kippur service where the Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats — one to be sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel after the Cohen Gadol – the High Priest – confesses the sins of the people upon its head. Today it is a very popular epithet in Israel to instruct another person in the heat of an argument to “go to Azazel.” (I don’t believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat…)

The goat sent to Azazel symbolically carried away the sins of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the Jewish people — when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real goat!

The Torah then proceeds to set forth the sexual laws — who you are not allowed to marry or have relations with. If one appreciates that the goal of life is to be holy, to perfect oneself and to be as much as possible like God, then he/she can appreciate that it is impossible to orgy at night and be spiritual by day.

The Torah portion of Kedoshim invokes the Jewish people to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people is to survive as an entity, it must have common values and goals — a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny.

R.Kalman Packouz

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The High Priest, the Cohen Gadol, performs a special service in the Tent of Meeting on Yom Kippur. Only he performs this service and he does it alone. The Torah states:

“And there shall be no man in the Tent of Meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the sacred place” (Leviticus 16:17).

Why does the Torah emphasize, “and there shall be no man” when he does the service?

The commentary Degel Machaneh Ephraim, points out that the Cohen Gadol might feel conceited being the only one chosen from the entire nation to perform the sacred service on the most holy day of the year. He might focus on the honor he was receiving from others and how other people would be thinking of him with respect and even awe. Therefore, the Torah tells him, “There shall be no man,” that is, the Cohen Gadol should mentally view the world as if there were no other people in existence. He should do this when he enters the tent of meeting to make atonement in the sacred place. By having this mental attitude, he frees himself from any thoughts of seeking honor and approval.

This is a useful technique for people who are worried about what others think about them. If no one else exists, then you do not need to worry what they think of you. In truth, others do not think about you as much as you think they do. And if they do think about what you do, it makes little practical difference — especially, if you use this technique to free yourself from the harm and pain caused by the illusion that they are thinking about you and that it matters.

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