Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Calf, the Goat and the Sanctuary

I would like to thank my father Rabbi Noam Gordon and my old friend Benji Ginsberg for taking the time to review this article. Their feedback was invaluable.

This piece was originally written for Adas Torah's "Nitzachon" journal and is quite long for a blog post. It can be easily printed out by clicking on the green print/pdf button at the bottom of the post.

Yom Kippur can be overwhelming. Confronted by alphabetical listings of our failings, the challenge of teshuva, long and difficult davenings, leinings and haftorahs, not to mention the struggle of the fast itself, it is hard to know where to put our focus. Under pressure from all the mitzvos of the day, basic questions often remain unaddressed and unexplained. And there is more at stake than Jewish literacy – if we lack clarity, we are in danger of being led astray by unrealistic expectations and misguided goals. But if we know the true meaning of Yom Kippur, we can harness it for meaningful and lasting spiritual growth.
The most basic Yom Kippur question gets surprisingly little attention. Why is Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement? What is so special about the tenth day of the month of Tishrei? The short answer is that Yom Kippur is the day Hashem pardoned the egel, the sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai with a replacement set of tablets on the tenth of Tishrei, proof positive that Hashem forgave the sin that caused the first set to be smashed (Rashi, Shemos 11:33). This extraordinary act of divine love embedded itself into the fabric of time. Forevermore, the tenth of Tishrei would be a Day of Atonement.
It sounds wonderful, but unfortunately things are not so simple. While it is true that Moshe’s prayers saved the nation and Hashem did give a second set of tablets, nonetheless, the sin is still out there. Hashem decreed, “On the day of remembrance, I will visit their sin upon them” (Shemos 32:34). In other words, “Punishment for the egel is included in every punishment of the Jewish People” (Sanhedrin 102a). The unforgivable appears not to have been totally forgiven.

Cleaning the Calf
This obviously presents a problem for us come Yom Kippur. “Why doesn’t the Kohen Gadol wear [his usual] golden garments when he enters the inner sanctum to do the avodah? Because a prosecutor cannot be a defender” (Rosh Hashanah 26a). The mere presence of gold “reminds” Hashem of the egel and undermines the Kohen’s work as our defense attorney.
The egel hangs as a dark cloud over the Day of Atonement, but our strategy is more sophisticated than simply to avoid mentioning it. As we shall see, the entire service of Yom Kippur is designed to reverse the spiritual damage caused by the Golden Calf.
The egel is not just a sin, it is a belief system, an “ism.” By building an egel the Jews expressed the belief that people can only relate to the Creator through an intermediary (Ramban to Shemos 32:1). This is a self-fulfilling heresy, for “Hashem relates to us the same way we relate to Him” (Midrash cited in Nefesh HaChaim 1:7) and when we step back from the relationship, so does He. “When the Jews made the egel, the Clouds of Glory departed” (Vilna Gaon to Shir HaShirim 1:4). This is why Moshe had to break the Tablets. Tablets and an egel are incompatible, for the Torah is meant to bring Hashem into our lives and an egel keeps Him at a distance.
Why did the Jews make a Golden Calf? While they may have felt that God was too close for comfort, there was also a theological error in play. The Jews apparently thought that the Shechina prefers pure gold to flesh and blood. Since God is perfect, He must only be interested in perfection. This is a disastrous misconception; nothing could be further from the truth. God wants a relationship with humans, not statues.
On Yom Kippur, Hashem countered the egel by giving us Tablets of Torah – the “gateway” to a relationship with Him (Yoma 72b) – and instructing us to put them in a wooden Ark.[1] Not metallic, lifeless gold, but complex and organic wood, the symbol of man.[2] The message is clear. When a human being with Torah in his heart enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur and stands together with the Ark in the direct presence of the Shechina, the intimacy of the God/Jew relationship is restored and Egelism is neutralized.[3]
One of the famous debates between the Tzedukim and the Perushim involved an apparently minor technicality of the Yom Kippur service. Rejecting tradition, the Tzedukim claimed that the Kohen Gadol must put the ketores on the firepan before entering the Kodesh HaKodoshim (Yoma 19b). Aside from textual support, there is a solid rationale behind this position. “A man cannot see Me and live” (Shemos 33:20). The Tzedukim felt that in order to survive, the Kohen Gadol needs a cloud of smoke to obscure the Shechina.[4] But our mesorah insists otherwise (Yoma 53a) and in light of the egel, this Halacha has great significance. The Kohen Gadol must first enter the Kodesh HaKodoshim and stand before Hashem, smoke-free. He need not be in the midst of performing a mitzvah, nor may he hide behind a cloud. Ketores can wait. On Yom Kippur, Hashem’s greatest desire is simply the presence of man himself.
Even the route to the Kodesh HaKodoshim is indicative. According to Rabbi Yosi, the Kohen Gadol walked along the north wall of the sanctuary, straight into the Holy of Holies through an opening in the north side of the curtain. Others argue that this behavior lacks the requisite reverence and the Kohen should take a roundabout path. “Due to the presence of the Shechina, it is inappropriate to walk straight in” (Yoma 52a), “staring the whole time through the opening into the Kodesh HaKodoshim” (Rashi ad loc.). But the gemora defends Rabbi Yosi’s position. Hashem loves us so much, He wants us to pray to Him directly. If we are so beloved before God, the Kohen Gadol, our representative, should feel free to walk straight into the throne room.
Understanding Yom Kippur as a response to the egel also explains why the Tenth of Tishrei is the Yom HaChasima, the day our fate is sealed for the coming year. Hashem decreed that every judgment must include some punishment for the egel, but with great compassion, Hashem set the “Day of Remembrance,” the day judgments are finalized, on the very day He pardoned the egel! We thus have the benefit of being judged on the anniversary of Hashem’s mercy, and Hashem Himself teaches us how to make the most of the opportunity. Every year the combined forces of our national teshuva and the Kohen Gadol’s service achieve a little more fixing, a little more cleansing and a little more forgiveness. As the antidote for the egel, Yom Kippur helps us secure a favorable judgement for the New Year.[5]

Goat Mysteries
The goats of Yom Kippur stand out in a service filled with mystical mysteries. Two lots are drawn to determine the status of two identical goats. One ticket says “La’shem.” The lucky goat who wins that ticket is offered as a korban chatas, a sin offering. The other ticket says, “La’Azazel.” This goat is the loser. He will be cast off a cliff in the desert. While the use of lots is peculiar, throwing a goat off a cliff is, to be frank, utterly bizarre. It flies in the face of everything we know about the service of Hashem.[6] But an even greater surprise is the atonement power of the Azazel Goat.
The two goats deal with two very different categories of sin. When a person is tamei, it is forbidden for him to enter the Beis HaMikdash or eat the meat of a korban. This is the sin of tumas mikdash v’kodoshav, defiling the Beis HaMikdash and its offerings with spiritual impurity. The La’shem Goat atones for this sin. In contrast, the Azazel Goat atones for… everything else! Every other sin is forgiven through the goat that is thrown off a cliff (Yoma 61a).
How goats atone is beyond our ken, but this much we can ask: what is so special about the sin of tumas mikdash, defiling the sanctuary? What is it about this one obscure sin that requires its own private goat on Yom Kippur, when all other sins are taken care of by the other goat?[7] Before we answer this question, we will first strengthen it.

One plus One Equals One
Although the service of the La’shem Goat and the service of the Azazel Goat could not be more different, the two goats are identical in appearance, height and cost. They are even purchased together (Yoma 6:1). The Torah is creating a bond between these two goats, a bond that transcends their differences. The Azazel Goat must stand in the sanctuary when the blood of the La’shem Goat is offered (Vayikra 16:10; Yoma 40b); it is as if his own blood is being offered. These halachos all betray a strange, alternate reality. The two goats are not two goats, they are the same goat.[8]
According to Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Eliyashiv, the unity of the goats is such that it is difficult to differentiate between them. This is why the usual verbal declaration is insufficient and we need a lottery to establish the separate identity of each goat.[9] In contrast, Rabbi Yoshe Ber Soloveichik believed it was the lottery itself that united the goats.[10] Either way, the consensus is clear: the goats are two components of a single offering.
Returning now to our question, the problem is exacerbated. If the goats are united, they should work together towards a common atonement. How and why does each goat atone for a different type of sin? 

A Goat for Hashem
As a korban chatas, a sin offering, the La’shem Goat fixes the sin of introducing tumah to the Beis HaMikdash. But it does more than that. The blood of the La’shem Goat actually sanctifies the sanctuary. “With his finger, he shall sprinkle the blood seven time on [the altar], purifying it and sanctifying it from the tumah of the Children of Israel” (Vayikra 16:19; Yoma 59a). Atoning, purifying and sanctifying are different things; how does one goat do it all?
Although we cannot see nor sense the negative spiritual energy called “tumah,” the gemora grants us a revealing insight into the meaning of the word.
Sin clogs the heart of man, as the verse states, “Don’t make yourself tamei by [eating rodents], for you will then be tamei because of them” (Vayikra 11:43) – don’t read “for you will then be tamei,” read rather, “for you will then be clogged” (Yoma 39a).[11]
A synonym for clogged, tumah is a dark force that restricts the flow of divine blessings and reduces Hashem’s ability to be present. Hashem relates to man the way man relates to Him, and if a person sins, Hashem cannot interact with him in a normal, healthy way. “[If a person] defiles himself below, he is defiled above” (Yoma ad loc.).[12] It follows that when “he sanctifies himself below, he is sanctified above” (Yoma ad loc.). Teshuva purifies the tumah generated by sin and allows “an increased flow of kedusha from Hashem” to enter the person (Nefesh HaChaim 1:20). In other words, when a sin is forgiven, man is purified of tumah and then automatically sanctified by the Shechina.
This explains the gravity of tumas mikdash and the imperative of cleaning it out, and it also explains why this is prioritized on Yom Kippur, the day dedicated to fixing the egel. When we set up a Golden Calf as an intermediary between us and Hashem, we corrupted the proper service of the One God and damaged the spiritual pipelines that connect Heaven and Earth. In other words: tumas mikdash. In order to bring the Shechina back into our world, we must first flush out the tumah generated by Egelism. This is the function of the La’shem Goat. It is literally “for Hashem,” as it prepares the sanctuary and the world for His Presence.[13] But there is another goat on this day, a goat of even greater import.

Resurrecting Adam
In his commentary to the Torah, Rabbi Ovadia Seforno advances a fascinating theory. If not for the sin of the egel, he writes, there never would have been a Mishkan at all. The original plan was for the Shechina to rest directly on the people, not in a building. Tragically, the Jews worshipped a Golden Calf and Hashem decreed that they be annihilated. Although Moshe saved the nation through the power of his tefillah, Hashem only agreed to return through the medium of a Mishkan.[14]
A little prehistory will be helpful here. We should remember that there was no Beis HaMikdash in the Garden of Eden. There was no need, for the Shechina rested directly on Adam.[15] This was Hashem’s original plan for the world, and according to the Seforno, this was Hashem’s plan for the newly minted Jewish Nation. Like the sin of the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden, the sin of the Golden Calf at Sinai clogged the pipes and shattered Hashem’s vision for the Jewish People. Plan B, a Mishkan, was implemented.
If the Mishkan only exists because of the egel, it follows that as the egel fades, the need for a Mishkan fades with it and Man can reclaim his original role as God’s sanctuary on Earth. It may strike us as radical, but the concept is actually well-established. “One who wishes to pour a wine libation on the altar should fill the throat of Torah sages with wine” (Yoma 71a). Speaking of a person who achieves the level of a “Kadosh,” the Ramchal writes, “Such a man is like the Mishkan, the Mikdash and the altar” (Mesilas Yesharim, chap. 26). On Yom Kippur, as we clean out the residue of the egel, kedusha flows down upon us and the medium of the Mikdash is rendered superfluous. This explains how the Kohen Gadol faced Hashem in the Holy of Holies[16] and it also allows us to understand the symbolism of the Azazel Goat.
Carried by a non-Kohen out of the Beis HaMikdash and into the desert, the Azazel Goat represents the ability of every Jew to deal with his sins on his own, without the aid of an external sanctuary.[17] We have the power to restore our relationship with Hashem wherever we may be – even when we find ourselves wandering in a spiritual desert. In a word, the Azazel Goat represents teshuva. In the absence of a Mikdash, teshuva is all we need,[18] and on Yom Kippur, the Mikdash is indeed absent, for it is replaced by Man.
This is more than just an inspiring thought; it is a reality with terrifying consequences. If Man is a sanctuary, then a sin is not merely a sin. Every sin is an act of sanctuary defilement!
The strange unity of the goats now makes perfect sense: the La’shem Goat relates to the Beis HaMikdash, while the Azazel Goat relates to the Mikdash within man. The La’shem Goat cleanses ordinary tumah from the sanctuary building, and the Azazel Goat cleanses all other sins – the tumah of Man – consecrating a sanctuary of flesh and blood for the Creator.[19] Each goat takes a different route, but their purpose is one and the same: creating a space where Hashem feels comfortable on Earth.[20]
The goats may be unified, but they are also in competition. In an astonishing Halacha, the gemora (Yoma 66b) rules that if the person designated to escort the goat to the desert becomes tamei, he should still enter the Mikdash to get the goat, defiling the sanctuary on the very day dedicated to its purification![21] It would be an easy matter to find a replacement – indeed if he calls in sick, that is exactly what we do – but during its fifteen minutes of fame, this goat wants make a point. When we cast off our sins on Yom Kippur and bring Hashem back into our lives, then we become the Mikdash and the Temple building is downgraded. Encountering Hashem in the Beis HaMikdash is not the ideal; what Hashem really wants is for us to find Him within ourselves.[22] Experiencing this intimacy with Hashem is the antithesis of the egel and the goal of Yom Kippur.

Confession or Blood?
The goats differ not only in the way in which they are offered, but also in the mitzvah of viduy, the verbal confession. In the first step of every sin offering, the supplicant places his hands on the animal’s head and recites viduy, confessing the sin for which his offering will atone. This act “places” the sin onto the animal.
Aaron shall lean his two hands on the head of the living goat, confess upon it all the sins of the Children of Israel… and place them on the head of the goat… and the goat will carry all of their sins into the wilderness… (Vayikra 16:21-22)
Typically, atonement is not achieved until the blood of an offering is sprinkled on the altar, but in the case of the Azazel Goat, the viduy is the critical part of the service. Once the viduy is recited by the Kohen Gadol, the Azazel Goat can die and it need not be replaced – even if it never makes it to the desert (Yoma 40b). In contrast, and in violation of standard procedure, the Goat for Hashem has no viduy at all. Its atonement is effected solely through the sprinkling of its blood on the altar (Yoma 61a). It is strange indeed that a goat headed for the desert receives a standard viduy and a sin offering lacks it.[23]
In light of our theory, this discrepancy can be understood. The viduy of the Kohen Gadol on the Azazel Goat represents the mitzvah of teshuva, the ability to return to Hashem without a Mikdash. According to the Rambam, the mitzvah of teshuva is viduy (Hilchos Teshuva 1:1), but in order for teshuva to be effective, one must first throw his sins away and cease the negative behavior (ibid 2:2). Azivas HaChet, the abandonment of sin, is an obvious prerequisite for teshuva. To recite viduy without first breaking the habit is akin to immersing in a mikvah while still holding on to the dead rodent that caused the impurity in the first place (ibid 2:3). This then is the Azazel Goat. Confessing sins on a goat and then throwing it off a cliff is simply a graphic depiction of ordinary teshuva.[24]
It is indicative that atonement for the egel was achieved by the prayer (Shemos 32:11-14) and confession (ibid. 32:31) of Moshe and not through animal sacrifice. As we redress the sin of the egel annually on Yom Kippur, it is only natural that we would want to make use of Moshe’s successful formula, and this is indeed the case. The text of the Kohen Gadol’s viduy on the Azazel Goat is derived from the text of Moshe’s viduy on the egel (Yoma 37a).
In contrast, the Goat for Hashem demonstrates not the power of Man, but the power of the Mikdash. As such, there is no human input and no verbal confession on this goat; atonement is achieved solely through the blood of the sacrifice. With its sanctuary-centric outlook, it is appropriate that this goat atones for no sin other than spiritual defilement of the Beis HaMikdash.

The Unfinished Sanctuary
Viewing Yom Kippur in the context of the egel shifts the focus off our sins and onto the big picture: the state of our relationship with Hashem. Simply stated, the goal of the day is to become a Human Mishkan. Of course, teshuva is imperative, but a person could technically fulfill the mitzvah of teshuva and still miss the point. For example, someone could regret missing minyan, but never ask himself when was the last time he really opened up to Hashem in tefillah. A person could resolve to elevate the quality of his Shabbos table with divrei torah and zemiros, but have no interest in guiding his private life or business affairs according to the dictates of the Shulchan Aruch. A person could become scrupulous about kashrus, but never thank Hashem for food with a well-articulated and heartfelt beracha. The point here is not hypocrisy. The point is that the egel is alive and kicking.
Do we relegate Hashem to the medium of a sanctuary or a shul, a davening or a Shabbos? Or do we realize that He expects daily Azazel offerings from the cliffs of Los Angeles? Do we yearn for Hashem to enter every aspect of our lives? Or do we prefer to keep Him at a comfortable distance?
Being and becoming an Orthodox Jew is a lifelong work-in-progress and teshuva, by definition, is always doomed to fall short, but if we understand Yom Kippur then we know it doesn’t matter. Yom Kippur is about how we relate to Hashem and we are in the driver’s seat. If we make sincere resolutions and take a step towards Him, then He responds in kind and moves towards us. But if we hold back and maintain the status quo, so will He.[25]
The gemora in Yoma (57a) tells a story. A Tzeduki challenged Rebbi Chanina, “Now that you are in exile you are definitely tamei and the Shechina is not with you, as the verse states, ‘Her impurity is on her hems’ (Eichah 1:9).”
“Come and see what the Torah says about the Jews,” Rabbi Chanina responded. “‘He dwells with them, in the midst of their tumah’ (Vayikra 16:16) – even when they are impure, the Shechina rests among them.”
“Even when they are impure, the Shechina rests among them!” Where, of all places, does the Torah make this radical statement about Hashem’s tolerance for tumah? In the middle of the Yom Kippur avodah, a service dedicated to purifying the sanctuary! And this is precisely the point: The Human Temple is perpetually under construction and perfection is unattainable and unnecessary, but if we are honest about building a sanctuary, we must hand over the keys. When Man invites Hashem into his life and grants Him unrestricted access, then the egel is undone and the Shechina arrives. This was the goal of the Yom Kippur service of old and this is what we are striving for on Yom Kippur today.

[1] “They should make an Ark of cedar wood” (Shemos 25:10). The gold cheruvim on the Ark also carry an anti-egel message. Male and female, they symbolize Hashem’s “marriage” to the Jewish Nation (Yoma 54a) and signify that we relate to each other directly, without an intermediary (Rabbeinu Bechaya to Shemos 25:18).
[2] “For man is a tree of the field” (Devarim 20:19). In another clear indication of the Ark as a symbol of man, the Ark was gold-plated inside and out to indicate that “a two-faced sage is no sage” (Yoma 72b).
[3] This is why the yetzer hara for idolatry is located in the Kodesh HaKodoshim (cf. Yoma 69b). It is at the site of man’s most intimate union with Hashem that the egel intervenes.
[4] According to the Chizkuni (Vayikra 16:13), this is indeed the purpose of the ketores.
[5] The Gemora draws a number of striking parallels between the Yom Kippur service and the para aduma service, e.g., segregating the Kohen seven days prior (Yoma 2a), the tumah of the person who burns the animal (68b), and the use of a red woolen string (41b; cf. 63b, 68a; see below, note 16). Inscrutable as these halachos may be, commonalities are understandable in light of the fact that the para aduma also served to cleanse the impurity generated by the egel (cf. Rashi to Bamidbar 19:22).
[6] The service of the Azazel Goat is such an anomaly, “the yetzer hara tricks the Jews by refuting it, claiming that the Torah must be false” (Rashi to Yoma 67b). This is why the Torah states, “Observe my decrees… I am Hashem your God” (Vayikra 18:4). “I am Hashem – I have decreed and you have no right to question” (Yoma ad loc.). The Ramban (Vayikra 16:8) cites Midrashim that view the Azazel Goat as a stand-in for Esav (cf. Nefesh HaChaim 2:7) and as a literal scapegoat, a “bribe” for the angel Samael, i.e. the Satan. Unfortunately, for those of us not versed in Kabbala this approach makes the goat more mysterious, not less.
[7] While it is true that the musafim of the Yomim Tovim and Rosh Chodesh are dedicated to atoning for tumas mikdash (Shavuos 1:1), our question is why this would be necessary on Yom Kippur when the Azazel Goat atones for all sins. Moreover, the La’shem Goat is not a musaf (Yoma 3a).
[8] See Yoma 40a, Tosfos, s.v. v’azdu; Yoma 61b, Gevuros Ari, s.v. itti afilu b’shabbos.
[9] Anonymous, Heoros B’Maseches Yoma: M’Shiurei Maran Rebbi Yosef Shlomo Eliyashiv, pg. 240-241. This perspective explains the time-sensitive nature of the lottery. If the goats are not used, then after Yom Kippur they revert back to their pre-lottery, undifferentiated status (Yoma 65b).
[10] Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, Shiurei HaGrid: Avodas Yom HaKippurim (Mossad HaRav Kook), pg. 84. This opinion is difficult to reconcile with the fact that we can pair an Azazel Goat from one lottery with a La’shem Goat from a different lottery (Yoma 64a).
[11] אל תקרי ונטמאתם אלא ונטמטם. Although spelled differently, the Hebrew word for “you will be clogged” is phonetically similar to the Hebrew word for “you will be tamei.”
[12] Since tumah limits Hashem’s relationship with us, the punishment of כרת (spiritual excision) for tumas mikdash (Bamidbar 19:13) is מדה כנגד מדה, measure for measure.
[13] According to the Rambam, bringing korbonos serves to undermine the pagan belief in sacred animals (Moreh Nevuchim 3:46). The presence of Shechina on Earth is not just a human need, צורך הדיוט, but also a “Heavenly need,” צורך גבוה, as the verse states (Tehillim 132:13), “For Hashem has chosen Tzion; He desires it as a dwelling place for Himself” (Ramban to Vayikra 29:46; cf. Nefesh HaChaim 2:11).
[14] Paraphrased from the commentary of the Seforno to Vayikra 11:2. The idea of the Mishkan as a response to the egel appears in Chazal; see for example, Tanchuma, Terumah 8 and Rashi to Shemos 38:21. Rabbeinu Bechaya (Shemos 25:6) goes so far as to say that the only reason the mitzvah to build a Mishkan preceded the egel was because Hashem wanted to provide the cure in advance.
[15] “When Adam sinned, he removed the Shechina from himself” (Tanchuma Yashan, Bechukosai 65). See also Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer, chap. 14.
[16] The Kohen Gadol is compared to Adam (Tanchuma, Pekudei 2) and Adam wore the vestments of the Kohen Gadol (Bamidbar Rabba 4:8). This perspective explains the surprising position of Rebbi Shimon that a Kohen Gadol is not liable for טומאת מקדש (Horayos 2:7). As a Mikdash himself, the sin of defiling the sanctuary building is mitigated.
[17] This is another feature the Azazel Goat shares with the para aduma (cf. Zevachim 14:1). See above, note 5.
[18] Rambam, Hilchos Teshuva 1:3
[19] There are two types of tumah: “actual” tumah which defiles the Mikdash and requires a mikvah for purification, and “spiritual” tumah caused by sin which requires Teshuva for purification. Although all sins generate spiritual tumah (cf. Nefesh HaChaim 1:11), the term “tumah” is used explicitly to describe the sins of eating non-Kosher food (Vayikra 11:4-7), idolatry (Yirmiyahu 2:23), sexual immorality (Vayikra 18:24) and murder (Bamidbar 35:34) – the common denominator being the departure of the Shechina caused by these sins (cf. Ohr HaChaim to Vayikra 11:45; Ha’amek Davar to Bamidbar ad loc.). It is no coincidence that the four primary sources of spiritual tumah are associated with four primary types of actual tumah: the carcass of a non-Kosher animal is tamei (Vayikra 11:8,39); worshipping an idol makes it tamei (Avodah Zarah 3:6); sexual immorality produces semen which is tamei (Vayikra 15:17); murder produces a corpse which is tamei (Bamidbar 19:11). Niddah and Metzora are both considered a death of sorts and are therefore also tamei.
[20] The unity of the goats is evident in a number of ways. According to Rav Shmuel ben Chofni Gaon, the Azazel Goat is also “La’shem” (quoted by Ibn Ezra to Vayikra 16:8). It is fascinating that the word “La’shem” of both Vayikra 22:27 and Vayikra 22:22 refer specifically to the Azazel Goat and include it in certain laws of the korbanos (Yoma 63b). Also indicative is the fact that pushing the goat off the cliff has the Halachic status of a shechita (Yoma 64a). The La’shem Goat also shares certain features with the Azazel Goat. It is taken outside the camp to be burned (Vayikra 16:27) and the person who does the burning becomes tamei (ibid. 16:28), just like the person who delivers the Azazel Goat to the cliff (ibid. 16:26).
[21] Unlike the Kohen Gadol himself, who is disqualified and replaced if he becomes tamei (Yoma 1:1).
[22] “My sole intent in the design of the Mikdash and all its vessels is only to indicate to you that you should model yourselves after it. Through your pleasing behavior you will style yourselves after the Mishkan and its vessels, completely holy, worthy and prepared for Me to literally rest My Shechina within you” (Nefesh HaChaim 1:4, author’s note).
[23] Chizkuni to Vayikra 16:6 asks this question and suggests that since the La’shem Goat it is for Hashem, it would be disgraceful for us to confess our sins on it.
[24] Just as it is with the goat, so it is with Teshuva: a sincere viduy is the critical component. Even if, God forfend, one does not live beyond Yom Kippur and never puts his resolutions into practice, nonetheless his viduy is still effective and the sins of the past are forgiven (Hilchos Teshuva 2:1). 
[25] This thesis explains why our Yom Kippur viduy does not, for the most part, mention specific sins, but is mainly about character refinement. (I am indebted to Benji Ginsberg for this insight.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ready for Rosh Hashanah?

Click on the title below for an audio recording of a shiur delivered today at the offices of Gerber & Co. in Century City.

"I Am For My Beloved and My Beloved Is For Me"

One thing I forgot to mention (for after you listen to the shiur):

ומל ה' את לבבכם ואל לבב זרעכם

The word Elul appears in this passuk! It turns out that ומל ה' את לבבכם carries the very same message of מדה כנגד מדה as the passuk of אני לדודי ודודי לי.

Another amazing point that dovetails perfectly with the shiur: As a man of 99 years of age, Avraham was frightened to perform circumcision on himself. Hashem thus came and placed His Hand on Avraham's hand and they did it together (Medrash Rabba 49:2). And this took place on Yom Kippur! (Pirkei D'Rebbe Eliezer 29).

For past years' recordings, click on the "Rosh Hashanah" label below.