Acharei Mot

“With this shall Aaron enter the holy place” Leviticus 16:3


Parashat Acharei Mot opens with the service of Aaron, which becomes the template for Yom Kippur. After the deaths of his sons Nadab and Abihu, Aaron is instructed that he may only enter the Holy of Holies once a year and according to precise ritual.

The instruction commences with the words “Bezot yavo Aharon el hakodesh”, “With this shall Aaron enter the holy place”.  Rashi explains the word bezot has the numerical value of 410, which corresponds to the number of years the First Temple stood. For these 410 years the ritual was observed as prescribed.

Why does Rashi highlight the First Temple but ignore the 586 years of the Second Temple?

Bezot did not fully apply and the ritual was compromised by the time of the Second Temple.
The Talmud explains that the ark and the keruvim (cherubim) which adorned it, as well as “a bottle of manna, the flask of anointing oil, Aaron’s rod, and the chest that the Philistines sent as a gift to the God of Israel”, had been buried by King Josiah ahead of the destruction of Jerusalem.  |

Additionally, the Urim and Tumim, contained within the High Priest’s breastplate, were lost and the powerful fire on the altar which had once “crouched like a lion” now merely “crouched like a dog”.

Whereas in Aaron’s day the High Priest had been anointed with the oil, wore the complete vestments and entered into the Holy of Holies with the ark, the High Priest was now a lesser figure and the room was bare.
The Shechinah, the Divine Presence, resided in the First Temple but not in the Second, which is only known as Mikdash (Temple) and never Mishkan (Tabernacle, a dwelling-place).

In the First Temple era, sanctity radiated from the inside outwards, from the Temple to Jerusalem and then to Israel. Thereafter, sanctity had to be garnered from the periphery, brought to and concentrated in the Temple precincts. Sanctity was borne from the outside inwards. When this failed, it fell.

The experience of diaspora was to scatter us further so that the incoming would be more miraculous, and with it greater potential for spiritual uplift. We have the potential, can we muster the stamina and the resolve?  

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