Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

“Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness” Leviticus 16:22

    Parashat Acharei Mot describes the Yom Kippur rituals, including the placing of the sins of all the Israelites on to a goat, which is sent off into the wilderness for Azazel. It is not clear from the biblical text what or who Azazel is. In the Babylonian Talmud, it is suggested that the word Azazel refers to the sharp cliff or rugged mountain that the goat will be pushed off (Yoma 67b). 

    This interpretation, rather than the alternative description of Azazel as a fallen angel, a demon or even Satan, as found in the extra-biblical Book of Enoch and Christian and Islamic writings, might provide some comfort that the sins will forever be cast away.

    But has it really ever been that simple to rid oneself from sins as loading them on to a goat and sending that goat off into the wilderness? My former classmate, Rabbi Hannah Goldstein, once asked the community to imagine what it might have felt like if the goat simply turned around and,  bearing all the sins of the Israelite people, was trotting slowly back into the Israelite encampment. 

    She asked: “Isn’t that the nature of sins? Your sins stay with you no matter how many times you say that you are sorry, despite all of your best efforts to forget your transgressions, even if you transfer them to a goat and send it to Azazel.”

    It might be true that our sins stay with us, no matter what, but the ritual of Azazel and Yom Kippur remind us of the importance of not just putting wrongs right but also of taking note of all our shortcomings. For surely, that is the only way to do better in the future.
     

Sidrah

Tzav

Rabbi Lea Muhlstein

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Tzav
Sidrah

Vayeshev

Rabbi Lea Muhlstein

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Vayeshev
Sidrah

Parashat Hashavuah: Terumah

Rabbi Lea Muhlstein

Friday, February 16, 2018

Parashat Hashavuah: Terumah
Sidrah

Vayera

Rabbi Lea Muhlstein

Friday, November 3, 2017

Vayera
Sidrah

Va'era

Rabbi Lea Muhlstein

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Va'era