Can our sins be transferred to a scapegoat?
Shoin, Pesach is over and this coming shabbis and mistama for another to follow, many will be discussing and reviewing the various hotel programs they attended. A few will be swearing to never return. Others, will be raving about theirs while also complaining about the extra weight put on. For years, the Oisvorfer has been telling you that no Jew can overcome the temptation and power of the shmorgasbord. It’s a losing battle: has always been and will always be. Nowadays, every Pesach program offers at least one buffet/shmorg style meal -more typically, two- daily. The battle to lose begins again once home and daring enough to step onto a scale. Yikes! Bottom line: Pesach, more than any other Yom Tov the RBSO gave us, is about food and only food. The one ritual we have, the Seder, is also mostly about the food; when do eat, why we eat, and how much of it can we stuff into our mouths before returning for the next meal. If Yiddin are paying thousands to program operators, they will eat their monies worth. On the way out, they will of course chap all the soaps, lotions and efsher also a few towels. Some are more machmir and also bring home a robe or two. Shoin: it’s all Hitler’s fault!
A few weeks back, over in parshas Metzoira, the parsha that connects loshoin horo (badmouthing) to some form of spiritual leprosy which manifested physically, ver veyst, the Oisvorfer was exhorting his readers who hear some loshoin horo to say something good in response, and that remaining silent in acknowledgement while the bearer of the juicy gossip speaks, might also result in punishing consequences to the listener. It was mamish a givaldige pshat and guess what? Welcome to parshas Achrei Mois (for the sixth time) which has yet another mamish gishmake pshat on this very same theme. And taka it’s time after a two shabbis break, to get back to the heylige Toirah. Grada this parsha discusses your favorite topic: sexual relationships. The bottom line: All 20 listed remain strictly verboten as they were last year, the year before, and since the arrival of the heylige Toirah a few thousand years back. Seemingly, they weren’t always, hence, Moishe and his siblings were born from a union between Amrom (his father) and Yoicheved, Amrom’s Tanta (Aunt). We have previously encountered a few other interesting relationships; let’s not forget that Yaakov was married to four sisters. The list goes on. The bottom line: the RBSO avada chapped that people have strange sexual desires. He did after all create man and did somehow program man with some rather unusual fantasies. And for reasons that are at times shver to chap, He left us with them. Ober, He told us to somehow keep them in check. Avada, in some cases -ok many- this is much easier said than done. Grada, had they been allowed, mistama, fewer would have such fantasies, ver veyst. He knew just how weak man, that even a standup man, if you chap, would not always withstand all temptations, and gave us the antidote in the form of forgiveness. As well, He gave us Yom Kippur, a day of atonement and above all, He gave us the Koihen Godol (High Priest) and his rituals. We will be reading about his powers below. The RBSO is avada great! The good news: these forbidden relationships, the Koihen Godol’s avoido (High Priests’ temple service) on Yom Kippur, and the concept of forgiveness, are all mentioned in close proximity in this week’s parsha. Why? There must be strong correlation.
Ober enough sex talk and let’s instead stay on point and discuss again quickly the sudden and untimely deaths of Nodov and Avihu, two of Aharoin’s sons. Why discuss them here when their deaths were recorded and previously discussed in detail a few weeks back over in parshas Shmini? Taka a good question ober the opening posik (verse) does specifically mention that the events in this week’s parsha took place following their deaths. Moreover, the parsha happens to be named Achrei Mois (following the deaths); mistama they need to be mentioned again. Let’s give them another shout out, why not.
We have previously discussed the boys, how old they might have been, what sin they may have committed and what a few had to offer as theories on why the RBSO chose to have them eliminated. You can find previous postings over at www.oisvorfer.com. Once there, check out the archives. Ober this year, in keeping with the theme of ‘hear something, say something’, and before we discuss the givaldige magical concept of ‘the azozale’ (scapegoat) and how it could help forgive our sins, let’s begin with a shtikel Gemora (Sanhedrin 52A) which tells us azoy: Nodov and Avihu, as early as one year prior to being consumed by fire, were walking and schmoozing with each other. Said Nodov to Avihu that he was tired of having ‘these two old men’, referring to Moishe and Ahroin, as the leaders of the Yiddin. “When will they pass on so that we can lead the Yiddin?” Ober the RBSO responded, “Let us see who will bury whom.”
Shtelt zich di shaylo (the question arises) azoy: we can avada chap that Nodov sinned mamish by speaking some loshoin horo about his own father and uncle ober what did Avihu do wrong? He but listened. The Gemora does not ascribe any words being spoken by Avihu in response to Nodov’s question. Ober says the Chido mamish so gishmak azoy: seemingly, Avihu too was guilty and was punished with the same consequences as was Nodov. Why? Seemingly he was guilty of abstention. Davka because he sat there and listened to his brother badmouth his father and Uncle. Instead of reprimanding his brother for crazy talk about his own father and uncle, instead of telling him that he was mishuga in gantzin and off his rocker for having such giferliche thoughts, he sat there quietly. Guilty! Lesson learned. Hear something, say something good instead! Veyter.
Efsher you’re klerring azoy: why taka does the heylige Gemora and others paint the boys in a bad light? Why come up with farfetched theories about their bad behavior? The heylige Toirah specifically told us they were consumed by a strange fire. Later on the Toirah states that the RBSO becomes sanctified by those close to him. As the Oisvorfer reads these pisukim, the boys appear to be nothing but wholesome and righteous. Are those that disparage the character of Nodov and Avihu, though posthumously, by positing tall tales by way of midrashic interpretations not guilty of besmirching their reputations through loshoin horo? Something to think about.
Let’s however not leave you with the impression that Nodov and Avihu were bad seed. Let’s instead look at another shtikel Gemora, one that shines a much better light on them, and one, that’s efsher more in line with how the heylige Toirah described the events of their passing. Along comes the heylige Gemora (Zevochim 115b) and tells us punkt farkert (quite the opposite); they were great and holy people. And the conversation between Moishe and Aharoin following their passing went something like this. “Aharoin, my brother, I knew the Temple would be sanctified through someone very holy and close to the RBSO. I thought it had to be either you or me..but now I see that they, Nodov and Avihu, are greater than are we. They were selected.” In other words, they were the human scapegoats required for the sanctification of the temple. Seemingly, there are times when good people are scapegoats to protect others. Something else to think about, if you chap. Veyter.
Speaking of scapegoats, one of the most fascinating and perplexing aspects of the Koihen Godol’s Yom Kippur avoido (service) as described in great detail in this week’s parsha, involved a ceremony during which two male goats, kimat identical, were taken by him. Then, employing an early version of the lottery system – maybe the first ever- one was selected to be sacrificed on the altar as would other sacrifices in the ordinary course of daily Temple business (yes, it was a business as well), and the other, was sent to a place called Azozale. Just before the goat was sent off, Aharoin was to place his hands onto the goat and confess the sins of the Yiddin. In other words: by placing his hands onto it, he was somehow transferring the sins of all the Yiddin onto the poor unsuspecting goat and off it was shipped to Azozale. Once there, it was, according to some, thrown over the cliff to its death. Says the heylige Toirah (Vayikra 16) “The goat will bear upon itself all their iniquities…”- meaning the sins of the Yiddin are removed from them and are now resting with the previously innocent goat. Nebech! Seemingly, as the goat fell away, never to be seen live again, so did the collective sins of the Yiddin. What a great concept and no wonder we long for the Moshiach and even the return of the Temple service. Nowadays, we simulate such transference of sins onto a chicken, in a somewhat controversial ceremony known as kaporis. We have previously discussed kaporis and will again at the appropriate time. And just in case the kaporis don’t do the trick, we also klap (beat our chests) a few hundred Al Cheyts on Yom Kippur.
Ober, where was Azozale and what the hec is an Azozale? Taka excellent questions and guess what? The RBSO did not exactly tell us. In fact, the word Azozale appears nowhere else in the entire heylige Toirah. Oisvorfer followers avada know that when the RBSO left us guessing, as He did with many a commandment, lacunas, gaping holes, developed as to the proper interpretation of those mitzvahs. As a result, many developed their own theories as to what the RBSO had in mind when He gave very specific instructions about a place known as Azozale and what it was to represent. Was the koihen (priest) mamish empowered to transfer the sins of Yiddin on Yom Kippur onto an unsuspecting goat? Seemingly yes and mamish a gishmake concept! Ober does everyone agree?
Says Rashi: Azozale was a steep and rocky place. In other words: the goat carrying the sins of the Yiddin was to end up in a steep and rocky place where it would die along with the sins it was carrying. Gishmak. Ober says the RambaM (Moireh Nivuchim Part III ch 46) azoy: the entire azozale ceremony is but completely symbolic. It’s not literal. It does not to mean that the Koihen Godol (High Priest) literally transferred the people’s sins onto the goat, but that witnessing this act was meant to inspire a sense of tshuva (repentance) in the people, as if to say, we have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, have cast them behind our backs and removed them from us as far as possible.
Ober says the RambaN who seems to disagree with the RambaM kimat always, azoy: Azozale was the name of a spirit or demon such as described back in sefer Bereishis when the Niphilim (the fallen) came down to earth. Exactly how this sprit or demon did its work, we don’t know. Shoin, that entire chapter for another day. Others connect Azozale to Eisav and tell us that the ceremony was designed so that the sins of the Yiddin were somehow transferred from the children of Yaakov (whom we all are) to the children of Eisav who then carry them along with their other inequities. Shoin, medrish is so creative.
And before we go veyter, let’s pause and chap that the Azozale was unique in that while typically it was the standard procedure for a sinner who was obligated to bring a korban (sacrifice) to confess his sins and then have the animal sacrificed on the mizbayach (altar), the Azozale ceremony worked punkt farkert (quite oppositely). One male goat was sacrificed, however, not the one over which the koihen confessed the sins.
Though the RambaM quoted above tells us that the Azozale was but ceremonial and meant to inspire, he also says this (Hilchois Tshuva 1:2): the Azozale (scapegoat) has the capacity to atone for all the sins in the heylige Toirah, whether they be light or grave, whether transgression was committed unintentionally or with deliberation, whether the sin was known to the perpetrator or whether it’s not. Well blow me down; is the RBSO great or what? The bottom line: whether the Azozale ceremony actually removed the sins of the people or not, we don’t know for sure. One thing is zicher: scapegoating, blaming others for our own misdeeds, is but a way to make ourselves feel good about our own.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv