There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sephardic, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Acharei Mot, aliyah by aliyah.
Acharei Mot Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Aliyah 1 – Leviticus 16:1-17
Leviticus 16:1 HaShem spoke with Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they tried to sacrifice before HaShem and died;
Why are Nadav and Avihu not named here?
Leviticus 16:2 HaShem said to Moshe, “Tell your brother Aharon not to come at just any time into the Holy Place beyond the curtain, in front of the ark-cover which is on the ark, so that he will not die; because I appear in the cloud over the ark-cover.
Clearly there was something wrong in how Nadav and Avihu approached HaShem and he wants to ensure that Aharon doesn’t make the same type of mistake.
Leviticus 16:3 “Here is how Aharon is to enter the Holy Place: with a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering.
He needs to bring a sin offering and a burnt offering. Nadav and Avihu brought incense when they died.
Leviticus 16:4 He is to put on the holy linen tunic, have the linen shorts next to his bare flesh, have the linen sash wrapped around him, and be wearing the linen turban — they are the holy garments. He is to bathe his body in water and put them on.
Aharon is to dress the same as the other Levites and Cohenim, he is not to wear his special Cohen Gadol garments.
Leviticus 16 :5 “He is to take from the community of the people of Isra’el two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.
Aharon is to take a second set of animals, totaling 5 so far as part of this process.
Leviticus 16:6 Aharon is to present the bull for the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and his household.
What constitutes a household? Does this cover Aharon and his wife only? Is it minor children as well? What is the age the one becomes a major as opposed to a minor? Does marriage factor in? If Eliezar and Itamar have children at this time, which I beleive they do, are they heads of their own households? I suppose whatever the details, the covering is for the High Priest or Cohen HaGadol and his household, whatever that means to HaShem.
Leviticus 16:7 He is to take the two goats and place them before HaShem at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
These would be the sin offering goats from the second set of animals
Leviticus 16:8 Then Aharon is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for HaShem and the other for ‘Az’azel.
Who or what is Az’azel? What does that name or word mean?
Leviticus 16:9 Aharon is to present the goat whose lot fell to HaShem and offer it as a sin offering.
That seems logical, both goats were for sin-offerings.
Leviticus 16:10 But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to HaShem to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.
So, does each goat take away or cover up sin? The goat “for HaShem” is a sin offering and this goat “for Az’azel” is a living sin-offering. They are both sin offerings? What does that mean?
Leviticus 16:11 “Aharon is to present the bull of the sin offering for himself; he will make atonement for himself and his household; he is to slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself.
Is this a second bull? No it is the same bull. Is this the timeline for the offerings? Did verses 3-10 present the broad strokes and now the order is being explained and set? That’s what it seems like to me.
Leviticus 16:12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before HaShem and, with his hands full of ground, fragrant incense, bring it inside the curtain.
This is the first time incense is mentioned in conjunction with these other offerings, though LEV 16:2 does mention a cloud hovering over the mercy seat. IS the cloud from HaShem or from this offering brought by Man?
Leviticus 16:13 He is to put the incense on the fire before HaShem, so that the cloud from the incense will cover the ark-cover which is over the testimony, in order that he not die.
So the cloud over the mercy-seat is from the incense HaShem ordered Aharon to burn.
Leviticus 16:14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the ark-cover toward the east; and in front of the ark-cover he is to sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
This blood is from the bull of Aharon’s sin offering. He sprinkles its blood on the mercy seat. Does he get to touch the mercy seat? When it says to sprinkle in front of the ark-cover or mercy seat, where does the seven-fold sprinkling go, on the ground?
Leviticus 16:15 “Next, he is to slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, bring its blood inside the curtain and do with its blood as he did with the bull’s blood, sprinkling it on the ark-cover and in front of the ark-cover.
So the blood of the bull was for Aharon and his household and now this blood of the goat is being brought for the entire people in the same place, in the same way as the bull’s blood.
Leviticus 16:16 He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el and because of their transgressions — all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses.
These offerings are being made to deal with the uncleanness of Israel’s sin which contaminates the tent of meeting or tabernacle by virtue of it being surrounded by Israel. It is HaShem’s dwelling place and he wants it to be cleansed, so he can continue being amongst them.
Leviticus 16:17 No one is to be present in the tent of meeting from the time he enters the Holy Place to make atonement until the time he comes out, having made atonement for himself, for his household and for the entire community of Isra’el.
The Yom Kippur or “Day of Atonement” experience is a unique, intimate and beautiful gift from HaShem to Israel so they could remain in his presence.
Aliyah 2 – Leviticus 16:18-24
Leviticus 16:19 He is to sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, thus purifying it and setting it apart from the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el.
The courtyard altar is to receive the same blood from the Cohen Gadol’s bull blood and the people of Israel’s goat as did the mercy seat. The blood cleanses the mishkan from inside out.
Aliyah 3 – Leviticus 16:25-34
Leviticus 16:27 “The bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, is to be carried outside the camp; there they are to burn up completely their hides, meat and dung.
Why are these sin offering animals taken outside the camp to be burned entirely as if they are olah or elevation or whole burn offerings? According to LEV 4, they should have certain fats burned on the altar, as well as having the rest of their blood poured out at the base of the altar. Those details are not mentioned here. Are these special instruction for the Yom Kippur personal (Cohen Gadol) and National sin offerings? It seems like they are distinct from the standard sin offerings.
Aliyah 4 – Leviticus 17:1-7
Leviticus 17:7 No longer will they offer sacrifices to the goat-demons, before whom they prostitute themselves! This is a permanent regulation for them through all their generations.’
It seems clear that Israel was sacrificing to “goat-demons” and at least one function of the Levitical system established by the Almighty was to properly channel and direct Israel’s desire to make offerings to a power beyond themselves. He restricts where offerings can be made, when, how, by who and what can be offered. It truly is a show of sovereignty and might.
Aliyah 5 – Leviticus 17:8-18:5
Leviticus 18:5 You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am HaShem.
If we believe that HaShem is honest, true and just, then it is clear that he gave Torah to Israel so that they could have a blessed, abundant life. Torah is a gift and a blessing, not a burden and a curse.
Aliyah 6 – Leviticus 18:6-21
Leviticus 18:21 “‘You are not to let any of your children be sacrificed to Molekh, thereby profaning the name of your G-d; I am HaShem.
LEV 18: 21
Were people sacrificing other people’s children to Molekh? The somewhat passive voice of this verse implies it is something that can “happen” to your child and implies that you must defend against it happening. I recall that Torah warns against you offering your own child to Molekh. Is this a warning of some sort of slippery slope that can lead one to letting their child be offered to Molekh through neglect or apathy? Perhaps. The sexual prohibitions with family that come before this warning follow an admonition to be unlike the Egyptians and the Cannanites both because they practice a culture detestable to HaShem.
Aliyah 7 – Leviticus 18:22-30
Leviticus 18:28 If you make the land unclean, it will vomit you out too, just as it is vomiting out the nation that was there before you.
LEV 18:28Just as Adam and Chavah were cast out of Eden for their sins, the Land will cast out Israel for its sins. HaShem gave Adam and Chavah a chance to repent, as he gave Israel a chance to repent, but he will always keep a way for them to return so that he can be their G-d and they can be his people.
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- Can the uncleanness of sin truly repel the Almighty?
- Is the Azazel goat a living sacrifice? What if it comes back?
- Why do people call the LORD’s Law of blessing a CURSE?
That concludes my journey through Acharei Mot for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.