This week’s Torah Portion Acherei אכארע is found in Leviticus chapter 16-18.
Some complex writing is found in this week’s portion. That being said we will cover the following topics found in the portion:
- Aaron’s responsibility for the nation at Yom Kippur
- The Blood of the Sacrifice
- Sexual Immorality
We are starting off with what Aaron had to do in fulfillment of atoning for the whole nation of Israel and Aaron’s family directly.
The portion makes assumption that Aaron is the called high priest by way of what responsibility he is given by Hashem. He (Aaron) was required to wear a certain kind of clothing, pick out a certain kind of animal for sacrificial use, and enter the holy places only at certain times when Hashem would make it know to him.
Aaron was instructed to take several animals to be used later in a ritual of sacrifice or setting free into the wilderness. On a personal note he had to come yielding a young bull for a sin offering, and a ram for an elevation offering. These two offerings were for different reasons by design. One was to send a pleasing aroma to “elevate” to Hashem, and the other to make atonement for sin of the person bringing it to the tabernacle. It is later in the chapter we find the animals needed for the nation. Before he could perform any ritual Aaron was to wash himself entirely and don his fine linen tunic.
Now from the assembly of the children of Israel Aaron was to bring the same two offerings. A ram for elevation and a bull for a sin offering. These were to be used for the whole nation of Israel. These two goats had a significant difference, they were to be “tagged” in way that one was for Hashem and one was for Azazel לעזאזל. Sages in times past say that Azazel is a word that is beyond human comprehension.
This is where the portion gets exciting. Because we know the miracle that happens through the atonement process. A Sinful nation, takes a sinless animal and that sinless animal atones for their sins, every year this was to be done as an everlasting ordinance.
The one animal for Hashem was to be brought to the tabernacle and sacrificed while the other was set out into uninhabited land and set free. As the portions says, it would carry all the iniquities and sins of the nation of Israel into the wilderness, never caring if it ever made it back to the tent of meeting.
Let’s fast forward to the blood of the sacrifice now. Following the incense the priest would also sprinkle the blood within the curtain of the Holy of Holies. So in order for them to sprinkle the blood as prescribed, the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) כוהענ גאדול would carry a bowl of some sort or just dip straight into spilled blood so that sprinkle the blood from on his forefinger. Sprinkling the Holy place was to mean that the place was also sanctified once again. This was also done in the outer courtyard including the altar seven times he was to sprinkle the altar.
Remember, this was for the entire nation of Israel. So, those involved had to maintain utmost purity. So it is not any surprise that we see laws concerning not consuming/touching blood like the nations all around them. They were told not to consume the blood because the blood was the atonement and was sacred not only to the creature but to Hashem.
I find it interesting that this particular commandment includes proselytes. Proselytes include gentiles that come to know Hashem (such as Christians that claim to be Jewish [even spiritually]).
To sum up the portion lets go to the text that speaks about sexual immorality. I find it very interesting that the portion of text related to atonement for sins is so closely found next to sexual immorality.
In chapter 18 we find an immediate (after atonement) declaration of things Hashem requires of us. Predominately we find sexual immorality in the list of things we should follow. The things we must or must not do are preceded by the words “Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt”. So, obviously the Israelites were exposed these sins.
When reading the text you may find yourself reading the words “the nakedness of your” and wonder what does that mean to me today. Well, it is modernly believed to mean have sexual intercourse. In ancient times it meant as little as living in the same house as, whereas to see their nakedness. Eitherway, here in the text is is considered a very gross sin.
Finally, Hashem declares that a man should not lie with a man like a man would lie with a woman. This is without doubt speaking of homesexual intercourse/foreplay etc.