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Yom Kippur: Throwing Away Our Arrogance

Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Yom Kippur service that was performed in the Bet Ha知ikdash is the "Sa段r La誕zazel," the goat that was carried out to the desert and cast off a cliff, symbolic of the banishment of Beneh Yisrael痴 sins. As the Torah describes in the Book of Vayikra (16), the Kohen Gadol would take two goats and cast lots to determine which would be offered as a sacrifice in the Bet Ha知ikdash, and which would be carried out into the desert.

Many commentators addressed the question of how to explain the meaning of this unusual ritual. Normally, the Torah strictly forbids any sort of sacrificial offerings outside the Bet Ha知ikdash. Animal sacrifices must be offered only in the Bet Ha知ikdash in Jerusalem, and only in the specific format dictated by the Halacha proper slaughtering, followed by the sprinkling of the blood on the altar and the placement of certain parts of the animal on the altar to be burned. Why suddenly on Yom Kippur does the Torah require this unusual "sacrifice," taking an animal out to the desert and throwing it off a cliff?

One explanation is offered by the Meshech Hochma commentary (by Rav Meir Simcha Ha談ohen of Dvinsk, 1843-1926), in Parashat Ahareh-Mot. He writes that the two goats of the Yom Kippur service atoned for the two categories of sin that people commit: violations between man and G-d ("Ben Adam La樽akom") and sins between man and his fellow ("Ben Adam La檀abero"). Specifically, the goat offered as a sacrifice in the Bet Ha知ikdash atoned for sins "Ben Adam La樽akom," whereas the "Sa段r La誕zazel" atoned for interpersonal violations. To explain the association between the "Sa段r La誕zazel" and interpersonal offenses, the Meshech Hochma draws our attention to the Halacha requiring tying a crimson string on the horns of the goat, and that the string should have the weight of two Sela段m. This weight two Sela段m is familiar to us from a different context. The Gemara in Masechet Megilla (16b) tells that Yosef痴 brothers envied him because their father, Yaakob, made for him a special cloak that contained two Sela段m more material than the amount used for their garments. This jealousy precipitated the sale of Yosef, the quintessential sin "Ben Adam La檀abero" that is the root of all sins that Jews have committed against one another ever since. The "Sa段r La誕zazel" contained a piece of material weighing two Sela段m because it served to atone for the nation痴 interpersonal sins, which have their origins in the sale of Yosef, which resulted from the extra two Sela段m of material in Yosef痴 garment.

On this basis, the Meshech Hochma proceeds to explain the unusual manner of "sacrificing" this goat by throwing it off a tall cliff. The root cause of all interpersonal offenses is arrogance. We feel entitled to hurt, insult, offend, cheat and disregard our fellow because we feel we are more important than he is. When we feel we are worth more than our fellow Jew, we grant ourselves the right to mistreat him. In order to atone for our interpersonal sins, then, we need to throw our arrogance off a cliff, so-to-speak, to humble ourselves and recognize that our feelings, our sensitivities, our needs and our concerns are no more important than those of our fellow. The "Sa段r La誕zazel" is brought to a tall cliff and then thrown down to symbolize the breaking of our arrogance that must occur as part of our process of repentance on Yom Kippur. In order for us to earn atonement for the wrongs committed against our fellow Jew, we need to throw away our arrogance, to lower our heads and learn to value the needs and feelings of our fellow Jew as much we value our own needs and feelings.



Sefer/Parasha:
Parashat Vayishlah- The Dangers of the Gentle Touch
Parashat Vayeseh- Beware the 鏑aban Syndrome
Parashat Toldot: Hard Work and Effort
Parashat Hayeh-Sara: Shidduchim and G-d痴 Angel
Parashat Vayera- Lot痴 Delayed Escape From Sedom
Parashat Lech Lecha- Obeying Hashem痴 Commands
Parashat Noah- Teaching With Passion and Conviction
Parashat Bereshit: The Light Will Shine
Succot: Celebrating Hashem痴 Love
Rosh Hashana- A Time to Stop Making Excuses
Parashat Vayelech: Transforming the Curse Into a Blessing
Parashat Ki-Tabo: Harnessing Our Innate Creative Drive
Parashat Ki-Teseh: Emuna and Honesty
Parashat Shoftim- Judging Ourselves
Parashat Re'eh: True Passion for Torah
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977 Parashot found