Torah & Haftara
Torah reading for YK comes mostly from Parshat Acharei - 34 p'sukim of
Vayikra 16 for Shacharit (first Torah) and 30 p'sukim of Vayikra 18 for
Mincha. The Maftir (second Torah in the morning) is from Parshat Pinchas.
Here's a quick rundown.
Yom Kippur Morning
Two Sifrei Torah, 7 people in the first Torah
Yom Kippur on a weekday has 6 Aliyot (not counting Maftir).
The Torah's portion dealing with the Kohen Gadol and the Yom Kippur service
in the Beit HaMikdash. It is "repeated" (sort of) in the repetition of the
Musaf Amida. Mixed in with the Beit HaMikdash service are some aspects of
"our" Yom Kippur — especially the aspect of ATONEMENT. Perhaps it can be
summed up by saying that atonement does not depend upon the Beit HaMikdash,
but the Day itself, and what we do with it.
Kohen - 1st Aliya - 3 p'sukim - 16:1-3
An emotional element is introduced when the Torah tells us that G-d gave the
command of Yom Kippur service "after the deaths of Aharon's two sons". We
cannot help but be struck by the combination of the Kohen Gadol performing
the loftiest of spiritual tasks with the background of personal grief. These
feelings are especially powerful as we hear this reading on Yom Kippur
morning. Before the Service is described, kohanim in general are warned not
to enter the Beit HaMikdash other than when they have tasks to perform
there. (It is hard to miss the additional connection to Nadav and Avihu, who
entered the Mikdash for the performance of an "improper" task.)
Levi - 2nd Aliya - 3 p'sukim - 16:4-6
The entire Yom Kippur service, with all of its details, constitutes one
mitzva. Aharon is to take a bull as a sin- offering and a ram as a
burnt-offering. He is to wear his special garments (the Kohen Gadol on Yom
Kippur alternates between his full set of eight garments and a special set
of four pure white garments which he wore when he entered the Holy of
The Kohen Gadol washes his hands and feet ten times
throughout the day and immerses in a mikveh five times. "From the People",
Aharon takes two goats for sin-offerings and a ram as an Olah. The bull is
an atonement for Aharon and the kohanim.
Shlishi - 3rd Aliya - 5 p'sukim - 16:7-11
Lots were cast to determine which of the two (identical) goats was to be
offered as a korban and which was sent out alive into the wilderness as the
SDT There are two very different styles of sin - rejecting
what G-d says and distancing oneself from the Divine, and violating His
commands in an attempt to get closer to Him. Most sin is of the former type;
that of Nadav and Avihu was of the latter kind. Corresponding to these two
opposite motivations for sin, we have two special offerings on Yom Kippur -
one that was offered inside the Beit HaMikdash, its blood actually being
brought into the Kodshei Kodashim, and the other being sent completely away
from the Beit HaMikdash. Ponder this: Both goats were identical.
R'vi'i - 4th Aliya - 6 p'sukim - 16:12-17
The Kohen Gadol performs all of the duties of the Day, with minimal
assistance from other kohanim. The Holy of Holies filled with smoke from the
incense offering when the Kohen Gadol entered. The service of Yom Kippur is
complex; it is detailed in the repetition of the Musaf Amida on Yom Kippur
as well as in the Torah reading.
This next portion continues to describe the complex service
of Yom Kippur. Among the many tasks of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, is
VIDUI on behalf of all the people of Israel.
His confession of sin must be accompanied by that of each
Jew, if complete atonement is to be achieved. Rambam says that there is
"communal forgiveness" for "minor" offenses, but major sins require that the
individual do his own T'shuva. Even when there is "communal forgiveness", an
individual still has to be part of the community in order to benefit from
it. He who distances himself from the community does not receive the
benefits of communal prayer, repentance, and atonement. (Oversimplified, to
be sure, but there is a point here.)
Chamishi - 5th Aliya - 7 p'sukim - 16:18-24
The description of the Avoda of Yom Kippur continues. The Kohen Gadol
continues to process the bloods of the bull and the goat. He then leans on
the "scapegoat" and says VIDUI on behalf of all of Israel. There is another
change of garments, washing of hands and feet, immersion in a mikve.
Shishi - 6th Aliya - 6 p'sukim - 16:25-30
The Torah continues detailing the Yom Kippur service. It concludes with a
reiteration of the nature of Yom Kippur day and its rules. The Avoda is an
eternal CHOK; on the 10th day of the seventh month we fast (and practice
other abstentions) and refrain from Melacha (creative activity, as is
forbidden on Shabbat).
For this day will atone for you, to purify yourself from all
your sins - before G-d will you be purified.
One commentary took the phrase LIFNEI HASHEM and defined it
as it is defined in a different context (specifically with the Arba'a Minim
of Sukkot, and other verses). The result is the following statement. If use
this day of Yom Kippur properly, and repent well the sins we have, then we
will be purified, AND this will lead to being purified before G-d, meaning
in the Beit HaMikdash that will be rebuilt when we "earn" it, so to speak,
by proper T'shuva.
Sh'vi'i - 7th Aliya - 4 p'sukim - 16:31-34
This last portion of chapter 16 continues with a statement of Yom Kippur. It
is the supreme Shabbat for you (us), and you shall "afflict your souls"
(i.e. you shall fast) - this is the law for always. (In the time of the Beit
HaMikdash - past and future), the process of atonement is facilitated by the
Kohen Gadol... this will be a one time a year practice... And he (Aharon)
did as G-d had commanded Moshe.
When Yom Kippur falls on a weekday, the first two Aliyot
listed above combine to the 6-pasuk Aliya for a Kohen, resulting in the six
Aliyot assigned to Yom Kippur. It is a well-known correlation between the
number of Aliyot and the sanctity of the day we read the Torah. Minimum
number of people called to a Torah reading is three. This is the number for
weekdays (Monday and Thursday), public fast days, even Purim and Chanuka.
True they are special days, but they are not elevated in sanctity by
restrictions of Melacha. Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed are a rung up the
Kedusha ladder, as demonstrated by calling four people to the Torah on those
Yom Tov is higher in Kedusha and we call five people (plus a
Maftir). Yom Kippur is higher still, and its regular number of Aliyot is six
(plus Maftir). Shabbat has the highest Kedusha and seven are called to the
Torah (in addition to the Maftir).
Maftir (2nd Torah) 5 p'sukim, Bamidbar 29:7-11
About the Musaf of Yom Kippur. The other korbanot of YK were dealt with in
the reading from the first Torah.
Haftara - 22 p'sukim - Yeshayahu 57:14-58:14
The Haftara makes the point that fasting is a hollow observance without it
being accompanied by (or leading to) a change for the better in individuals
and society. The last two p'sukim of the Haftara are the basis of the
"flavor" of Shabbat as shaped by Rabbinic law and custom.
Yom Kippur Mincha
All other Mincha readings are either the "preview" of the coming Parshat
HaShavua - Shabbat afternoon - or Va'y'chal - fast day afternoons. This
This last portion of Acharei Mot deals with the forbidden
sexual relations and activities. Avoidance of these prohibitions is an
essential part of that which is to make the Jew and the Jewish People holy.
Thus, an appropriate reading for Yom Kippur.
Kohen - First Aliya - 5 p'sukim - 18:1-5
Levi - Second Aliya - 16 p'sukim - 18:6-21 (longest Aliya of the day)
Shlishi (Maftir) - 9 p'sukim - 18:22-30
Haftara - 48+3 p'sukim The entire Book of Yonah Plus... some communities add
The Haftara teaches us the famous lesson that repentance is universal, not
only Jewish. But the story of non- Jewish T'shuva of the people of Ninvei is
meant to inspire us towards our own T'shuva in a meaningful way. We also are
given a glimpse into the conflicts fealt by the prophet Yonah in his desire
to protect the Jewish people from G-d's anger.
[The Shabbat Yom
[The TORAH tidbits Homepage] [How to use TORAH tidbits]
[About The OU/NCSY Israel Center] [About