intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
"Scapegoat" SA'IR L'AZ'A'ZEL'
After describing other Avodot of the Kohein Gadol, the Torah returns to the Sa'ir HaMish- talei'ach. "…he shall bring the living goat near. Aharon shall place his hands on the head of the living goat and confess upon it all of the iniquities of the Children of Israel… and place them upon the head of the he-goat, and send it with an Ish Iti, a 'previously designated man' into the desert… (Vayikra 16:20-21). The Kohein Gadol proceeded to the eastern gate of the Azara, "and two (identical) he-goats were there, and there was also an urn containing two lots. Upon one was written Lashem (for G-d) and on the other was written 'LaAzazel. Standing between the goats and facing the Bayit, the Kohein Gadol simultaneously drew the lots and placed them on the goats. "Throughout the 40 years that Shim'on HaTzadik ministered (as Kohein Gadol), the lot (for Hashem) always came up in the right hand", a sure sign of Divine grace (Yoma 39a). After binding "a thread of crimson wool on the goat that was to be sent to Azazel", the Kohein Gadol put his hands on the head of the goat and confessed the sins of K'lal Yisrael. "O G-d, forgive I pray, the iniquities, the transgressions, the sins which Thy people, the House of Israel, have committed, and transgressed and sinned before Thee; as it is written in the law of Thy servant Moses, 'For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you: from all your sins shall ye be clean before the L-rd" (Vayikra16: 30).
"'Iniquities' (Avonot), these are sins committed presumptuously, 'their transgressions' (Pish'eihem), acts of rebellion. 'Their sins' (Chatotam), these are sins committed accidentally" (Y. Shevu'ot 1:3). "And when the Kohanim and the people which stood in the Azarah heard the Shem HaMeforash - the Ineffable Name - coming forth from the mouth of the Kohein Gadol, they would kneel and prostrate themselves and fall down on their faces and say, 'Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom for ever and ever'" (Yoma 6:2).
Many strange Midrashim connect the mysterious "Fallen Angels" of Bereishit 6:4 with the Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach. And not only Midrashim! "The school of R. Yishmael taught, 'Azazel? The Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach obtains atonement for the matter of Uza and Azazel.'"(Yoma 67b) Rashi explains that "Uza and Azazel were two angels of destruction who descended to earth in the days of Na'ama" who was reputed to be the apotheosis of feminine beauty. Another Midrash has it that on one Yom Kippur, the angel Azazel accused Israel before G-d and demanded their destruction. G-d said that if he, Azazel, would live among men, he too would sin. The obstreperous angel demanded to be tested and, with G-d's consent, descended to earth. There, upon seeing a gorgeous maiden resplendent with the beauty of her namesake Na'ama, his 'evil inclination overcame him' and he sinned. Azazel was forever banned from Heaven; he was to remain in the desert 'until the end of time.' Being reminded of the fate of Azazel, the accusers of Israel remain silent" (Imrei Noam).
"The he-goat will bear itself all their iniquities to an 'uninhabited land' (Eretz Gezeira)… (Vayikra 16:22). Perhaps you will say that this (Avoda) is a vain thing? It is written, "I am the L-rd." Gazarti - Thus have I decreed and you are not permitted to disparage" (Yoma 67b). The Mishna reads, "Certain of the eminent folk of Jerusalem used to go with him (the Ish Iti) to the first booth. There were ten booths between Jerusalem and the ravine. … none used to go with him to the ravine but they stood at a distance and saw what he did (Yoma 6:4,5). When the Ish Iti reached the ravine, he removed the red strip of wool from between the horns of the goat and divided it in half. One piece he fastened to a nearby rock, the other he retied to the goat's horns. (Another red wool "ribbon" was hung at the entrance of the Ulam.) R. Ishmael says … when the he-goat reached the wilderness, the thread(s) turned white (that is if Am Yisrael merited it); as it is written, 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be (forgiven and be) as white as snow" (Yeshayahu 1:18, Yoma 6:8). While the written Torah does not specifically mention the killing of the Sa'ir, the Mishna graphically describes how the "Ish Iti pushed it from behind (down the mountain); and it went rolling down, and before it reached half the way down the hill, it was broken in pieces" (Yoma 6:6). After all, a live sin-laden Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach might return to civilization! But could a goat really serve as a vehicle for the removal of sin?
Was the rite of the Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach some sort of magical means of expiation for unrepented transgressions committed deliberately? That certainly was the misguided opinion of the unruly "Babylonians" of Jerusalem who would literally attack the Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach, "pulling its hair, crying before it, 'Bear (our sins) and begone, bear (our sins) and begone." In fact the Mikdash authorities were forced to build a special causeway to protect the goat (and the accompanying Ish iti) from the rowdy mob! In disagreement with the other Sages who demanded repentance for the forgiveness of sin, R. Yehuda HaNasi, the redactor of the Mishna declared, "For all transgressions of the Torah, whether he repented or not, Yom Kippur brings atonement…(Yoma 85b, Shevu'ot 13a). In an unusual ruling, Rambam writes, "The Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach is an atonement for all Israel… With repentance, the Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach effectuates atonement for all transgressions of the Torah, major or minor, whether committed willfully or whether committed unintentionally, whether he admitted his sin or whether he did not admit his sin… But without repentance, the Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach only atones for minor sins… (Hil. Teshuva 1:2, note his commentary on Shevu'ot 1:6.) Rambam then goes on to define what constitutes a "major sin" and what constitutes a "minor sin". The perplexed Kesef Mishne (R. Yosef Karo,author of Shulchan Aruch) protests that this compromise ruling neither follows R. Yehuda HaNasi, nor is it in accordance with the views of the Sages who sternly posited that repentance was essential for the forgiveness of sin.
The Torah concludes, "The man who dispatched the he-goat to Azazel shall immerse his clothing and immerse himself in the water; afterwards he may enter the camp" (Vayikra 16:26). The Mishna reads, "...he that takes away the Sa'ir renders his garments (and himself) impure… but the Sa'ir itself does not render garments unclean"(Parah 8:3). One of three activities connected with Mikdash rites which cause ritual impurity, it is the act of accompanying the Sa'ir Hamishtalei'ach that caused impurity; the Ish Iti became impure even if he never touched the Sa'ir at all.
Catriel is in the process of writing a book: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service
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