Parshat Acharei Mos-Kedoshim 5781: The “Sent Goat” and The “Designated Man”

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim is being sponsored by Dov and Lauren Greenberg and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of the birth during Pesach of their first Grandchild:Tzvi and Ariella’s daughter, Rachel Miriam. To the Greenberg family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Acharei Mos-Kedoshim 5781: The “Sent Goat” and The “Designated Man”

by Moshe Burt

When the Hebrew calendar dictates that Parshiyot Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, they are another of what baseball fans normally refer to as “doubleheader” parshiyot. This year, as this Parshat HaShavua is being composed, we are still subject to wearing masks and “social distancing, although Israel sees light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and is opening up to more social interchange, access to sitting down inside or outside restaurants and cultural as well as sports venues. And Major League Baseball in the United States (and Canada) actually started on time. Israel’s fourth election in two years is taking place as this vort is being written.

But just as Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora are extensions of each other, visa vi Tumah and Ta’Hara regarding post-birth, regarding skin, hair, clothing or regarding one’s home or building; Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are extensions of each other regarding Kohanim, Yom Kippur, the Kohen’s Yom Kippur avodah in the Kodosh Kedoshim and the Kohanic model of Darchim, which ideally the entire B’nei Yisrael would embrace and exhibit as a paradigm, as model, as a light for all mankind.

In this vort, we examine one specific task of a Kohen. Rabbi Goldin devotes two sections of his writings on our twin Parshiyot in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” to the “Sent Goat” and the “Designated Man” (pages 111-123, 135-138):

Hashem commands Moshe to instruct Aaron concerning the service to take place in the Sanctuary on… Yom Kippur.

Central to the [Kohen Godol’s] Yom Kippur… service… is the mysterious rite of the Se’ir Hamishtaleich, “the sent goat.” Within this ceremony, the High Priest selects two similar he-goats, upon which lots are drawn: on lot inscribed “for the Lord” and one lot inscribed “for Azazel.” The he-goat designated “for the Lord” is slaughtered as a sin offering.

Later in the service, Aaron recites a communal confession over the second he-goat and this animal, “bearing the iniquities” of the B’nei Yisrael, is sent to “Azazel, [a mountain] in the wilderness.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 5-10)

Numerous scholars, including Rashi, adopt the Tannaitic position that Azazel (built on the root word “az,” strong or bold) connotes a wilderness site of exceptional strength and harshness. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Yoma 67b) The goat, they maintain, was led to a desolate mountain in the wilderness, as far from the camp as possible, where it met its fate, falling [this author has learned: being pushed] over the edge of a sharp precipice. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Yoma 67a-b)

…Concludes the Rambam, …. the message of the ritual is clear: as the goat embarks on its final journey into the distant wilderness, symbolically accompanied by the sins of the people, all present should cleanse and distance themselves from past failures and transgressions by committing themselves to concrete future change. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 3:46)

An individual is designated to assume custody of the “sent goat” and lead it to its final destination in the wilderness. This individual is referred to by the text simply as an “ish iti,” a “designated man.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 21)

So significant is the role of the “designated man” in the process of communal atonement that a series of way stations are st up along his route into the wilderness. At each station, the “ish iti” is offered the option of breaking his Yom Kippur fast, that he may retain the strength necessary to complete his mission (the Talmud… testifies that no “ish iti” ever ate on Yom Kippur).

According to Biblical law, any of the B’nei Yisrael can serve as the “ish iti” ; (the High Priests, however, eventually mandate that only Kohanim assume this role. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Yoma 66a-67b)

Rabbi Goldin now provides background regarding the “ish iti,” the “designated” or “timely man” (ibid, pages 135-138):

One source in the Talmud… views the designation as situationally — rather than personality descriptive. The term “ish iti” conveys that the critical role of “”designated man” must be fulfilled at all times, even on Shabbos and even if the task calls for the overriding of specific Shabbos laws. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli 66b. Note: This Rabbinic observation is difficult to understand. Any law that would potentially desecrate Shabbos would desecrate Yom Kippur as well….. The Talmud addresses the issue in technical terms.)

…Commentators, such as the Rashbam, …generally… maintain a straightforward, utilitarian approach to the term “ish iti.” The only prerequisites for this role, they claim, are knowledge of wilderness pathways and a consequent preparedness to depart for Azazel at a moment’s notice. (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashbam on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 21) In the eyes of these pashtanim, the “designated man,” unlike the Kohen, is neither a role model for nor a representative of the people before Hashem.

Once the ceremonial requirements of the “sent goat” ritual have been completed by the Kohen, all that remains is to get the job done as expeditiously as possible. Someone must insure that the sent goat reaches its final destination without delay. The only essential criterion for this role… of the “designated man” is that the candidate be the best man for the job.

…Another Talmudic source, quoted by Rashi, sees an additional requirement embedded in the term “ish iti.” To be a “timely man” one must be… “prepared for the task from the previous day.” This source at face value, strengthens the utilitarian position of the pashtanim. Pre-appointment is apparently necessary to ensure that the “designated man” will be ready to respond to the call of duty at a moment’s notice.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 138):

Consider… how different… our lives would be if we were truly… “prepared for the task from the previous day,” if somehow we could train ourselves to perceive the seeds of the future, each day, in our actions and in the world around us… What will change now if we are prepared today for tomorrow?

The Rabbis, as always, said it well: “Who is truly wise? He who sees that which is a-borning. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Tamid 32a)

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.