ונתן אהרן על שני השעירם גרלות גורל אחד לה’ וגורל אחד לעזאזל

And Aharon shall place lots upon the two goats, one lot “For Hashem,” and the other lot, “For Azazel.”

One of the Yom Kippur rituals while we still had the Bet HaMikdash was the Kohen Gadol choosing lots over identical twin goats. One was picked “For Hashem” this one was brought as a korban, and the other “For Azazel” which was sent down a cliff. Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Salant writes that this can be emblematic of our situation.

The Torah commands that the two goats be identical, they start in the same place. The fate of them however, could not be more different. One rises in smoke to the highest of places, a sacrifice to atone for the nation before Hashem. It’s blood was brought into the Kodesh Kodashim by the Kohen Gadol who had been purified for seven days beforehand, and led to between the k’ruvim, the resting place of the shechinah. The other was led to the desert and pushed off a cliff where it’s limbs got torn apart and sent in every which direction on it’s way down.

Similarly, there can be two people who are holding in precisely the same place at the beginning of Yom Kippur. One takes advantage of the holy day to do teshuvah, he pledges to try harder to avoid sinning (and even more so if he does teshuvah out of love for Hashem, in which case his sins get turned into mitzvot), he removes his sins, and gets a mitzvah for doing so. The other, despite starting in the same place, is not inspired to teshuvah. Even if he had started with his mitzvot holding the edge over his sins, the insolence of ignoring this holy day, and not taking advantage can tip the scales against him. The intrinsic holiness of Yom Kippur attains forgiveness, but only for those who try to get it.

We go into Yom Kippur with two lots held over us, one “For Hashem” and one “For Azazel”. We can choose which way to go. Choose wisely.

Gmar Chatimah Tova

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