This week’s first Parasha opening verse: "Now YHVH spoke to Moses after the death [“acharey mot”] of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew close to YHVH, and died" (Lev. 16:1, literal translation, emphasis added) underscores the combination of "drawing close" to YHVH and "death." Thus, in verse 2 we read, "Tell Aaron… not to come [just] at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die…” (italics added). This is the solemn introduction to the long and detailed account of the necessary preparation and sanctification process of the High Priest’s entrance to the Holy of Holies, culminating with: “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all… For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you that you may be clean from all your sins before YHVH. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever… This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of
, for all their sins, once a
year…" (16: 29-31, 34). Israel
Without actually pronouncing the term it is, of course, the description of Yom haKippurim. But rather than commence with that special day, its purpose, timing and varying procedures, the text first deals with the needed course of action in relationship to the High Priest, while the theme of Yom haKippurim unfolds gradually and inductively ultimately bringing to light its goal. What is more, as we saw above, in this particular context the instructions are mentioned against the backdrop of the death of Ah’aron’s two sons, which enhances the seriousness and solemnity of the day, albeit without calling it by its explicit name.
The term “atonement” in its various forms (which includes “kaporet” – translated “mercy sit,” but in Hebrew is rooted in k.p.r – “to atone” or “cover” as we saw in Ex. 25:17), is repeated many times over in chapter 16, as is the blood of the atonement, with which many of the items mentioned were to be sprinkled. What is the purpose of sprinkling blood on inanimate objects? “So he shall make atonement for the Holy [Place], because of the uncleanness of the children of
and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall
do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their
uncleanness. Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger
seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the
children of Israel” (Leviticus 16:16, 19 italics added). In the
process of carrying out the requirements for sin-atonement, the articles used had
become contaminated by the sins of the people. Israel
In 16:2 we encounter the expression “inside the veil - parochet - before the mercy seat - kaporet." The veil – parochet - is made up of the same letters as “kaporet.” The rest of verse 2 says, "I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat - kaporet." Thus, the rendition of mercy seat and the veil in the same verse makes for an alliteration (kaporet and parochet), highlighing the connection of these two articles and the position of the mercy seat within the veil, where the High Priest may enter only under very strict and special conditions. “Parochet,” stemming from p.r.ch (pey, resh, kaf), means both “separating” and “covering” and together with “kaporet” points to the ‘cure’ for sin by the provision of the covering and the requirement of separation.
After readying himself and making a sin offering as atonement for his own person and household, the High Priest was to take two male goats, which he was to obtain from the congregation. These two were to be placed "in front of YHVH" at the opening of the Tent of Meeting where lots had to be cast for them, "one lot for YHVH and one lot for Aza'zel" (ref. 16:5-10). The goats mentioned here are “s'eerim” ("hairy ones," sa'eer = "hairy"). The casting of lots is "goral," which is of the root g.r.l. (gimmel, resh, lamed), meaning "stone or stony place," since the lots comprised of stones shaken after being put into a piece of cloth or a container . Thus, in Matthew 27:35 we read the following about Yeshua: "Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, 'They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots'" (Ps. 22:18). In the same chapter of Matthew (v. 15-17 and 21b) we read the following: "Now at the Feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Yeshua Bar Abba (Barabbas). Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, 'Whom do you want me to release to you? Bar Abba, or Yeshua who is called Messiah?'… They said, 'Bar Abba!'" The verdict was pronounced. The goat on which YHVH's lot fell was to be a sin offering, as it is written: "Elohim by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3b).
The other goat was to be for Aza'zel (sometimes translated “scapegoat”). “Aza’zel” is a compound word, made up of the word “az” (ayin, zayin), meaning “strong,” but can also be read as “ez” – goat, and “azal” (alef, zayin, lamed) - “that which is used up,” or “is no more.” This goat that was “to be no more,” was sent to the wilderness by the hand of a suitable ("eeti," meaning “timely”; "et" = the "right or appointed time") person (ref. 16:21). Thus, Yeshua Bar Abba the criminal and counterfeit of Yeshua the Son of the Father, stood in proxy, as it were, for the goat that was allowed to live for the purpose of being sent to the wilderness, or “eretz grzera” ("land of separation," 16:22) with all the sins and iniquities. The root g.z.r (gimmel, zayin, resh) is literally “to cut off, remove, decreed.” And while it was decreed that the unrepentant Bar Abba would be cut off and removed from the Father with his sins (see Is. 59:2), Pilate was the timely person who facilitated the whole process and scenario. Yet, it also says about the “Suffering Servant” of Yishayahu (Isaiah) 53:8: “For He was cut off [nigzar] from the land of the living” (emphasis added). We see, therefore, that in spite of our above comparison of Yeshua and Bar Abba, respectively, to the two goats, Yeshua also fulfilled the role of the second goat, as is confirmed by 16:21: “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat...” (italics added). Yeshua Bar Abba, although partially fitting the role of the goat that was sent to the wilderness, definitely did not act the part of carrying vicariously sins and iniquities for the purpose of their removal.
Whereas chapter 16 began with a strong exhortation and command to the High Priest regarding time, place, and procedures of coming before YHVH, chapter 17 enjoins the ordinary people not to sacrifice according to their own whims, lest they should be suspect of sacrificing to idols, or be even led astray and carry out such acts. And so we read in 17:7: "They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot…" "Demons" here is “s'eerim,” again, the word that we have just encountered in the previous chapter for “male goats.” Goat worship prevailed in
and it is thought that the
demons worshipped there were in the form of male goats.  And as we see quite
often in the Hebraic world and mindset - in the very essence of the
transgression the solution is already provided (such as the word “chet” – sin –
illustrates, with the same root forming a verb which means “purification”).
Here we see that for the sin of serving the goat/demon – s’eer – a provision
has already been made by the usage of two goats (s’eerim). Egypt
Parashat Acharey Mot is made up of four sections. Aside from the part which leads up to Yom haKippurim, and the section regarding the right place for the offerings, there are two more sections concerning the prohibitions of eating meat with blood (17:10-16), and incest (Ch. 18). In the four sections, all so different one from the other, one phrase is repeated like a refrain (see the italicized words in the following): "In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you" (16:29 italics added); "…this shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations. Also you shall say to them, ‘Whatever man of the house of
, or of the strangers who
dwell among you, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice’…" (17:7-8
italics added); "And every person who eats what died naturally or what was
torn by beasts, whether he is a native of your own country or a
stranger…” (17:15 italics added). Finally, "You shall therefore keep
My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations,
either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you"
(18:26 italics added). Israel
"Stranger" is “ger,” and originates from the root “gur” (gimmel, vav, resh), meaning "to dwell, tarry, sojourn," as well as “to fear (see Ps. 22:23 for example: “fear Him all you offspring of
”). The stranger’s
defenselessness and vulnerability may be a cause for fear (hence the oft
repeated reminders as to the proper attitude toward him and the inclusiveness
with which he is to be treated). Israel
The last section of Parashat Ahcarey Mot deals, as mentioned, with the prohibitions against incest and other sexual offences. It is sandwiched between statements regarding the practices of the dwellers of the land which the Israelites have just left, and the practices in the land which they were about to enter (see 18:3, 24-25). We just observed that YHVH’s people were enjoined to include the strangers living among them, while here they are solemnly warned not to defile themselves with that which their neighbors were defiling themselves (v. 27). We see here a fine line between including the ones who choose to come into the households of Yisrael, and between keeping firm and clear boundaries of separation from other non-Israelites.
According to Torah, when one comes in contact with anything which is (ritually) unclean, one is contaminated by it. The converse, however, is not true; i.e., coming in contact with that which is holy does not necessarily make one holy. The land, therefore, by reason of the practices of its inhabitants would be subject to spiritual contamination with the resulting consequences that “… the land [will] vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you" (18:28). The following Parasha (Kdoshim) closes off with the same warning, as part of the command to stay separate (ref. 20:22).
Finally, in 16:30 we read: "For on this day He [some translations replace “He” with “the priest”] shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you; for all your sins, before YHVH you shall be cleansed," or “before YHVH you shall be purified,” or “before YHVH you shall purify yourselves.” Here is a fervent call to appropriate by faith the atonement enacted by the Almighty, and thus to receive the fulfillment of His promise. However, without the High Priest, first and foremost, complying implicitly with all of YHVH’s instructions this could not be achieved.
"And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to all the congregation of the children of
, and say to them: `You shall
be holy [plural -kdoshim], for I YHVH your Elohim am holy'"
(19:1-2 emphasis added). The rest of this Parasha, like the previous one, constitutes
a portrait of the 'holy’ or ‘set-apart’ Israelite, whose Elohim is Holy, a fact
which could render him of the same status - as it says in Genesis 1:27:
"So Elohim created man in His own image; in the image of Elohim He
created him" (italics added). In
fact, in chapter 19, “I am YHVH” is repeated 15 times and is tagged to the
various injunctions (with “your Elohim” being added in some of the cases). Paul
tells us in Ephesians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the Elohim and Father of our Lord
Messiah Yeshua, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the
heavenly places in Messiah, just as He chose us in
Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without
blame before Him in love” (italics added). Israel
In contrast to most of YHVH's addresses in the previous Parashot we have been studying, here the “entire congregation of the sons of
– kol ah’dat b'ney Yisrael (19:2), is being addressed on the matter of
being as set-apart as their Elohim. We have here an assortment of directives, both
of commission and omission. The penalties described (and mainly found in
chapter 20), even if not exercised and carried out in our day and age, are
indicators of the way YHVH views the transgressions to which they are appended. Israel
The theme of Parashat Kdoshim is encapsulated in 20:24b-26: "I am YHVH your Elohim who has separated you from the peoples. You shall therefore distinguish (literally “separate”) between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And you shall be holy to Me, for I YHVH am Holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine." This clearly illustrates the contaminating effect which the unclean has upon Elohim's People. At the same time, it highlights the separateness of those who belong to Him and who are rendered set apart by this fact. The single verb used here for “separate” and “distinguish” is “havdel” (b.d.l, bet, dalet, lamed), used 3 times in the creation account in B’resheet 1: in regards to the separation of the light from darkness (v. 4), the separation of the water above the firmament from the water below it (vs. 6,7), and in creating heaven’s lights that were to divide light from the darkness (vs. 14,18). Thus the usage of the root b.d.l points to the distinct category that YHVH had allocated for His people among other people groups, as well as to the way they were to conduct their daily life.
Going back to chapter 19, we will notice that most of the injunctions or clusters thereof end with "I am YHVH your Elohim." Thus, we read about reverence for father and mother and keeping the Shabbat. This is followed by a command to reject idols. The issue of peace offerings is succeeded by how one is to treat those less fortunate than one’s self (the poor and the sojourner), by leaving for them the gleanings of the fields and vineyards, for “… I am YHVH your Elohim." Theft, deception, lying and swearing falsely in YHVH's name are enumerated next. These constitute "profaning" His Name (vs. 8, 12,
29, in the latter, the
translation says “do no prostitute”), which is “chalel” (ch.l.l., chet,
lamed, lamed) meaning, “to make hollow or burrow,” and is
also the root for "casualty" (such as in war). Dealing
unjustly (a.sh.k – ayin, shin, kof, oppressing and stealing) with one's fellow
man, cursing the deaf and putting a stumbling block in front of the blind,
diverting justice in court, tale bearing and not taking responsibility when a
friend's life is in danger, all are sealed by "I am YHVH." Obviously
we are moving here into more subtle matters that may not be necessarily noticed
by society at large, but will be seen by Him whose "eyes run to and fro
throughout the whole earth" (ref. 2nd Chr.16:9; Zech. 4:10b).
This takes us to even deeper issues of the heart, such as, "You shall not
hate your brother in your heart" (19:17).
"Brother," aside from its obvious meaning, could also relate to one's “fellowman,” just as do the following terms: "Associate" - amit (19:11, in the translation ‘one another,’ while in vs.15,17b the translation renders it as ‘neighbor’), and "re'ah," that is, “friend or fellowman” (again, more commonly rendered "neighbor" in the English translations. See 19:13,16,18). The utilization of these terms clarifies that ‘others’ are equal to one’s self, and therefore should be treated accordingly. In verse 17 there is also an instruction of commission, relating to the action that should be taken when the need arises to reprimand or rebuke one’s fellow man (rather than harbor hatred and bitterness in one’s heart). If "open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed” (Prov. 27:5), how much more does this apply when hate is the option? One is not to nurse vengeance nor bear a grudge against one's own people, logically leading to the highest dictum; that one is to love one's fellow man as one's self (v. 18), while in Hebrew the word used is “re’ah” – friend, associate. Again, this is sealed by "I am YHVH."
After the prohibitions regarding mixing of seeds and improper nuptials, chapter 19 continues with the tending of trees in YHVH's Promised Land - which for the first three years are to be considered “uncircumcised” – “arelim,” and in the fourth are to be “praises to YHVH" - “hiluleem” (ref. 19:23-25), and with prohibitions concerning all pagan idolatrous customs. "I am YHVH" seals these passages, and is also appended to the Shabbat’s observance and to the honor due the elderly. The next cluster deals with the sojourner, because of the Israelites’ own experience in
. Chapter 19 ends with the
injunction to utilize strictly honest and just measurements, as befitting a
Nation of a just Elohim. "You shall observe all My statutes and all My
judgments, and perform them…" (v. 37) brings this chapter to a close, to
which words we must append 18:5 (of the previous Parasha) “…which if a man
does, he shall live by them: I am YHVH.”
It is no wonder, therefore, that the Renewed Covenant's mandate is to do
just that – to enable His People to live out this Torah of Life (or life of
Torah) through Him Who is the very Giver of Life. Egypt
Chapter 20 echoes chapter 18 (in Parashat Acharey Mot), in dealing largely with various forms of incest, forbidden forms of cohabitation, and abominable sexual practices, which are described by the phrase, “exposing the nakedness” (again, nakedness is tantamount to not having a “covering” – “kippur”). “Nakedness” here is “erva” of the root a.r.h. (ayin, resh, hey). A similar word, stemming from the root a.r.r (ayin, resh, resh) and means “stripped” and “childless” is “ariri” (e.g. Gen. 15:2; Jer. 22:30). Thus we read verses 20 and 21: “And if a man shall lie with his uncle's wife, he has uncovered his uncle's nakedness - erva. They shall bear their sin. They shall die bereft of children – arireem. If a man takes his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother's nakedness - erva. They shall be childless - arireem” (italics added). This makes evident the fruitlessness and lifelessness of sin, symbolizing the fact that sin results only in death (bareness in this case).
 Notice the "k" and "ch" here denote the same letter, i.e. "kaf".
 The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown
1979. Peabody, Mass.
 Online Bible, Gill Commentary
 Thirty verses relay the High Priest’s orders, versus one verse with
instructions for the people.
Hebrew Tools for Everyday Use
Our Hebrew Tools this time are congruent with the Parashat Acharey Mot, and are therefore centered on “death”, which is “ma’vet” in Hebrew. Drawing from Parashat Kdoshim, we will focus on the “separation” – havdel – and look at a couple of its usages. Many are familiar with the “havdala” – literally separation – service at the end of Shabbat to distinguish it from the weekdays. On Shabbat we particularly love to praise our Elohim, and so we’ll learn how say that in Hebrew.
A’charey ha’ma’vet (lit. after the death)
After his death
After her death
After Shabbat Havdala is done
A’charey Shabbat oseem Havdala (lit. after Shabbat doing Havdala)
To differentiate between holiness and that which is not holy
Le’havdil beyn kodesh le’ma she’lo kadosh*
We will praise Elohim on Shabbat
Ne’ha’lel et Elohim be’Shabbat
*Hebrew has a word for that term, ”chol”. “Chol” does not mean “defiled” or “impure”. It simply refers to anything which isn’t necessarily “kadosh”.