Rabbi Sherman’s Weekly Torah Commentary – April 23-24, 2021 (12 Iyyar 5781)

April 23-24, 2021                                                           Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim
12 Iyyar 5781

The ancient Israelites were just as interested as we are in escaping blame. In this week’s Torah portion, we read the ritual of the scapegoat. The High Priest would select two goats and would sacrifice one of them. The High Priest would place his hands on the remaining goat, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat. The Priest would then send the goat to Azazel, out into the wilderness. For the Israelites who were human and faulty just like we are, this was a way of assigning blame and watching their sins get carried away, out of sight and out of mind. Some scholars combined the word for “escape” with what is now known to be a misreading of the word “Azazel,” and they believed those two words formed the origin of the word “scapegoat.”

The ancient scapegoat ritual is not really about blaming the goat for our sins. Medieval commentator Nachmanides reminds us: “The goat simply bears away the transgressions of the Israelites.” Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld teaches that while the goat carried away the sins of a community, this did not absolve people of personal responsibility: “The success of the scapegoating ritual hinges on individuals’ willingness to take responsibility for the wrongs they have done—just the opposite of the way we usually think about making a scapegoat of someone.”

Sending a goat into the wilderness may lighten the burden and the shame of blame. But our tradition teaches us to take responsibility for our own mistakes and to forgive others for theirs.

For Reflection:
Do you ever blame others for your mistakes? Have others ever blamed you for their mistakes?
What is so difficult about owning up to our own faults and flaws?

Healing & Hope – Friday at 3:00 PM, healing service with psalms and prayers of comfort.
Channel 1960 or in the Synagogue (limited seating; masks required)

Torah Talk – Shabbat afternoon at 1:30 PM in the Synagogue (limited seating; masks required)

Please join in this week’s Shabbat celebrations on Channel 1960 or in the Synagogue

Friday at 4:15 PM: Kabbalat Shabbat & Ma’ariv (Evening Service); Blessings in Dining Room at 5:15
Saturday at 10:00 AM: Shabbat Shacharit (Morning Service); Blessings in Dining Room at 12:15

Candle lighting time for the city of Mission Viejo: Friday evening at 7:10 PM
Shabbat ends Saturday evening at 8:08 PM

Shabbat Shalom!                                                             Rabbi Sherman