Rabbi Aharon Greenberg
Canadian Director of the Seif Orthodox Union Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus
A Matter of Perspective
In this week’s parsha of Acharei Mot, as part of the sacrificial process of Yom Hakipurim, Bnei Yisrael are commanded to take two goats. According to our sages there is a requirement that these goats need to be identical in their appearance, color, size and even cost (See the first Mishana in the 6th chapter of Yoma).
Upon their selection, the Kohen Gadol is called upon to draw lots. One goat then remains in the temple, and after a brief procedure it is slaughtered and offered La’Hashem, to G-d, on the altar. Furthermore, it’s blood is sprinkled in the required locations as part of a complex ritual process. Meanwhile, the other goat is then prepared to be sent out to the desert – Azazel, to meet its fate.
I would like to take a look at this process from the goats’ perspectives. Imagine what the goat who has been “chosen” to be sent out to the desert is thinking. The Mishna and Gemara (once again in the 6th Chapter of Yuma) describe how this goat which was being sent out to the desert to meet its demise was accompanied by many people, traveling on its way from station to station. People who were selected for this task lead it out through the Temple, through the city and out into the open desert. Throngs of people gathered to witness and accompany this goat. The goat was probably thinking that he won the lottery! After all, he has the entourage, he has the fanfare and all of the people hustling around him. Yet, we know the fate he is about to encounter. We know he is moments away from being cast down a steep mountain.
Perhaps a message in life, a message from Yom Kippur, is one of perspective. Sometimes we think we want that fanfare, the excitement to surround us in our daily lives. We want the spotlight. We want to be the person people take notice of. Often, we need to take a step back and evaluate a situation to see if this is truly the proper path and when making a decision, ensure that it is truly best, not what is perceived as “best” for me and those that surround me in my life. A direction where I dedicate my life to G-d, His people and nation. Often (although not always) there is less fanfare and glory in making the right decision yet it is often the one truly dedicated to the service and devotion to Hashem that achieves the proper and necessary outcome.
(I do not recall where I heard this idea from but it left an impression on me and I would like to share it with all of the readers of this wonderful publication. If someone can please point out the source of this idea, I would be most appreciative.)