WWOT – Weekly Words of Torah: Parashat Aharei Mot

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism

The Torah Reading for this week, Parashat Aharei Mot, is the same Torah reading read on Yom Kippur morning, which discusses God telling Moses that Aaron can only enter the Holy of Holies once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month, a day which atones for all the sins of the Israelites. On that day, Yom Kippur, when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies, he will wear plain linen robes, and he will pray that the sins of the entire Israelite community are atoned for and forgiven.

The High Priest takes two male goats and, by lot, marks one for God, and one for Azazel, which has been known to be called the scapegoat. The High Priest then slaughters the goat marked for God as a sin offering and uses its blood to cleanse the Tent of Meeting, the altar, and the Holy of Holies of the sins of the people. Then, the High Priest is to confess all the sins of the Israelites over the goat of Azazel, the scapegoat, and the goat is to be sent off into the wilderness. And so, the goat escapes.

The goat that escaped, the Azazel, bore the sins of others, and received the term scapegoat. Until today, the term “scapegoat” refers to someone who is made to bear the blame for another person’s bad actions or for bad events that happen to another person. It is often much easier to blame someone else when something does not go right. However, it is actually more helpful and educational to look at a situation and see what can be learned: Why did the situation go wrong, and how can it be made better next time? Assessment and Evaluation, and taking responsibility, improve a situation, a relationship, and an organization. Nobody should ever be made to feel like the scapegoat.

Weekly Words of Torah is a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our new Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here.