Student Teaching in the New Millenium

How do we Sacrifice? (5772 Yom Kippur)

In Leviticus on October 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Remove obstructions
From all paths, make easy
The hard way and heart way.

Isaiah 57:14-58:14
Jonah 1:1-4:11
Leviticus 16:1-34
Numbers 29:7-11

Remove all obstacles from the road of My people!  For thus said He who high aloft forever dwells, proclaims Isaiah (57:14-15).  Why does Jonah follow Isaiah on Yom Kippur, when he runs in the opposite direction? Do his legs carry him, or does he go where the wind blows?

Why does Leviticus focus on redeeming the altar from the people, and not redeeming the people from their sins? This is the lot of the goat of sin offering, who is released into the wilderness. Or is it? Do our sins go with the goat, or does the goat go with our sins? Is the goat the ass in the wilderness, or are we?

Is this the human condition, following our hearts’ desires, running away from our hearts’ way?

Torah says to purify the altar. What is the altar? Is it on the bimah or among the people? Is it in the church or temple, or out in the world?

Aaron is instructed to sprinkle blood on the altar to purify it. Torah teaches that blood is life. Did the Israelites’ altar take on this holy aspect? Then, is life the altar?

If the altar is life, how do we purify life? Aaron is told to kill cows. What does this mean for us? What do we have to sacrifice? We can’t kill living cows in our homes for a variety of sanitary and practical reasons. What about golden ones?

Aaron sacrifices life on the altar of life. Torah describes providing the sacrifice, performing the sacrifice, and finally doing the sacrifice. The cows are owned by members of the congregation, not captured or stolen for the purpose. So what does the repetition mean?

Does the repetition tell us to contemplate our sacrifices before we blindly perform them?

Are materialism and ownership idolatries?

Is the modern sacrifice to put aside our idols and live life to the fullest? Is living the sacrifice?

A peaceful fast.

  1. I am getting prepared for Yom Kippur, so I don’t have time to write as much as I would like to at the moment, but I want to thank you for giving me these inspiring words to contemplate this Yom Kippur. Life as the altar provides an especially evocative image. גמר חתימה טובה

    • Thank you, Alexah. A pleasant fast to you, and a parting question for you to chew on:

      How is this fast different from all other fasts?

      • Thank you. Good question… Well, this Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat. As for other fasts, the sanctity of Shabbat would override the fast, thus postponing it. However, Yom Kippur is deemed the Shabbat of Shabbatot and takes precedence. Thus, we fasted even though it was Shabbat. Indeed, I found it to be a very special Yom Kippur and Shabbat experience, an anomaly of sorts. I hope you had an easy and meaningful fast!

      • And you as well. Good answer. How else?

        On Shabbat we are commanded to be happy and cheerful. How do we reconcile this with a service concerned with fate and redemption?

        We read the Torah every year, and face the Day of Atonements before starting afresh. Why?

  2. The joy of fasting.
    Who could eat on such an awesome day?

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