Parshat Acharei Mot
Shabbat, 29 Nissan, 5779
4 May, 201
After the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, who “came closeto G‑d and died,” G‑d tells Moses to instruct Aaron
that he should not enter at all times into the holy, inside the parochet (the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Sanctuary), before the kapporet(cover) that is upon the ark—lest he die; for in a cloud I appear above the kapporet.
Only on the holiest day of the year—Yom Kippur—and after bringing a series of specially ordained offerings, should the kohen gadol (high priest) purify himself, put on white linen garments, and enter the chamber housing the ark:
He shall take a panful of fiery coals from atop the altar that is before G‑d, and the fill of his hands of finely ground ketoret(incense), and bring them inside the parochet.
He shall place the ketoret upon the fire before G‑d; and the cloud of incense shall cover up the kapporet that is on [the ark of] the testament . . .
Our Parshah then goes on to detail the service performed by the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur to secure atonement for his people. Among the offerings of the day were two male goats:
Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for G‑d, and one lot for Azazel.
The goat that the lot determined to be “for G‑d” is brought as an offering, and its blood is sprinkled in the Holy of Holies. The one deemed “for Azazel” is “dispatched by the hand of an appointed man into the wilderness; and the goat shall bear upon it all their sins to a barren land.”
He shall make atonement for the holy place for the defilements of the children of Israel, and for their transgressions in all their sins. And so shall he do for the Tent of Meeting, which dwells amongst them in the midst of their defilement . . .
This shall be an everlasting statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, the homeborn or the stranger who sojourns among you.
The Parshah of Acharei also warns against bringing offerings to G‑d anywhere but in the Holy Temple, forbids the consumption of blood, and details the laws prohibiting incest and other deviant sexual behaviors.