Shabbat Shalom UBS. This week we read the parasha, Acharei Mot.  Acharei Mot means “after death” and it begins with God speaking to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons.  
God goes on to describe how Aaron needed to prepare himself to enter the “Shrine” and be near the Ark of the Scrolls.  God says he should be dressed in a linen tunic and wear a linen turban.  He then explains that Aaron needs to have a bull to offer as a sacrifice.  Then, Aaron is supposed to “purge the Shrine of the uncleanness and transgression of the Israelites, whatever their sins.”
Then, verse 21 says, “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat…”
If we put all of this together, we begin to get the feeling that God is preparing the Jewish people, through Aaron for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of our calendar where we spend the day confessing and admitting to our transgressions.  Many of us even wear a white tunic and kippah!
In fact, verse 29 goes on to say “And this shall be to you a law for all time:  In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall practice self-denial; and you shall do no manner of work….For on this day, atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins; and you shall be clean before the Lord.”
This week’s portion is the proof for Yom Kippur.  But, think about that poor goat who is bearing the burden of our sins.  By placing his hands on the goat’s head, Aaron is transferring the sins of the people to the goat.  The goat would eventually be released into the wilderness and “escape”.
This is the history of the term SCAPEGOAT.  The biblical ritual described in this week’s portion was a “positive” behavior.  The people got rid of their sins, the goat took those sins away, and hopefully the goat survived in the wilderness.  No harm done!  The success of this ritual required the people to accept responsibility for their sins.
Unfortunately, the scapegoat has evolved into a negative behavior.  Instead of a goat, the animal that bears the brunt of the “sins” is usually a group of people and those people are harmed.  For example, the Jewish people have been scapegoated many times – blamed for woes of the majority (think Hitler and WWII).  Of course, other groups have been scapegoated throughout history as well.  This is opposite of the original intent of scapegoating.  
The message of Acharei Mot is that in order to atone for one’s transgressions, you have to take responsibility for them and not blame others.  We need to let go of the goat so we can move on and start fresh once again.
Shabbat Shalom,
Cantor Gluck

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