Acharei Mot-K’doshim (Leviticus 16:1-20:27) Holding On To What?

This double portion details so many issues that this week’s Torah study will be overflowing with discussion. This double portion includes a swath of ordinances dealing with sexual issues that still are discussed to this day. Also, the famous Leviticus 19 “Holiness code” is also included in this week’s reading. At the beginning of the portion we also read of the ritual that we know as the scapegoat.(Leviticus 16:11-22) Aaron places his hands on this animal and the animal is expelled from the camp and with it, symbolically, the sins of the people. Would that it were so simple now!

This curious ritual I suggest, can speak to an issue that many of us face in a variety of ways. Aaron takes the collective “sins” and expels them. I am reminded of the challenge presented to  many of us as we get older regarding what we keep and what we need to reject or expel. This is not a matter of downsizing, like when we move from a long time home. No, this is the psycho-spiritual challenge of coming to a realization that if we hold on to old hurts, grudges or feelings  of anger, we run the risk of making ourselves ill. How long do we need to hold on to these past hurts? Do we not come to a time when, for our own sense of peace and growth, we need to model Aaron and “let go” of those past issues that restrict our own sense of growth and peace? We know of people who, when reaching this moment, actually create a ritual that allows an individual to literally “let go”!

It does take a sense of courage and hope for a person to see the wisdom of letting go. There is a sense of anxiety for many who, for some reasons, hold on to those past feelings so as to feel a sense of need or identity. Letting go does require faith, faith in your self and in your future. Yet, for our own health, we need to do this. The scapegoat ritual from Leviticus speaks to these moments of awareness in our life. Again, the choice is ours.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Richard F Address


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