Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #29: Acharei Mot (After the death) Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:30
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 22:1-16
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 3:19-28
In regular years this is read with Parashah #30 K’doshim which describes G-d’s admonishment that we are to be a holy people because He is holy, and how that is to be accomplished.
This parashah focuses on repentance, how and when G-d was to be approached in the Holy Place, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the instructions for the two male goats used for atonement; one that was sacrificed as a sin offering, and the other that was sent out in the desert with the sins of the people on its head. This narrative symbolizes how Yahshua assumed the role of both goats as the One who took all of the sins of humanity on himself and became the only perfect and complete sacrifice in order that we may be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with Him.
Let’s look at the process of atonement at the time of Aharon’s role as the High Priest (a parallel to YHVH’s role). He was instructed to choose two male goats; one for a sin offering and the other to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for “making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel” (Lev. 16:9-10. The goats were placed before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Aharon cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai, and the other for ‘Az’azel which is translated as several characters in various references. In the Book of Enoch, Az’azel is portrayed as one of the chief Grigori or fallen angels who cohabitated with women. In the extracanonical book of the Apocalypse of Abraham ‘Az’azel is associated with the serpent and hell (Chap. 23:7). He is identified as the spirit of Esau embodying heathenism in the Zohar. In all practicality, Az’azel represents the scapegoat.
To reiterate, Yahshua accepted the roles of both the scapegoat who assumed the sins of man and was sent away, and the goat that was sacrificed but in this case was the perfect Olah offering, totally consecrated to G-d, atoning for our sin. He became sin for us, Az’azel, to atone for our uncleanliness and transgressions we committed before coming to the knowledge of Yahshua. Just as Aharon made atonement in the Holy Place with the blood of the goat for the sin offering for the people of Israel and their transgressions (Lev. 16:16), Yahshua made atonement before the Father with His blood for our sins and transgressions. Yahshua took all of our sins and transgressions up to the point of our reconciliation unto Him and placed them as far from the east is from the west, never to be remembered. Psalm 103:12 reads. “He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.” From that point, we are held accountable for our thoughts and deeds and must keep watch on our hearts and minds daily.
Rabbinical Jews hold a different view as we would expect of those who do not yet know Messiah Yahshua and the connection between the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah. The two male goats are often interpreted as representing the sets of twins in Genesis; Cain and Abel; Isaac and Ismael; Jacob and Esau. However, to subscribe to this view negates the depth of the scripture which is replete with parallels to Yahshua HaMashiach and His role in the history of Israel and man. The scapegoat sent into the desert cannot represent the “evil” twin/brother in any of these pairs as man cannot take away the sin of the world. Neither could man (the “good” twin/brother) have been sufficient as the perfect Olah offering required by G-d for the expiation of sin.
Like the scapegoat, Yahshua was sent outside the camp (Jerusalem) as an outcast to be crucified which was not a Jewish form of capitol punishment, on Golgotha (Skull; Aramaic). This place was so named because the shape of the hill is like a skull. Golgotha is located outside of Jerusalem’s northern wall which is significant in that Lucifer (HaSatan)planned to make his kingdom in the North Isaiah 14;12-17 and the Holy of Holies was located on the northwest side of the tabernacle.
Most people it would seem believe that story that Yahshua was crucified on the hill called Golgotha and many artists have depicted his crucifixion as such. But we must ask ourselves, if Yahshua was crucified on the hill, how did the people read the inscription on the label that was above His head? The gospel of John gives us a reason to believe that Yahshua was crucified by the road at the base of the hill rather than on top of it. This would certainly be more of an insult to be at ground level. John said that “This title then read many of the Jews for the place where Yahshua was crucified was nigh to (near) the city (John 19:20). In addition, Matthew 27:39 and Mark 15:29-30 document that (“they that passed by”) “reviled” (or “derided”, “hurled abuse”, “blasphemed”, depending on the translation) Him… The fact that people were passing by indicates that the location of His crucifixion was near a frequently traveled road, rather than on a remote hilltop.
The concept of atonement expands into the discussion on the permanent regulation of Yom Kippur. In fact, the command that this time of year be observed as a holy convocation is mentioned three times from verses 29-34. Lev. 16:29 provides the purpose and instruction regarding this time of year; It is to be a permanent regulation for you that on the tenth day of the seventh month you are to deny yourselves and not do any kind of work, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you. For on this day, atonement will be made for you to purify you; you will be clean before Adonai from all your sins. It is a Shabbat of complete rest for you, and you are to deny yourselves. This is a permanent regulation.” We see that G-d declares this time of year and it’s observance a permanent regulation three times. He also directs us to deny ourselves twice. What does it mean to deny ourselves? The rabbis provide a plethora of rabbinic prohibitions such as abstaining from intimacy, bathing, anointing ourselves with perfume or oil, wearing of leather shoes because they are comfortable and cost the life of the animal from which they were made. These directives do not contradict Torah, so they are neither mandated nor prohibited at our synagogue. However, fasting is definitely a sacrifice and denial of ones’ natural desire to eat. When we deny ourselves physical sustenance, we are better able to focus on the spiritual sustenance provided by G-d. For as Yahshua said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but from every word that proceedeth from the mouth of G-d” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). Of course, we do not do any kind of work on this day. Our focus is on atonement and forgiveness of sin that can only be imparted through Yahshua’s sacrifice.
There seems to have been three purposes for the legislation G-d commanded for the observance of the Day of Atonement. Although G-d dwelt in the sanctuary, the priests were not without sin. Every year they were reminded that they needed to be cleansed just as every other object in the sanctuary. It is a beautiful truth that as true believers in YHVH/Yahshua that we have access to the throne at any time. In fact, we are encouraged to continue to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-8) and G-d will respond. This is quite a contrast to what was required to communicate with G-d as stated at the beginning of our parashah. Adonai specifically told Moshe to tell Aharon that not to come at just any time to the Holy Place beyond the curtain so he would not die. Moving forward to the Catholic church, individuals who follow that faith! must go through their priest or one or more saints with their prayers, supplications, and confessions. After Yahshua’s death and resurrection, all such intermediaries were eliminated, or so they should have been
The nation Israel also had to repent every year, through the high priest who had to go into the Holy of Holies on behalf of the nation. He had to identify with the nation on this very intimate level and conduct a personal search of his heart as well. The associated parashah describes the continual need for us to search our hearts and repent of our wrongdoings in order to be a holy people and glorify our G-d. This directive is also stated in chapter 18 verses 1-5. If we want to live in our father’s house, we must follow our Father’s rules.
The third purpose of the day of Atonement was to call for individual repentance and to seek the face of G-d. The Day of Atonement emphasized in this parashah should inform us of its importance and necessity for salvation. The fact that the priests were required to go through a ritual cleansing and had to be found to be ceremonially worthy, reminded them (and us) that they (and we) need to seek forgiveness for our own sins before acting on behalf of anyone else.
Finally, we find the biblical source for teaching against intimacy when a woman is having her menses (period) in 18:19, and that homosexuality is an abomination (Lev. 18:22.) The parashah ends with G-d admonishing the people to obey His laws and rulings. This repeats Lev. 17:4, “You are to obey my rulings and laws and live accordingly: I am Adonai your G-d. You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am Adonai.”
Haftarah: Ezekiel 22: 1-16
In this passage G-d essentially told the people that they were going to be held accountable for their rebellious behaviors. Everything G-d commanded the people not to do, they did. They profaned the Shabbats, dishonored parents, wronged orphans and widows, treated the holy things with contempt, gossiped to the point of inciting bloodshed, committed incest, charged interest on loans, had sex with immediate members of their families, took their women during their menses, and forgot G-d completely before the nations who looked on Israel with scorn and laughter. This is the point where G-d decided to scatter Israel among the Goyim (nations) and disperse them throughout the countries. Through this process of isolation G-d would remove their defilement and cause them to know the full ridicule of the nations. This may be considered a type of spiritual “time out” on a national scale. Israel has been persecuted more than any other people and continues to be ridiculed and hated today. G-d reminds us in Matthew 23:37-39; “Yerushalayim! Yerushalayim! You kill the prophets! You stone those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you refused! Look! G-d is abandoning your house to you, leaving it desolate. For I tell you, from now on, you will not see me again until you say, ‘ Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai’ We will not know the true peace of G-d or see Yahshua until we say “ Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai.” I submit living to experience this time in history is a very plausible possibility with the exponential degradation in our country and the world in general. As terrible as things are and as they continue to compete with the crimes of Israel when she strayed so far from G-d, we can and must stay strong and draw on the peace that only YHVH/Yahshua can provide. We have been kept alive for this time for a reason; to make His Name known among the nations. This is done in the way He instructed so long ago: “ How blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell you all kinds of vicious lies about you because you follow me! Rejoice, be glad because your reward in heaven is great-they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way. You are the salt for the Land. But is salt becomes tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except being thrown out for people to trample on. You are the light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven”(Matthew 5:11-16).
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 3:19-28
In this passage, we are reminded that legalistic observance of Torah commands avails us nothing. Let’s get our premise clear from the start. Sha’ul (Paul) is talking about legalism in following G-d’s commands and the added issue of placing the oral Torah, rabbinical law as that which should be followed. He clarifies it as he speaks of legalism without the spirit of obedience and love. He points out that the Torah (G-d’s Torah) shows us how sinful we are, lest anyone boast of his perceived righteousness in and of himself. Torah is a sort of “ground zero” that brings us all down to the level of sinners that we are and will remain unless we trust in Yahshua’s faithfulness continually and continue to follow His Torah (Rom. 3:21-22). Verse 24 informs us that we are granted the status of “being considered righteous before Him, through the act redeeming us from our enslavement to sin that Yahshua accomplished. This means that He freed us from the death indictment we inherited through original sin. This does not mean that we are “saved”. Yahshua’s sacrifice spiritually takes us through the Sea of Reeds and gives us a new beginning as we emerge into the desert that represents a clean slate. How can we say this with confidence? Let’s look at Rom. 3:25; “G-d put Yahshua forward as the covering for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death. This vindicated G-d’s righteousness; because, in his forbearance, he had passed over [ with neither punishment or remission] the sins people had committed in the past; and it vindicates his righteousness in the present age by showing that he is righteous himself and is also the one who makes people righteous on the ground of Yahshua’s faithfulness. So what room is left for boasting? None at all! What kind of Torah excludes it? One that has to do with legal observance of rules? No, rather a Torah that has to do with trusting. Therefore, we hold the view that a person comes to be considered righteous by G-d on the ground of trusting which has nothing to do with legalistic observance of Torah commands.”
Again, we see that the Torah of G-d has not been abrogated. Sha’ul (Paul) is talking about Jews who held the position that legalistic observance of rabbinical law and the commands of G-d followed without infusing the spirit of the law made one righteous in the sight of G-d. Remember that the majority of Jews were not convinced about Yahshua being the Messiah, let alone resurrected. The word trust is not some abstract cognitive concept as believed by most Christians. Rather, it is an action verb that means “to follow” or “commit to” something or someone. Therefore, what we have in this passage is a lesson that G-d’s Torah is not dead. If we are to be considered righteous, we must actively commit ourselves (trust) in the faithfulness of Yahshua’s sacrifice and His faithfulness and ability to forgive us of our sins. If you have any doubt about the meaning of trust, G-d provides plenty of examples in Hebrews chapter 11. You will always see the word trust associated with obedient action. There is no way around this truth. If we want to have life, and have it abundantly, we must return to our parashah in Lev. 18:5: “You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am Adonai.”
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart