Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasah#29: Acharei Mot (After the death) Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:30
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 22:1-16
B’rit Chadashah: Galatians 3:10-14
*This week I am going to focus on what it means to be a disciple of YHVH/Yahshua and the ritual of the two goats as I have had many questions on both subjects. It is paramount that we correctly understand what G-d’s Torah conveys to us in each case if we hope to grow in our relationship to YHVH/Yahshua.
This parashah continues with the issue of Nadav and Avihu and their unauthorized worship of Adonai. Aharon is told that he is to worship Adonai according to Adonai’s instructions and not his emotions. We can easily relate this to what is called “praise and worship” in many of today’s religious institutions where singing and dancing are the focus of the service with no significant teaching whatsoever. Any logically minded person must acknowledge that when Yahshua instructed is disciples to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) that it does not mean singers and dancers! So, what exactly is a disciple? In the Hebrew, the word is talmid which means “student.” Students by definition have a teacher. Singing and dancing are an emotional aspect of worship, but should not be the main focus based on Yahshua’s commission to His talmidim. Remember, Yahshua wants us to learn to follow His commands, laws, and designated times. We cannot dance or sing our way to a saving relationship with our L-rd. Another example of how Yahshua wants us to approach him may be seen through His disciples/talmidim. The Torah is replete with His instruction, admonition, rebuke, and encouragement as His talmidim converted from Orthodox Judaism to Messianic Judaism; the first converts to Yahshua’s system of belief and worship of Himself/G-d. Yahshua taught them to pray (Luke 11:1-13) and the following:
Matthew 11:1 And it came to pass, when Yahshua had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
It has always amazed me at the truth that can be contained in one verse of Scripture. This is such a verse. We learn here from the Master Teacher. When Yahshua sent the disciples out they needed to know what to teach and how to do it. Teaching always comes before sending. We must learn before we can fulfill the L-rd’s command to go. I think one of the mistakes that is often made in churches is to put a young convert in a teaching position before they have had a chance to learn. When a person is young in their new belief, they do not know enough to say anything meaningful about Yahshua and His Torah from the Messianic perspective taught by Yahshua to His talmidim.
1 – Yahshua taught them that He was the Son of G-d;
Matthew 14:32-33 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of G-d.
The Son of G-d is eternal and equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Echad)
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d. The same was in the beginning with G-d. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
2 – He taught them that He was the Son of man.
Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Also see Matthew 16:13.
- He taught them that it is not in G-d’s plan that all men are called or will be saved.
After a large crowd had gathered from the people who kept coming to him from town after town, Yahshua told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was stepped on., and the birds flying around ate it up. Some fell on a rock; and after it sprouted, it dried up from lack of moisture. Some fell in the midst of thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. But some fell into rich soil, and grew, and produced a hundred times as much as had been sown.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!” His talmidim asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of G-d; but the rest are taught in parables, so that they may look but not see, and listen but not understand.” He then continues to explain the parable to the talmidim.
This parable is repeated by Mark 4:1-12, Matthew 13:1-15
Through the parables he taught the people while simultaneously teaching the talmidim how to reach the people; a simple narrative with a deeper message central to the teachings of Yahshua. The parables deal with common things people understand; from the time Yahshua first shared them to today.
Yahshua taught his talmidim from the time He called them and they responded, to His death on the execution stake. Indeed, many of the lessons He taught were not to be understood until after his death. The talmidim internalized many of these teachings that G-d would recall to them at just the right time in their lives. This is what we are to do with G-d’s Word; Seek, Ask, and Knock continually, until we are given the answers/wisdom/knowledge from above.
Another subject of much debate among those who do not understand Yahshua’s role as the perfect Olah offering to G-d is the command for Aharon as the High Priest to take two male goats, one to be designated for Adonai and one for Az’azel (Lev. 16:5-22). This narrative illustrates how Yahshua took the sin of the world upon Himself and was sent away to Golgotha outside Jerusalem, to bear all our transgressions. In our parashah, the narrative goes like this:” Aharon is to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the transgressions, crimes, and sins of the people of Israel; he is to put them on the head of the goat and then send it away into the desert with a man appointed for the purpose. The goat will bear all their transgressions away to some isolated place and he is to let the goat go in the desert.”
Some of the confusion stems from various interpretations of the word Azazel, and the fact that there were two goats and some cannot make the connection between Yahshua’s role as taking on the sin of the world and His role as the perfect offering/sacrifice to Adonai for the sins of the world.
Azazel is interpreted as scapegoat; in rabbinic Judaism “for the complete removal”; Rashi explains that Azazel was a high mountain, a rocky cliff, as it says to a land cut off (16;22). Indeed, Yahshua was taken to a hill, Golgotha, a place cut-off from Jerusalem. So, Rashi correct without understanding the depth of his explanation. According to the Book of Enoch, which brings Azazel into connection with the Biblical story of the fall of the angels, located on Mount Hermon, a gathering-place of demons of old (Enoch xiii). Azazel is one of the leaders of the rebellious Watchers in the time preceding the flood; he taught men the art of warfare, of making swords, knives, shields, and coats of mail, and women the art of deception by ornamenting the body, dying the hair, and painting the face and the eyebrows, and also revealed to the people the secrets of witchcraft and corrupted their manners, leading them into wickedness and impurity until at last he was, at YHVH’s command, bound hand and foot by the archangel Raphael and chained to the rough and jagged rocks of [Ha] Dudael (= Beth Ḥadudo), where he is to abide in utter darkness until the great Day of Judgment, when he will be cast into the fire to be consumed forever (Enoch viii. 1, ix. 6, x. 4–6, liv. 5, lxxxviii. 1; see Geiger, “Jüd. Zeit.” 1864, pp. 196–204). In 1 Enoch and 3 Enoch The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.
— 1 Enoch 10:8
According to 1 Enoch (a book of the Apocrypha), Azazel (here spelled ‘ăzā’zyēl) was one of the chief Grigori, a group of fallen angels who married women. This same story (without any mention of Azazel) is told in Genesis 6:2–4:
That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. […] There were giants in the earth in those days; and also afterward, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
1 Enoch portrays Azazel as responsible for teaching people to make weapons and cosmetics, for which he was cast out of heaven. 1 Enoch 8:1–3a reads:
And Azazel taught men to make swords and knives and shields and breastplates; and made known to them the metals [of the earth] and the art of working them; and bracelets and ornaments; and the use of antimony and the beautifying of the eyelids; and all kinds of costly stones and all coloring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways.
G-d sees the sin brought about by Azazel and has Raphael “bind Azazel hand and foot and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert – which is in Dudael – and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light.”
Several scholars have previously discerned that some details of Azazel’s punishment are reminiscent of the scapegoat rite. Thus, Lester Grabbe points to a number of parallels between the Azazel narrative in 1 Enoch and the wording of Leviticus 16, including “the similarity of the names Asael and Azazel; the punishment in the desert; the placing of sin on Asael/Azazel; the resultant healing of the land.” Daniel Stökl also observes that “the punishment of the demon resembles the treatment of the goat in aspects of geography, action, time and purpose.” Stökl remarks that “the name of place of judgment (Dudael) is conspicuously similar in both traditions and can likely be traced to a common origin.”
Azazel’s fate is foretold near the end of 1 Enoch 2:8, where God says, “On the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire. […] The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.”
Medieval Jewish commentators
The medieval scholar Nachmanides (1194–1270) identified the Hebrew text as also referring to a demon, and identified this “Azazel” with Samael who is also considered the Satan; venom of G-d; the Accuser. He saw the sending away of the goat as a symbolic expression of the idea that the people’s sins and their evil consequences were to be sent back to the spirit of desolation and ruin, the source of all impurity. He believed the very fact that the two goats were presented before G-d, before the one was sacrificed and the other sent into the wilderness, was proof that Azazel was not ranked alongside G-d, but regarded simply as the personification of wickedness in contrast with the righteous government of God.
Maimonides (1134–1204) says that as sins cannot be taken off one’s head and transferred elsewhere, the ritual is symbolic, enabling the penitent to discard his sins: “These ceremonies are of a symbolic character and serve to impress man with a certain idea and to lead him to repent, as if to say, ‘We have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, cast them behind our backs and removed them from us as far as possible’.
The rite, resembling, on one hand, the sending off of the basket with the woman embodying wickedness to the land of Shinar in the vision of Zechariah (5:6-11), and, on the other, the letting loose of the living bird into the open field in the case of the leper healed from the plague (Lev. 14:7), was, indeed, viewed by the people of Jerusalem as a means of ridding themselves of the sins of the year. So would the crowd, called Babylonians or Alexandrians, pull the goat’s hair to make it hasten forth, carrying the burden of sins away with it (Yoma vi. 4, 66b; “Epistle of Barnabas,” vii.), and the arrival of the shattered animal at the bottom of the valley of the rock of Bet Ḥadudo, twelve miles away from the city, was signalized by the waving of shawls to the people of Jerusalem, who celebrated the event with boisterous hilarity and amid dancing on the hills (Yoma vi. 6, 8; Ta’an. iv. 8).
I present the previous detailed explanation to show that Yahshua indeed took the sins of the world upon His head, was taken outside Jerusalem to die alone and forsaken, just as the scapegoat was taken out into the desert and abandon, to die alone and forsaken. Yet, because of His obedience to YHVH (Yahshua in another aspect of His Complex Unity as Father), was the perfect burnt offering (Olah), acceptable to atone for the sins of men that they might be saved. John 3:16 reads “For G-d so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.” We all have free will. Yahshua accepted the role of Scapegoat for Azazel and total burnt offering (Olah) to provide us a choice between Life and Death. Our lives will determine our destiny.
Again Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘I am Adonai your G-d. You are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Egypt, where you used to live; and you are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Kena’an, where I am bringing you; nor are you to live by their laws. 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. Notice that He did not say “obey my laws and rulings until the New Testament is written and I become incarnate in the form of a man to teach you new laws and different rules!” Anyone who considers themselves a lover of G-d must follow the laws and rulings of G-d in order to live, just as He said.
Haftarah: (Ezekiel 22:1-16)
This week we read how the Kingdom of Judah as sunk to a very low level of morality. The people are told they will be thrown out of the Land because they did exactly the opposite of what YHVH commands them (and us) to do. Can we expect anything less for this generation?
B’rit Chadashah: Galatians 3:10-14
3:10: “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them’” (NASB)
There is only one Greek word “nomos” that translates “law.” It does not differentiate between Oral Torah and YHVH’s written Torah. This leaves the discriminating reader at a distinct disadvantage. It means we must sort out the distinction between proper Torah observance of YHVH’s written Torah and the legalistic perversion of Torah. Employing the proper Jewish foundation, the translators and interpreters of out English translation could make this differentiation understood. Unfortunately, HaSatan’s influence on the minds and wills of translators and interpreters influenced them so that no distinction is made, ergo many are led astray. Since this distinction is not made, anti-Semitism is promoted in our texts and often a lack of enthusiasm and a desert to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). With this distinction in mind, a discerning reader learns that Sha’ul is arguing that both legalists and those who trust must agree that YHVH’s Torah requires obedience to its commands, including designated times. Sha’ul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 that reads: “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them. And all the people shall say, ‘Amein.” It was understood that sacrifices were required. A prescribed sacrifice, preceded by repentance. Today, we do not have a physical Temple. But our spiritual sacrifices are no less required or important. Tithes without a loving heart are worthless. Obedience without the love for G-d behind the behavior is a waste of time after we learn the concepts behind them. The physical sacrificial system will be reinstituted by Yahshua when He returns for the Millennial reign just as foretold in Ezekiel.
I will skip to Gal 3:13 in the interest of time and because this verse specifically echoes the ritual of the two goats. “Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Sha’ul is quoting Deuteronomy 21:22-23. The elements comprising the cursed are found in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. I will only cover verse 15 in this teaching: “For it shall come about, if you will not obey the L-rd your G-d, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.”
Yahshua was cursed on our behalf (the goat for Azazel), but our trust in His faithfulness delivers us from past sins (Ram. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9). Reading these curses gives us an appreciation of how merciful G-d is toward those who are growing believers. However, He does not exempt us from our accountability for future sins as Peter and Sha’ul attest. Just as the first generation of Israelites who witnessed many miracles and wonders from G-d perished in the desert due to their disobedience, we too will be held accountable for our actions (Num. 14:20-24).
Although I am unable to cover the readings from the B’rit Chadashah because of the emphasis on and length of the first two subjects addressed in this message, I encourage you to read all the selections for the B’rit Chadashah for the benefit of your continued learning and understanding of G-d’s Torah. There are no wasted words in The Book.
Rabbi Tamah Davis