The portion describes, among other things, a shamanic ceremony of choosing two goats: One of them takes on the role of bearing the sins of the people and is sent to the wilderness; the other is offered as a sacrifice to God.
Before you continue reading, I suggest you stop for a moment and think: If you could point out the sins from the past year that you would like to cast away, what would they be? [Note: Sins can be interpreted as things you did that simply missed the mark].
What would you choose to put on the goat and send to Azazel?
And for what things during the past year would you like to give thanks?
The portion “Acharey Mot” tries to teach us what should be done and what should be avoided, in order to maintain a balanced closeness/ distance relationship with the divine point within us — how to create a relationship with it that brings life and not death, and that allows openness and living a life of holiness.
In the background of the narrative there is a basic assumption that mistakes happen, that human beings, being human, are prone to sin. The path to the goal (to become “KEDOSHIM”, holy people) is paved with good intentions, but the intentions do not necessarily keep us from sin.
Therefore, the priest performs a special shamanic ceremony in which he resets the level of sins of the people:
He chooses two goats. One of them is destined for God as a sin offering, and the other is destined to be sent to the wilderness, to Azazel, as it bears the sins with it.
He places the two goats before a tent of meeting and cast dice on which of them will be sent to the desert and which will be sacrificed to God.
Casting dice emphasizes that the choice is random; it is not that there is one white goat and one black, not one whole and the other damaged, but each of the goats can be destined to be sent to Azazel, as any man can sin. Both the poor and the rich, both the learned and the ignorant, both the righteous and the wicked.
Then the priest sacrifices the goat of sin and after atoning for the holy, using the sacrificial blood that he sprinkles, he puts his hands on the head of the second goat, confesses the sins of the children of Israel and passes the energy of their sins on its head. Then he hands the goat of sins over to a random man, a man that is being chosen from time to time (there is no man who holds this position regularly) who sends the goat to the desert, to Azazel.
What is this Azazel?
What power (in Hebrew, עז”Az”) and what divine quality (In Hebrew, אל El) is there in Azazel in the wilderness?
What will happen to the goat there after it is sent there?
He may be prey to evil beasts, he may die of thirst and hunger, he will most likely die.
Is there a special energy in the desert that can purify?
Moses saw the revelation of the burning bush in the wilderness.
The people of Israel received the Torah in the wilderness.
The wilderness has a special quality in which the sublime God is present, in which man feels his nothingness in the face of creation and recognizes his own true measure.
And perhaps — most of the sins for which the goat was sent to atone stem from a place where a person has forgotten his place in the order of creation?
Maybe that is why the goat was sent to carry the sins to the wilderness?
Maybe he won’t die there and instead goes through a transformation?
This ritual atones for the impurity of the children of Israel, from the sins of the collective and of the individual.
The collective sins in Biblical times were related to idolatry, foreign worship, forgetting that God is one (not in the sense that he is only one but in the sense that he is the God who unites within him everything, the oneness of all things).
What are our collective sins as a people?
In what way is our idolatry today manifested?
What form does our forgetfulness of the unity of all things take?
Personally, I prefer to take responsibility and check things out at the individual level.
May we all be blessed to have the wisdom to maintain our inner mishkan (sanctuary), so that it is worthy of containing the Divine holy spark and so that our behavior toward ourselves and toward others will always come from a place of love.
“And love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus, 19:18) so that we can embody in our lives a correct, balanced and nourished world.