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   by Jacob Solomon

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1. Why does the High Priest perform the Yom Kippur Temple Service in simple lined garments, and not in the more elaborate clothes he usually wears in Temple Service? - according to Rashi.

2. What, according to R. Bachya, may be learnt from the Torah's insistence that no one should be in the entire Tent of Meeting when the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur?

3. What, according to Hirsch, may be learnt from the presence of the two male goats in the Yom Kippur Temple Service - one 'for G-d' and one 'for the Azazel'?

4. What is the significance of the words 'lifnei Hashem' (before G-d), in 'you will be cleansed from all your sins "before G-d"'? (16:30) - according to the Kli Yakar.

5. Why would the taking away of an animal's life without due cause be reckoned as murder (17:4) according to the Kli Yakar?

6. Why, according to Hirsch, are the opening words of the section of the Torah dealing with forbidden sexual relationships the same as the opening words of the Ten Commandments - namely 'I am the L-rd your G-d'? (18:2)

7. How are the words 'You shall live by them' (the Mitzvot) (18:5) understood by (a) The Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a), and (b) The Ramban?

8. In what way does Rashi explain the words, in the context of forbidden sexual relationships, 'the land shall not vomit you out for having contaminated it'? (18:28)


1. The High Priest wears simple linen garments in performing the Yom Kippur Temple Service as an illustration of the principle that 'a prosecutor may not become a defender'. For the usual eight garments contained gold thread: gold points an accusing finger at the Israelites, as that was the material they used to make the Golden Calf. (Rashi ad loc, based on Talmud Rosh Hashana 26a)

2. This is meant to illustrate the principle that the Divine Blessing is most effective when received in modesty, in quiet solitude. (See, for example, Kings I 19)

3. According to Hirsch, the goat designated 'for G-d' represents positive forces - goodness. The goat designated for the 'azazel' - the scapegoat - signifies negative forces - evil. That conveys a Torah teaching that no-one has the option of being neutral. Those who do not pursue a positive way of life will find themselves moving towards a wasteland of spiritual destruction.

4. The words 'lifnei Hashem' mean literally 'before G-d'. Yom Kippur only atones for those who repent and purify themselves before they stand before G-d on Yom Kippur. If they do, then G-d Himself will ensure that they 'shall be cleansed'. (16:30)

5. The Kli Yakar derives from the words 'it shall be considered bloodshed' (17:4), that when a person kills an animal without a legitimate cause, he allowed himself to be influenced by the same bloodthirsty instincts that can cause people to commit murder - his cruel instincts have taken control over him.

6. The common link with the opening of the Ten Commandments (I am the L-rd your G-d), and the laws of sexual purity in this Parasha is to highlight the importance of sexual purity. Just as the nation can not exist as the Chosen People without acknowledging that G-d is the Almighty, so it also cannot exist as the Chosen People without following the rules of sexual purity contained in this chapter.

7. (a) The Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a) understands the words 'You shall live by them' (18:5) as emphasizing that preserving human life (with the exceptions of murder, adultery, and idolatry), takes precedence over Mitzva observance. One should live by the Mitzvot - not die for them. (b) The Ramban explains that 'living by' the Mitzvot is that people should work towards social harmony by respecting the rights and needs of other people. Only if society adheres to the laws 'between man and man' can people truly 'live' peacefully and harmoniously.

8. Rashi brings the following parable. The Holy Land is like a prince, a young man with a delicate constitution, who ate contaminated food. He cannot digest it, so he spewed it out. Similarly, the Holy Land cannot spiritually tolerate the violation of the Torah sexual norms (described in this chapter). When the Israelites slipped into that behavior, the Land indeed spewed them out. (See, for example, Ezekiel 16)


The Talmud records that the goat was dispatched to the Azazel with every possible speed. A special raised ramp had to be placed to prevent the designated man being pushed the by the crowd who wanted the goat to reach the Azazel as soon as possible (Yoma 6:4). Once that journey had started, the people waited for signs that the goat had reached the Azazel and performed its destiny in effecting the kappara for Klal Yisrael. The authorities in the Talmud vary as to how this news was communicated. One opinion holds that the news traveled through a system of flags waved from posts along the route from the Azazel back to the Temple. Another said that a scarlet thread in the Temple miraculously turned white to show that G-d had wiped clean previous records of sin. (Yoma 6:8).

Why was so much emphasis placed on speed?

My attempt on this issue should be found on the Shema Yisrael website for 5760

Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara


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