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At times it is easy to inadvertently evade the literal interpretation of priestly regulations in favor of simile. In some cases people deliberately obviate literal interpretation based on its societal relevance taking a “that was then, this is now” approach to Scripture. I seek to do neither and if I have written about parallels in the past it was because the plain interpretation was obvious while the supporting Apostolic Scripture reference was less so. This week, it is interesting to note the almost identical list of blemishes for both the Kohen and an offering.

“For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.” Leviticus 21:18-20

“Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the L-RD or give them to the L-RD as a food offering on the altar. You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted.  Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the L-RD; you shall not do it within your land,” Leviticus 22:22-24

The similarity should come as no surprise because both the Kohen and the offering were presented before HaShem Himself. Therefore both would have equal holiness standards so as not to profane the sanctuary. (Lev. 21:23) Additionally, the Kohen’s service was, in a sense, a sacrifice. The priests had stricter standards and more limiting commandments bestowed upon them. The chief priest could not even go out of the sanctuary. (Lev. 21:12) This was indeed a selfless and sacrificial life in service to HaShem. Just as the priest selected the offering to be presented, so too did HaShem select the Levites to serve before Him.

“For the L-rd your G-d has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the L-rd, him and his sons for all time.” Deuteronomy 18:5

It is important to note as well that our Messiah was a perfect and acceptable sacrifice before the Father. As Peter so elegantly describes Him, He was and is “like that of a lamb without spot or blemish.” (1 Pet. 1:19)

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:14-19

Is it not convenient that the Torah generously contains the arrangement of the festivals and set times in exclusive sections? (Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29) Focusing this week on Leviticus 23 it is subtle yet characteristic that Yom Kippur is the only festival without “Speak to the Children of Israel.” The description of Pesach does not include this phrase right before the entry but it is amalgamated together with the Sabbath details, which does carry the phrase. The omission demonstrates, not that the information was inapplicable to the Children of Israel, but that Yom Kippur constitutes personal reflection and an individual affliction of the soul. There is no celebration, no festival, and no mention of congregating with others. This is a “Sabbath of solemn rest.” (Lev. 23:32) Yet another illustration of G-d’s grace is placing such a pensive time between two “holy convocations”, Rosh HaShanah and Sukkot. Both set times are jovial, celebratory, and communal. Reading through the spectacular festivals that are soon approaching augments my anticipation and excitement! The next set time is Shavu’ot! The counting is coming to an end and the opportunity to lovingly keep several of G-d’s commandments is close at hand.

“And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.” Leviticus 23:21

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Sanctifying HaShem throughout our community is a more difficult concept than I had originally thought because of a line from this weeks’ parasha [portion], Ha’azinu. HaShem said to Moshe in Deuteronomy 32:51 that he would not enter the Land,“because you did not sanctify Me among the Children of Israel.” Consider who Moshe was. He wrote the Torah, he preformed many miracles, he spoke with HaShem “face to face”, he saw with his own eyes HaShem’s back; just to identify a few incredible experiences. Yet Moshe still made a mistake and did not sanctify HaShem.

Not a single person in this generation is as righteous as Moshe. He is one of the most revered men throughout the Tanach. So much so that our Moshiach is actually referred to as “a prophet like unto Moses.” The intention of this post is not to disrespect or belittle Moshe, Heaven forbid! The thought I am trying to convey is understanding the difficulty of sanctifying HaShem and how we need to constantly seek to draw closer to Him. If it was difficult in Moshe’s time to sanctify HaShem how much more difficult is it today. Society in general is filled with distractions, idols, and temptations. If you are content or complacent with your halachah [walk] then you are not sanctifying His Name. Sanctification is a daily process of living life in accordance with Torah and proclaiming HaShem’s holiness with thoughts, words, and deeds. It is because of His mercies that all of us awoke this morning to find Yom Kippur speedily approaching. He is holy and His Name is holy.

Sanctifying HaShem is difficult because it requires disregard for fleshly desires, pure thoughts, and a constant selfless attitude. Personally I am far from living how I know I must but each day is a step closer. He is worthy of all our praise and He deserves to be sanctified.

What are you personally doing to sanctify HaShem in your community with your life?

May this Yom Kippur motivate true teshuva [repentance] from sin.

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