Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Parshas Acharei Mos (5776)

What is Azazel?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 16:8):
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel.
Rashi (ibid) explains (based on the Talmud Yoma 67b):
עזאזל AZAZEL — (The word is taken to be a compound of עזז "to be strong" and אל "mighty"). It was a precipitous and flinty rock — a towering peak, for it is said (v. 22) "[and the goat shall bear upon it their iniquities into] an גזר) "ארץ גזרה means to cut) — into a craggy land (Yoma 67b).
(see also Ibn Ezra ibid that explains that this refers to a name of a mountain, and it was a mountain near Mt. Sinai)

Daas Zkenim (ibid) explains this is referring to the Satanic forces:
גורל אחד לה' וגורל אחד לעזאזל, “one lot for the Lord and one lot for Azazel.” Ibn Ezra, [at the conclusion of his commentary on this verse, Ed.], writes that when we get to thirty three, we will be able to understand the meaning of this procedure. [At the beginning of his commentary, he had already hinted that there is a mystical element, kabbalah, in all this. Ed.] What he meant was that when we count the next thirty three verses in the Torah and we get to Leviticus 17:7 the Torah will explain that the procedure described here is meant to teach us not to sacrifice to Satanic forces in the universe anymore. These Satanic forces are symbolised by the scapegoat. Just as the bird released into the air by the priest performing the ritual of the person afflicted with tzoraat is perceived as taking away his former sins, so the scapegoat is supposed to do this on behalf of the whole Jewish nation on the day of Atonement. Ibn Ezra understands the word עזאזל as a combination of two words, similar to גלעד in Genesis 31:47 or to בנימין in Genesis 35:18 or ראובן in Genesis 29:32 and many others. Whereas the first male goat is offered to the Lord as a burnt offering, the second one is symbolically tendered of the Satanic forces, the complete destruction of that animal pointing at the uselessness of idolatry The two words לעז אזל, “it went to waste, to destruction ” symbolise this concept.
Shadal (ibid) explains in a similar fashion:
It seems that this used to be a name of an evil god - Satan ... and for those who believe in the oneness of G-d do not believe in the existence of an evil god, this simply refers to complete evil, similar to the way today we say "Satan" to talk about a great evil and destruction, and this goat was sent to its destruction in the desert for it died from hunger ... however after the land was settled and there was not enough wilderness left it was then necessary to pus hthe goat off a cliff so it does not wonder into another city
Kli Yakar (ibid):
It seems that these two goats were similar to the two goats that Jacob made for Isaac, and one was made into good foods that he loved and that is the portion of Samael...
Yalkut Shemoni (44:1) explains that this refers to angels:
[At the time of the Flood] two angels stood up and said in front of G-d ... gives us permission to go down and walk among mortals and see how we will sanctify your name. G-d told them to descend and they sinned with the daughters of men ... Shamchazai repented ... but Azael did not repent ... and therefore the Jews sacrifice sacrifices on the Days of Atonement - one to G-d to atone for the Jewish people, and one to Azazel
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (The Living Torah ibid) cites other opinions:
... others say that azazel means 'to be sent away' (Septuagint), or 'to carry away sins' (Symachus; Vulgate) ... Some say that Azazel represents the forces of nature (Hirsch)

Where Did the Sons of Aaron Die?

The Torah writes (Lev. 16:1):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD, and died;
Sifra / Toras Kohanim (Shemini, Milum 35) writes:
Rabbi Eliezer said: they did not die but outside, in a place Levites are permitted to enter as it said: "they drew near and carried them by their tunics". If so, why does it say "they died in front of G-d"? An angel obstructed them, and pushed them out, and they went out. Rabbi Akiva said: they died inside as it says "and they died in front of G-d". If so, why does it say "they drew near and carried them by their tunics"? - to teach us that they took hooks of iron and dragged them out.

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