Acherei Mot – After death

Acharei Mot Lev 16:1–20:27; Ezek 22:1–19; Amos 9:7–15; Eph 6

“The LORD spoke to Moses following the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD.”  (Lev16:1)

The death of Aaron’s two oldest sons had not been a tragic accident. Both had been struck down by God for offering “strange fire” to Him. Whatever their sin had been is not known but clearly it was something so grievous to God that it resulted in their deaths. 

Aaron was not permitted to grieve publicly in his bereavement. It is amazing how situations in life can change in just an instant. Things had appeared so positive when suddenly Aaron found himself in unchartered waters. It was reminiscent of when he had assisted the Israelites in fashioning a golden calf to worship during Moses’ absence. Now he again faced a critical test albeit of a different nature.

We can all bear testimony to difficult situations where we had to make a choice whether to submit to His perfect will or succumb to the fear of man or whatever other giant may be confronting us.

The apostle Paul shared about similar things in his letter to the Corinthians: “7 We have this treasure in jars of clay, so that the surpassing greatness of the power may be from God and not from ourselves. 8 We are hard pressed in every way, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not in despair; 9 persecuted, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Yeshua, so that the life of Yeshua may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Cor. 4)

The Jewish sages divided the commands in the Torah into two categories: Mishpatim (judgments) and Chukim (decrees). Mishpatim were clear and rational statements such as with the 10 Commandments but, Chukim were different. Some are easy to understand but others not so because they do not necessarily appeal to human reason. They are a “chok” or “mystery.” Sometimes, things can only be understood in hindsight and at other times never at all.

This parasha opens with God’s mishpatim concerning the incense offering and the preparations for the once-a-year sacrifice on Yom Kippur with the necessity of blood sacrifice for atonement. The Talmud: “There is not a single bird more persecuted than the dove; yet God has chosen her to be offered up on the altar. The bull is hunted by the lion, the sheep by the wolf, and the goat by the tiger. God said: Bring me a sacrifice not from them that persecute, but from them that are persecuted.”

Yeshua Himself was the perfect sacrifice, “who knew no sin yet became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Cor.5:21) There was none more persecuted than Yeshua whose death and resurrection gives us life.

Neither are there any people more persecuted than true believers who serve Yeshua unconditionally. As the Talmud states, “Bring me a sacrifice, not from them that persecute, but from them that are persecuted.”

Lev 17:11 emphasises that: “…the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I (Adonai) have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” 

There is an ancient prayer that no longer exists within traditional Yom Kippur services, because it points to Yeshua the ‘Suffering Servant’ as portrayed in Isa.53:

“Our righteous anointed is departed from us: horror hath seized us, and we have none to justify us. He hath borne the yoke of our iniquities and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression. He bears our sins on his shoulder, that he may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wounds, when the Eternal will create Him (the Mashiach) as a new creature.”

God told Moses that on Yom Kippur, Aaron should cast lots for two goats.  One would be offered as the sacrifice and the other— the Azazel (scapegoat)—would be sent alive into the wilderness: “Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering.  But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat [azazel].” (Lev 16:8–10)

To symbolise the entire removal of the sin and guilt of Israel, the high priest lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confessed over him all the sins of the Israelites.  All their transgressions were laid upon the Azazel, who was then led away into the wilderness and thrown over a cliff: “The goat shall bear all their iniquities to a land which is cut off.”  (Lev 16:22)

In Jewish a tradition, the priest would tie a scarlet cloth to the horn of the goat.  When the sacrifice was accepted by God, the scarlet cloth became white fulfilling God’s promise in Isa 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”

This miraculous sign ceased from Yeshua’s sacrifice for our sins around AD 30 until the destruction of the 2nd Temple in AD 70 stopped all sacrifices. God showed His acceptance of the Azazel in the past, so why did He stop for those 40 years?

The answer is simple. Yeshua became the Scapegoat for us, taking on Himself all our sins becoming a substitutionary sacrifice for us:“God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement [Kaparah] through faith in His blood.”  (Rom 3:24)

The idea of blood atonement for sin may appear to be primitive and barbaric. Yet, it is purposefully a grim reminder that the problem of sin is just as real today as it was in the time of Moses.

Raphael ben Levi