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24- The GOAT

This week, Rabbi Lehrfield dives into Yom Kippur.


Hey everybody. This is Menachem Lehrfield and you are listening to 0% where we explore world changing ideas introduced by Judaism. Last week, we started talking about the Jewish new year Roche HANA, which we pointed out is not just the new year. It's also the beginning of a new month in that it is the beginning of the first month of the year. We talked about the idea of newness and living with newness. And the idea that our past does not define our presence or our future, because failure is not a permanent condition, just because I failed. It doesn't mean I am a failure just because I made a mistake does not mean that I am a mistake this week. I want to continue our discussion talking about the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. I wanna get back in just a few minutes to one of the customs of Rashana that we did not talk about last week.
Speaker 1 (01:05):
And I purposely waited to discuss it this week because it connects a lot more to our discussion of Yom Kippur. And I think we need this discussion of Yom Kippur before we understand the ritual of Talu. So we'll come back to that. What it is, what it means, and some of the deeper ideas and messages behind it. But first let's dig into Yom Kiper. Yom Kippur literally means the day of atonement. I hate that word atonement because just like many of the other religious words that we use in English, they have all kinds of connotations and conjure up ideas and meanings that are really foreign to Judaism. There is no day on the Jewish calendar that has more misunderstandings connected to the English words we use to describe some of the things we talk about than yo Kipper. And that's true with all the words that we're using in English, whether it's the word God, or the word sin, or the word atonement or the name for the day itself, all of these words are automatically connecting us to a idea that is more often than not, not necessarily a Jewish concept.
Speaker 1 (02:24):
I don't know if we've talked about this before in the past, if we have, this will be a review, and if we haven't mentioned it, then I'm glad we're doing so right now several years ago. And it was actually on Yom Kippur. So it's fitting that we're talking about it in this week's episode here in Denver, my local organization. So I run a Asian called joy JY, the Jewish outreach initiative, which is part of the worldwide Asian movement. And each of the Rockies are the local branch here in Denver has a synagogue as well, which is unique among Asian branches. It's not the typical Asian model, but in any event on the high holidays, we offer traditional services in the synagogue and concurrent to the services are classes. And I typically give, uh, many of those classes. We have other educators and we often will bring in outside speakers.
Speaker 1 (03:17):
So a couple year, years ago I was giving one of the, those lectures on young Kipper. And I started off by asking the crowd by a show of hands who knew the name of Jesus' mother. And almost every hand went up and people shouted out Jesus' mother's name was Mary. Then I turned to this same crowd and I said, well, how many of you know the name of the mother of Moses Mosha, the greatest figure in all of Jewish history, perhaps arguably certainly the greatest prophet ever lived from a Jewish perspective. And you would think as a group full of Jews, we would all know who the mother of Mosha was. And yet silence, you could hear a pin drop, one person raised her hand and she shouted out the wrong answer. She said, oh, I know that the mother of Mosha was Miriam. So that not correct.
Speaker 1 (04:20):
Moshe's sister was Miriam. His mother's name was JohE. Now my class was not about the history of Mosha or his family tree or the history of Yohe. I was just simply trying to bring out a point. And that is so much of our background is based on Christianity. We live, at least I live in America, which is a very predominantly Christian society. And I'm not saying that positively or negatively, but as a Jew, living in a predominantly Christian society, it's important for me to understand that things are different. And because I live in a predominantly Christian society, so many of the things that I know, so many of the words that I use in my vernacular and my language are based on the Christian idea of that thing. When I think of heaven, I think of the Christian idea of heaven. When I think of hell, I think of the, a Christian idea of hell.
Speaker 1 (05:22):
I think of Satan and a pitch, fork and fire. None of those are Jewish concepts. Yes. In Judaism, we have a concept called GHE, which is different. And again, this is not the time or place to go into that. And we have a concept of someone named Satan, which is where the word Satan came from. But the ideas are very different from the Christian counterpart, Jewish theology and Jewish religion is different from Christianity, even though it might have given birth to Christianity and Islam. So many of the ideas and the theological concepts are not necessarily the same. And when it comes to young Kippur, we talk a lot about young Kipper type of ideas. It's important to understand what we're actually talking about. The English word, sin conjure up. So many ideas of the original sin and sin. And the fact that human beings are eternally damned.
Speaker 1 (06:21):
And those couldn't be further from the Jewish concept. There is no Jewish word for a sin in that respect. The word hate literally means to miss the mark, just as an Archer who is shooting a bow arrow and trying to make the bullseye. Sometimes he misses that mark. That's what we would call a fate. It's a miss. It's a mistake in the book of judges. The Bible refers to these archers from the tribe of Benjamin Ben Yeman. And they're being described as being go with their weapon, that they can aim, met a hair and not height. The word height literally means to miss the mark. It means a mistake. And as we know, making mistakes is what it means to be a human being. If you are human, you make mistakes. Jewish wisdom teaches us. There is no human being who does not make mistakes.
Speaker 1 (07:17):
It doesn't exist. Yo Kipper it's important to keep in mind is a holiday. People forget this. Yo Kippur is a ho yes, it's a fast day and it's a serious day, but we cannot take away from the fact that it is a holiday. It's a celebration of mistakes because a celebration of mistakes is a celebration of human into celebration of what it means to be a human being. In fact, the Toma tells us Jewish wisdom teaches that there are, is no day in the Jewish calendar as joyous as Yom Kippur. Now that can only be true a day can only be joyous as a celebration of mistakes. If my approach to mistakes is that aches are not earth shattering. They're not cataclysmic mistakes or opportunities for learning their opportunities for growth, and only with a growth mindset. Can I truly approach yo Kipper in the proper way and celebrate the mistakes that I've made.
Speaker 1 (08:17):
Celebrate the fact that the almighty gives me an opportunity every day and Yom Kipper specifically to start over again, to move on from those and to make sure that those mistakes don't define me, this idea was reinforced through the most central practice of Yom Kipper. In biblical times, when we had a temple standing in Jerusalem, there was an, a service that was done on Yom Kipper, which was kind of the highlight of the Yom Kipper service. And as bizarre as it seems actually brought out this point in the clearest of ways. Now, I don't want to get into the concept of animal sacrifice and the offerings in the temple. In general, I, I will say that the offerings that were brought in the temple were not all specifically animal sacrifices. They were actually brought from all different kingdoms. We had a animal offering from the animal kingdom.
Speaker 1 (09:16):
We had minerals and salts from the mineral kingdom. We had water libations and plant-based offerings. So again, I don't wanna get into it. I don't wanna get into animal rights and pita and all of that, we can talk about that off flying, or we could even have a future episode devoted to, or talking about these ideas that they're interesting to people. I do want to talk about one of the offerings of Yom Kipper though, in specific. And we can talk about all the other stuff a different time. I don't wanna lose sight of the concepts that we can take out of, of the offering. Even if we may have some sort of issue with the overall concept and institution of animal sacrifice on young Kipper, they did a specific ritual with two identical goats, and that's where we get the title of today's episode from not the goat, but the goat.
Speaker 1 (10:20):
What I mean is like this. They had two goats that had to be identical, and these goats had to be purchased at the same time. They had to be worth the same amount of money. They had to be identical in every conceivable way. They had to weigh the same amount of, you know, on scale. They had to look similar. They had to be purchased in the same transaction. And so much detail went into making sure that these goats were as identical as possible. And then one of the goats was brought as an offering in the hol of Holies, the holiest place on earth, the place that only one human being only one time a year and young Kipper was ever able to go. And one of these goats was brought as an offering in the holy of Holies. The other goat was banished off a Rocky cliff somewhere.
Speaker 1 (11:10):
And like I said, I don't wanna get into the complexities of sacrifice right now, but if we understand animal sacrifice in general, which I'm not assuming that we do the first goat that went as an offering and its blood was brought into the holy of holys kind of makes sense. It's like the other offerings that we brought, but why on earth do we banish the other goat off the side of a Rocky cliff? What go does that do to anybody? It just seems like a waste of a goat. We're not even bringing it as an offering. And yet this is the service that's done on the holiest of our days, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, we take one goat and we bring it into the holy of Holies and the other gets banished off a cliff. And there's a whole lottery system whereby we take and we choose which goat is gonna go inside of the Coade, the holy of Holies, and which one's gonna get vanished this by the way, is where the term scapegoat comes from.
Speaker 1 (12:09):
That is the scapegoat. The scapegoat is the second that so to speak. I don't want to use the term dies for our sins, but that's at least what it seems is happening. It gets, you know, this goat is containing all the sins of the Jewish people and it gets thrown off the cliff and by doing so, we are almost sending our sins off this Rocky cliff, what's going on? Why do the goats need to be identical? Why are we selecting one of them and putting them in the holy of Holies and the other, you know, off the cliff, what is rep being represented by this ritual throughout the year? There are moments that we're not necessarily proud of things that we, we may have done things that we might have said that we wish we could take back. And we get into the habit of thinking that those mistakes define who we are.
Speaker 1 (13:06):
This ritual reminds us that we belong in the holy of hols. We take these two goats that are identical, and we say, they may look the same. And you may look at the mirror and say, that is who I am, but yo Kipper reminds us that I may have made a mistake, but I am not defined by that mistake. It doesn't make me into a sinner. It makes me into a human being. I belong in the holy of holys the other goat, the goat. That looks exactly the same. That looks the same. And if I didn't know any better, I would think that was me. That is nothing more than an imposter. And what happens to an imposter? It gets banished. That goat goes off the deepest cliff possib because Yu Kipper is about banishing the imposter. It's saying that is not me. That's not who I am.
Speaker 1 (14:05):
I am. And we pointed this out in the bar mitzvah episode. If you recall, the term that we use for a bar mitzvah is somebody who is the son or the daughter of a mitzvah. Somebody who makes a mistake is a BA Avera, the owner of a mistake. Yes, I did something I shouldn't have done. And I'm not proud of it, but you know what? It doesn't define me. I am a BA Avera. I'm the owner of that baggage. And just like the airline can lose my baggage and they do often I can separate that from who I am. The very fact that I can banish that imposter means it's not who I am. If I can throw those things, those mistakes off the side of a cliff, it tells me it reminds me. I might have owned that. I might have done something like that, but it is not who I am.
Speaker 1 (14:56):
How do I know? Cause I can throw it off. As a young teen, I was bothered by the terminology that Judaism uses to describe the good inclination and the bad inclination. Again, it's not quite like the idea that we're con ring in our head of the little red angel and the white angel sitting on our shoulders. But the concept that we have a good inclination and a bad inclination is a Jewish concept. What was troubling to me is the way we refer to them. The good inclination is called the yer Tove, which literally as a good inclination. Whereas the negative side is referred to as the yer Hara the bad inclination. Why I thought to myself is the negative side, given the definitive article, the word the, and the good side is not another puzzled me is Judaism teaches us that we are born with this negative drive the AARA and we don't fully get the yer Hato we don't fully get the good side until we reach the age of maturity.
Speaker 1 (16:10):
Now, number one, that doesn't seem to be the reality to quote a famous Jewish haiku. Today. I am a man tomorrow. I will return to the seventh grade right there. Isn't a big change. We kind of go on being the same. We were the day before. Not only that doesn't seem very fair, does it? Why would it be fair to give us just this negative urge and this negative side without the positive? And then it occurred to me. We can't refer to the good inclination as the yer. Hato the good inclination because the good inclination is part and parcel of who we are. The good is already inside of us. We are a spark of the divine we're made in God's image. And that means that we are inherently good in order to facilitate free choice. The almighty needs to give us a base, urge an inclination to do the wrong thing.
Speaker 1 (17:03):
And that's something we're born with. As we get older, the almighty gives us an additional jolt of goodness in the form of the Azer Tove, an additional good, but inherently. We are good inside. And that is the message of Yom Kipper. We are inherently good people. We're human beings, and we may have made a mistake and that's okay. We are not defined by those mistakes. This brings us to TAs. Look, I Rashana, there's a custom to go to a body of water and to throw our mistakes out. How do we throw our sins into the water? The answer is they were never part of us. The very fact that I can throw them out tells me that they never defined who I was. They were simply something that I owned something that I was holding onto. And if I don't need them anymore than I let them go.

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