Leviticus 16:1-34: The Scapegoat Ritual

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The traditional reading for Yom Kippur morning focuses on the offerings that Aaron is to bring before God as atonement.  He must make expiation for himself, then his household, and only after this is an offering brought for the entire community.  The Yom Kippur Avodah service is based on the ritual that the priest performed in the ancient Temple on Yom Kippur.  That ritual, in turn, is reflected in this Torah reading.

This English translation is reprinted with permission from Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures published by the Jewish Publication Society.

16:1.         The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they drew too close to the presence of the LORD.

16:2.         The LORD said to Moses:

Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, lest he die; for I appear in the cloud over the cover.

16:3.         Thus only shall Aaron enter the Shrine: with a bull of the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

16:4.          He shall be dressed in a sacral linen tunic, with linen breeches next to his flesh, and be girt with a linen sash, and he shall wear a linen turban. They are sacral vestments; he shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.

16:5.         And from the Israelite community he shall take two he-goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

16:6.         Aaron is to offer his own bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and for his household.

16:7.         Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the LORD at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting;

16:8.         and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel.

16:9.         Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering;

16:10.     while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the LORD, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel.

16:11.     Aaron shall then offer his bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and his household. He shall slaughter his bull of sin offering,

16:12.     and he shall take a panful of glowing coals scooped from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of finely ground aromatic incense, and bring this behind the curtain.

16:13.     He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, so that the cloud from the incense screens the cover that is over [the Ark of] the Pact, lest he die.

16:14.     He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger over the cover on the east side; and in front of the cover he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

16:15.     He shall then slaughter the people's goat of sin offering, bring its blood behind the curtain, and do with its blood as he has done with the blood of the bull: he shall sprinkle it over the cover and in front of the cover.

16:16.     Thus he shall purge the Shrine of the uncleanness and transgression of the Israelites, whatever their sins; and he shall do the same for the Tent of Meeting, which abides with them in the midst of their uncleanness.

16:17.     When he goes in to make expiation in the Shrine, nobody else shall be in the Tent of Meeting until he comes out.

When he has made expiation for himself and his household, and for the whole congregation of Israel,

16:18.     he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and purge it: he shall take some of

the blood of the bull and of the goat and apply it to each of the horns of the altar;

16:19.     and the rest of the blood he shall sprinkle on it with his finger seven times. Thus he shall cleanse it of the uncleanness of the Israelites and consecrate it. 

16:20.     When he has finished purging the Shrine, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward.

16:21.     Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites, whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness through a designated man.

16:22.     Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.

16:23.     And Aaron shall go into the Tent of Meeting, take off the linen vestments that he put on when he entered the Shrine, and leave them there.

16:24.     He shall bathe his body in water in the holy precinct and put on his vestments; then he shall come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, making expiation for himself and for the people.

16:25.     The fat of the sin offering he shall turn into smoke on the altar.

16:26.     He who set the Azazel-goat free shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; after that he may re-enter the camp.

16:27.     The bull of sin offering and the goat of sin offering whose blood was brought in to purge the Shrine shall be taken outside the camp; and their hides, flesh, and dung shall be consumed in fire.

16:28.     He who burned them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; after that he may re-enter the camp.

16:29.     And this shall be to you a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall practice self- denial; and you shall do no manner of work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you.

16:30.     For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins; you shall be clean before the LORD.

16:31.     It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; it is a law for all time.

16:32.     The priest who has been anointed and ordained to serve as priest in place of his father shall make expiation. He shall put on the linen vestments, the sacral vestments.

16:33.     He shall purge the innermost Shrine; he shall purge the Tent of Meeting and the altar; and he shall make expiation for the priests and for all the people of the congregation.

16:34.     This shall be to you a law for all time: to make atonement for the Israelites for their sins once a year.

And Moses did as the LORD commanded him.

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