L-Chayim Tovim / To a Good Life

The following text by Reb Zalman is from this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos Tazria-Metzorah. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

In the case of one afflicted with tzara’ath / leprosy or with the affliction of the houses, there is a sending away of a living creature, (cf, Leviticus: 14:7). 

And so it is also with the goat sent to Azazel, (ibid 16:8). 

[NOTE:  They are both purification rituals, the one for the leper, the other for the holy temple on Yom Kippur, and with each, there are two animals, one sent away alive, the other a sin offering for atonement.]

And in this case, it seems that the point of it is a Shamanic device, i.e. that it functions like the chukim

[NOTE:  Chukim are those mitzvot / commandments beyond understanding.  Shamanic devices reach into spiritual worlds.]

which, in general, seem to have no rational reason according to conventional wisdom or as seen through the eyes of multitudes.

The living one that we send away bears the impurity of the tzora’ath of the person or of the house. 

And with the goat that is sent away, there is also something similar, for the Tabernacle, (and the Holy Temple), absorbs within it impurities from those sins and transgressions associated with offerings brought.  And as it is written (Isaiah 53:5) “And S/He has been pierced by our willful transgressions,” that from our failings, openings are made through which the abundant holiness may retreat elsewhere.

[NOTE:  Just as a wounded person loses some of hir blood through a wound, so the holiness is lost when a transgression occurs.]

So in order to remove the impurity of the sins, they must “effect atonement in the holy” (Leviticus 16: 17), i.e. to cleanse it, and that impurity is loaded upon the goat that (ibid verse 10) “shall be placed while still alive,” sending it to Ez-azal / walking goat, i.e. ize-bar / wild goat, life in the wild. 

[NOTE:  Despite a popular belief, the name of the place to where the goat was sent, Azazel, is not associated with the name of the demon Samael, (the aleph and lamed are separated by the zayin).] 

And in the days of the Sages, they decreed death for the goat designated for Azazel too so that they wouldn’t come to use it while living because it had been designated for the altar.

But it seems to me that from the beginning there was another idea here, and it was enough that the sages only alluded to it, viz., domestication.  

[NOTE:  We send an animal into the wild to help us in our lives.  And our lives have by and large not been in the wild, i.e., we have chosen domestication.  And perhaps there is a relationship between purity and domestication.  We set the impurity loose, turn it away into the wild.]

And these two purification rituals are like another with which we are familiar to this day:  Before Yom Kippur, we set it aside in Kapparot / atonement, i.e., that this rooster will go to death and we will go to good life.  Amen may it be so!

[NOTE:  The animal that dies, the rooster, is like the sin offering of the leper or the sin offering on Yom Kippur.  And we are like the leper or the animal set free, i.e., iyH, we stay alive.]

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
from Yishmiru Daat (2009 revision),
Parashat Metzorah,” p. 33

One Response to “L-Chayim Tovim / To a Good Life”

  1. Betty Esthelle Says:

    Dear Zalman, As you know, I have been studying and experimenting with purification for many years in my work, Body Enlightenment, especially engaging the transformational power of Shechina to transform personal traumas into the personal wisdom of experience.
    After all the holy design of nature is that there is no waste and that our personal”garbage” becomes “compost” to fertilize future life. This is true of what ever we experience that is not nourishing. We cannot digest fear, pain, or trauma. We are not able to embrace and become thiis negativity . We must find the way to give this compost (disease) to the earth (Shechina) to become the fertilizer that grows us toward our own wisdom. We bury objects for purification. This is Ha Shem’s design. WE can utilize this process to free ourselves and become wiser in the process. It works!
    And I am still doing the holy work of helping people to heal themselves.

    I also want to share a beautiful Simcha with you. I am beginning to study with my adult daughter and my 11 year old grand daughter to become a three generation Bat Mitzvah in a year. I will be 83 years old! The perfect age!. We are having a very interesting journey together. I am very grateful to you for handing me my very first Torah and to Jason Gabor ( may he be blessed to rest in peace) for bringing me to Jewish Renewal.

    With Blessings of Love & gratitude,
    Betty Esthelle

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