Acharei-Kedoshim: Choosing Good

The ritual of the twin goats.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

There is a special place in my heart for this week's twin sidrot. Acharei Mot refers to the tragic death of Aharon's
The Yetzer HaRa is often disguised as the Yetzer HaTov.
sons Nadav and Avihu, who are, in many ways, the only tzadikim to fall in the line of service in the narrative of the Torah. Kedoshim contains many laws of holiness, but the term kedoshim also refers to the holy martyrs who gave their lives for Am Yisrael.

Coming as it does on the heels of Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut, it takes on a very personal meaning for our family.

One of the more difficult sections of the parsha - and one that is no doubt familiar to us through the Yom Kippur Machzor - is the ritual of the twin goats. One (l'Azazel) is sent to the wilderness and thrown off a cliff; the other (l'HaShem) is offered as a holy korban in the Beit HaMikdash. Interestingly, the Gemara tells us that these goats had to be "twins", identical in size, appearance and quality. Why?

Chazal explain: The goat brought as an offering represents our Yetzer HaTov - our inclination to do good, to come closer to G-d. The Azazel goat stands for our Yetzer HaRa - that impulse that often convinces us to avoid our commitments to HaShem, to "escape" our responsibilities.

The two goats look exactly alike because the Yetzer HaRa is often disguised as the Yetzer HaTov. It takes on the appearance of a friend, a confidante, luring us to sin through solid logic and persuasive good sense ("Stay in bed a little longer; you need your sleep!" "Hang on to your money and give less tzedakah - times are tough!").

We have to gather our courage and "throw that goat" down, sending it away into oblivion, so we may do that which we know, deep inside, is clearly kadosh.

After our son Ari. z.t.l., had been in combat for 24 months, he had a crucial decision to make: Should he step back from dangerous missions - as those who had already served two years often did - and let the newer recruits step up to the front and take over leadership of the unit? Or, since he had been so well-trained in anti-terrorist tactics, should he continue on with the same intensity, taking the same great risks in service to the nation, rejecting the rationalizations so clearly at his disposal?
In the final analysis, he saw his duty, and he did it.

Ari asked us for our opinion, but we held back comment, even though, of course, we preferred that he "take it easy" and avoid danger. Instead, we suggested he discuss the issue with his commanding officer.

Two months later, after Ari participated in a raid on Hamas headquarters in Shechem and was killed Al Kiddush HaShem, we asked that same officer what he had told Ari. He looked at us in astonishment.

"Ari never brought up the subject," he said. "If he thought about it, he never let on."

I have no doubt that Ari agonized over his choice. He certainly did not crave the extreme anxiety that combat creates; yet, in the final analysis, he saw his duty, and he did it.

The Yetzer HaRa is clever, but don't ever let it get your goat.