The wondrous third vidui of the Cohen Gadol

The High Priest's third vidui, confession, is: I confess, but they did it.

Danny Ginsbourg, | updated: 07:36

Judaism Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur
In Parshat-Acharei-Mot, in its  description of  the עבודה: the Temple service, of the Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, the Torah  relates that he performs two וידויים: ‘confessions’, one on each of his two Sin Offerings.

We further read, that apart from these two viduim, the Cohen Gadol was commanded to make a third vidui (16:21), to be pronounced on the head of the שעיר לעזאזל: the he-got that was ‘sent’ to Azazel.

Why the need for three viduim?

Our sages explain:The first vidui was for the transgressions of the Cohen Gadol and his household; and the second vidui was for the transgressions of his ‘broader’ household:’The House of Ahron’, the tribe of Cohanim.
The third vidui, however, was, as the Torah states,(16:21) for ‘ALL the iniquities of the Children of Israel’.

What is the special ‘power’ of the vidui, that it is given such prominence in the Yom Kippur Avodah?

Explain the sages of the Zohar Hakadosh: When a person confesses his transgressions , he is able thereby to obtain atonement for them.

Since a person is קרוב אצל עצמו: ‘related to himself’, his ‘confession’  is inadmissible against him, and cannot be ‘used against him’.

At the same time, the halakha is that if a person confesses, no other ‘witnesses’, or evidence of these transgressions, is admissible!

Result:By the act of vidui: confessing his sins, a Jew is ‘triumphant’ in the Heavenly Judgement!

However, comments Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl, this is all well and good when when the transgressor himself confesses; but how can the confession of the Cohen Gadol atone for another person’s transgressions?

Furthermore, there has to be חרטה: remorse, by the transgressor, for his specific transgressions.

How then can the vidui of the Cohen Gadol, who likely does not have any knowledge of the transgressions of ‘all Israel’, lead to their atonement?

Answers  Rav Nebenzahl:The key is אחדות;Whilst an ‘ordinary’ Jew could not achieve this, the Cohen Gadol, on Yom Kippur, can. Ahron - and his descendants - had a special ‘one-ness’ with every other Jew, by virtue of which, he can, by his vidui on their behalf, achieve atonement for them,on Yom Kippur.

The Torah ‘testifies’ that, when Moshe Rabenu was chosen, in place of Ahron- ‘at his expense’, כביכול- to lead Bnei Israel out of Egypt, Ahron:’rejoiced in his heart’ for Moshe, as if it was his joy.

Expounds Rav Nebenzahl: Ahron had a לב אל-אנושי, כלל ישראלי: a ‘super-natural heart’, an ‘all Israel heart’, that was full of love and empathy for every Jew, as if they were him; a heart that carried within it the pain of every Jew, as if it was his own pain- so that his actions were, כביכול, the actions of every Jew- and his vidui, and his חרטה, that of each and every and Jew.

Perhaps the Torah alluded to this in saying(16:17):וכל אדם לא יהיה באהל מועד בבואו לכפר..עד צאתו:’And no man shall be in the Tent of Assembly, whilst the Cohen Gadol performs his Avodah of atonement, until the Cohen Gadol leaves the Tent’.

Our sages ask rhetorically: Is Ahron not ‘a man’? How, then, can he be in the tent, when the Torah commands that ‘no man’ shall be in the tent, at this time?

One answer proffered by our sages, is that, at the time of performing the exalted Avodah, the Cohen Gadol ‘shed’ his physical ‘being’, and was transformed into a spiritual being, an ‘angel’, if you will.

May we offer a different interpretation of this intriguing pasuk, and suggest that it alludes, and supports, that which we have posited.

The unique empathy of Ahron for every Jew, his sharing, and living, their pain, and their joy, transformed him- especially when performing the third vidui on behalf of all the people- to be, not ‘a man’, but an embodiment of the whole people, as if they were all performing the Avodah. There was ‘no man’, ‘no Ahron’, only the entity of כלל ישראל.

Whilst we are not זוכה to the Avodah of the Cohen Gadol, we are still enjoined (Yitro 19:6) to be:’To Hashem, a Nation of Cohanim’. 

In the merit of our achdut, and our love of each and every Jew, and our prayers for their well-being.

May Hashem accept our viduim this Yom Kippur, and grant to all עם ישראל, His atonement, by declaring: סלחתי כדבריך!

לרפואת נועם בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.