Parshat Acharei Mot - Kedoshim
Two Goats Diverged to Bad and Good
On Yom Kippur, two goats stood at the entrance to the Sanctuary. They stood, identical in age, height, appearance and value, and awaited the lots to be drawn. One would become the seir L’Hashem, the he-goat offered in the Sanctuary. The other would become the seir l’Azazel, the he-goat sent to the wilderness. Each one could have realized the fate of the other, had the lots been reversed.
The seir l’Hashem gained entrance to the Sanctuary only at the price of death as an offering. It was then brought to the Holy of Holies, close to the holiest place, on the holiest day of the year. Its partner was left standing alive, unscathed. The seir l’Azazel never gained entry into the Sanctuary; in turning its back on the Sanctuary, it preserved its self-centered life, which was ultimately put to an end in the desolation of the wilderness.
Each individual is a seir. The seir, goat, is a domesticated animal, but shows outward defiance to others. We all have the power to resist, and the moral worth of our life depends on how we use this power. We can use it to resist the sensual temptations of life and become a seir l’Hashem. Or we can resist the will of
The forces of nature and the animal kingdom are unfree. They are unchanging in their performance of
The choice is not predetermined — not by “height, or appearance or value;” not by social standing, financial status, or upbringing. Anyone can become either a seir l’Hashem or seir l’Azazel.
A person can decide to go in the way of Azazel. Standing at the entrance to the Sanctuary, he defies
Or a person can decide to go in the way of Hashem. Mustering his resistance, he directs it inward, and fights the drives and impulses that would lead him away from his calling. With the knife of sanctification he destroys the animal within him, and earns his place in the Sanctuary of moral freedom.
- Sources: Commentary, Vayikra 17:10