Following the death of Nadav and Avihu we see instructions on the ritual for Yom Kippur according to Vayikra / Leviticus 16. In the festival of Yom Kippur, we find a very Torah centric principle concerning the confession of sin, atonement, and forgiveness from God! These narratives establish the concept of the God of Israel as a God of mercy and forgiveness. Let’s read through the section of Scripture from Vayikra / Leviticus 16.
Vayikra / Leviticus 16:5-22
וּמֵאֵ֗ת עֲדַת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל יִקַּ֛ח שְׁנֵֽי־שְׂעִירֵ֥י עִזִּ֖ים לְחַטָּ֑את וְאַ֥יִל אֶחָ֖ד לְעֹלָֽה׃ 16:5 And from the Israelite community he shall take two he-goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. וְהִקְרִ֧יב אַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־פַּ֥ר הַחַטָּ֖את אֲשֶׁר־ל֑וֹ וְכִפֶּ֥ר בַּעֲד֖וֹ וּבְעַ֥ד בֵּיתֽוֹ׃ 16:6 Aaron is to offer his own bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and for his household. וְלָקַ֖ח אֶת־שְׁנֵ֣י הַשְּׂעִירִ֑ם וְהֶעֱמִ֤יד אֹתָם֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה פֶּ֖תַח אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃ 16:7 Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the LORD at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; וְנָתַ֧ן אַהֲרֹ֛ן עַל־שְׁנֵ֥י הַשְּׂעִירִ֖ם גּוֹרָל֑וֹת גּוֹרָ֤ל אֶחָד֙ לַיהוָ֔ה וְגוֹרָ֥ל אֶחָ֖ד לַעֲזָאזֵֽל׃ 16:8 and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel. וְהִקְרִ֤יב אַהֲרֹן֙ אֶת־הַשָּׂעִ֔יר אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָלָ֥ה עָלָ֛יו הַגּוֹרָ֖ל לַיהוָ֑ה וְעָשָׂ֖הוּ חַטָּֽאת׃ 16:9 Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering; וְהַשָּׂעִ֗יר אֲשֶׁר֩ עָלָ֨ה עָלָ֤יו הַגּוֹרָל֙ לַעֲזָאזֵ֔ל יָֽעֳמַד־חַ֛י לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה לְכַפֵּ֣ר עָלָ֑יו לְשַׁלַּ֥ח אֹת֛וֹ לַעֲזָאזֵ֖ל הַמִּדְבָּֽרָה׃ 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. וְהִקְרִ֨יב אַהֲרֹ֜ן אֶת־פַּ֤ר הַֽחַטָּאת֙ אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ וְכִפֶּ֥ר בַּֽעֲד֖וֹ וּבְעַ֣ד בֵּית֑וֹ וְשָׁחַ֛ט אֶת־פַּ֥ר הַֽחַטָּ֖את אֲשֶׁר־לֽוֹ׃ 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, וְלָקַ֣ח מְלֹֽא־הַ֠מַּחְתָּה גַּֽחֲלֵי־אֵ֞שׁ מֵעַ֤ל הַמִּזְבֵּ֙חַ֙ מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה וּמְלֹ֣א חָפְנָ֔יו קְטֹ֥רֶת סַמִּ֖ים דַּקָּ֑ה וְהֵבִ֖יא מִבֵּ֥ית לַפָּרֹֽכֶת׃ 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. וְנָתַ֧ן אֶֽת־הַקְּטֹ֛רֶת עַל־הָאֵ֖שׁ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְכִסָּ֣ה ׀ עֲנַ֣ן הַקְּטֹ֗רֶת אֶת־הַכַּפֹּ֛רֶת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עַל־הָעֵד֖וּת וְלֹ֥א יָמֽוּת׃ 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. וְלָקַח֙ מִדַּ֣ם הַפָּ֔ר וְהִזָּ֧ה בְאֶצְבָּע֛וֹ עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַכַּפֹּ֖רֶת קֵ֑דְמָה וְלִפְנֵ֣י הַכַּפֹּ֗רֶת יַזֶּ֧ה שֶֽׁבַע־פְּעָמִ֛ים מִן־הַדָּ֖ם בְּאֶצְבָּעֽוֹ׃ 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. וְשָׁחַ֞ט אֶת־שְׂעִ֤יר הַֽחַטָּאת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָעָ֔ם וְהֵבִיא֙ אֶת־דָּמ֔וֹ אֶל־מִבֵּ֖ית לַפָּרֹ֑כֶת וְעָשָׂ֣ה אֶת־דָּמ֗וֹ כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשָׂה֙ לְדַ֣ם הַפָּ֔ר וְהִזָּ֥ה אֹת֛וֹ עַל־הַכַּפֹּ֖רֶת וְלִפְנֵ֥י הַכַּפֹּֽרֶת׃ 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. וְכִפֶּ֣ר עַל־הַקֹּ֗דֶשׁ מִטֻּמְאֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמִפִּשְׁעֵיהֶ֖ם לְכָל־חַטֹּאתָ֑ם וְכֵ֤ן יַעֲשֶׂה֙ לְאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד הַשֹּׁכֵ֣ן אִתָּ֔ם בְּת֖וֹךְ טֻמְאֹתָֽם׃ 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. וְכָל־אָדָ֞ם לֹא־יִהְיֶ֣ה ׀ בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֗ד בְּבֹא֛וֹ לְכַפֵּ֥ר בַּקֹּ֖דֶשׁ עַד־צֵאת֑וֹ וְכִפֶּ֤ר בַּעֲדוֹ֙ וּבְעַ֣ד בֵּית֔וֹ וּבְעַ֖ד כָּל־קְהַ֥ל יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ 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, וְיָצָ֗א אֶל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֛חַ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לִפְנֵֽי־יְהוָ֖ה וְכִפֶּ֣ר עָלָ֑יו וְלָקַ֞ח מִדַּ֤ם הַפָּר֙ וּמִדַּ֣ם הַשָּׂעִ֔יר וְנָתַ֛ן עַל־קַרְנ֥וֹת הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ סָבִֽיב׃ 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; וְהִזָּ֨ה עָלָ֧יו מִן־הַדָּ֛ם בְּאֶצְבָּע֖וֹ שֶׁ֣בַע פְּעָמִ֑ים וְטִהֲר֣וֹ וְקִדְּשׁ֔וֹ מִטֻּמְאֹ֖ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ 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. וְכִלָּה֙ מִכַּפֵּ֣ר אֶת־הַקֹּ֔דֶשׁ וְאֶת־אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד וְאֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֑חַ וְהִקְרִ֖יב אֶת־הַשָּׂעִ֥יר הֶחָֽי׃ 16:20 When he has finished purging the Shrine, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward. וְסָמַ֨ךְ אַהֲרֹ֜ן אֶת־שְׁתֵּ֣י ידו [יָדָ֗יו] עַ֨ל רֹ֣אשׁ הַשָּׂעִיר֮ הַחַי֒ וְהִתְוַדָּ֣ה עָלָ֗יו אֶת־כָּל־עֲוֺנֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֶת־כָּל־פִּשְׁעֵיהֶ֖ם לְכָל־חַטֹּאתָ֑ם וְנָתַ֤ן אֹתָם֙ עַל־רֹ֣אשׁ הַשָּׂעִ֔יר וְשִׁלַּ֛ח בְּיַד־אִ֥ישׁ עִתִּ֖י הַמִּדְבָּֽרָה׃ 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. וְנָשָׂ֨א הַשָּׂעִ֥יר עָלָ֛יו אֶת־כָּל־עֲוֺנֹתָ֖ם אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ גְּזֵרָ֑ה וְשִׁלַּ֥ח אֶת־הַשָּׂעִ֖יר בַּמִּדְבָּֽר׃ 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. (Sefaria)
In this week’s Torah portion for Yom Kippur, these Scriptures speak of the importance of confessing our sins before the Lord God Almighty in Heaven, כ וְכִלָּה מִכַּפֵּר אֶת-הַקֹּדֶשׁ וְאֶת-אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְאֶת-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְהִקְרִיב אֶת-הַשָּׂעִיר הֶחָי: כא וְסָמַךְ אַהֲרֹן אֶת-שְׁתֵּי יָדָו [יָדָיו] עַל-רֹאשׁ הַשָּׂעִיר הַחַי וְהִתְוַדָּה עָלָיו אֶת-כָּל-עֲוֹנֹת בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל וְאֶת-כָּל-פִּשְׁעֵיהֶם לְכָל-חַטֹּאתָם וְנָתַן אֹתָם עַל-רֹאשׁ הַשָּׂעִיר וְשִׁלַּח בְּיַד-אִישׁ עִתִּי הַמִּדְבָּרָה: 16:20 ‘When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. 16:21 ‘Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. (NASB) When the Lord gave these commands to the nation of Israel, He included a warning and a blessing. God said, “… I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Shemot / Exodus 20:5-6). Here the Lord God Almighty speaks of being merciful to those who love him and keep His commands. According to the Torah, the Lord repeats a warning about generational iniquities in Shemot / Exodus 34:6-7, Bamidbar / Numbers 14:18, and Devarim / Deuteronomy 5:9-10. This warning speaks to us about the importance of teaching our children about God’s Word! This teaches us that what we do matters to the next generation because children have the natural tendency to imitate their parents. This is the most significant aspect of Vayikra / Leviticus 26:40 and confessing the sins of our fathers, which is to understand how our lives are influenced by our forefathers. When we set our hearts to recognize these things, we are able to respond appropriately to that influence. When parents do something that is wrong, their children will very likely justify the same actions, even destructive actions and attitudes, before men and God. The tendency then is the subsequent generations move beyond the wickedness of their parents entering into even greater levels of sin and ungodliness. Look at how our world today has changed so drastically over the years. We see rioting, looting, killing, and hatred in the streets. Parents today have allow their children to grow up without the knowledge of God. Because of this, the children serve not only their ignorance and unbelief, but also their destruction. What we see going on in the world today is reason why it is the duty of every parent to teach their children about God and his saving and transformational work, so that the next generation will know the Lord and be saved.
Tehillim / Psalms 90 is a prayer of Moshe, and he says in Tehillim / Psalms 90:16, “Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.” It is not enough that we simply teach our children about the Lord God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua, we also must live according to God’s Holy Word! The fundamental principle of the influences of sin is understood even from the beginning as Paul pointed out, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) This concept rests at the heart of our strengths and weaknesses because we physically inherit part of and are influenced by our ancestors, we are deeply influenced by their decisions and the patterns of their lives. What Paul is writing about is not the doctrine of “original sin.” This is the example of ancestral influence as found in Hebrews 7 which states, “… Levi also, who received tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.” (Hebrews 7:9-10) Although Levi was not born until many years after Abraham and Melchizedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶֿק) met, this midrash from the book of Hebrews speaks of his being a physical part of Abraham when Abraham paid his tithes. These things are all related to the concept of confessing our sins before God and our acknowledging the iniquities of our forefathers, recognizing their influences in our lives and repent of our own sins, and endeavoring to overcome the tendencies toward specific sins that we have inherited. Again, while we are not held responsible for the sins of our ancestors, we are susceptible to their areas of weakness and should be aware of our inclination towards sin.