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In this week’s Torah portion for Yom Kippur, we read the following, 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) What we find here is the concept of confessing our sins before God and the innocent life taking upon the sins of our confession so that we may receive atonement before God. Studying Judaism, the rabbis believe that human beings are not basically sinful. The idea is we enter into this world not carrying the burden of sin, we are not responsible for our ancestors sins, and we are not tainted by sin either. Sin (chet, חטא) is the result of our human inclinations, the yetzer hara (evil inclination), this must be properly recognized and dealt with. Yet, in the Scriptures we read of the people finding it necessary to confess before God the sins of their fathers. (Jeremiah 14:20 We know our wickedness, O LORD, The iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against You. NASB) Though we are born free from sin, at some point we become guilty of our own sins and the sins of our fathers. This is what is being taught in Vayikra / Leviticus 26:40 ‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me (NASB) This speaks of our being honest with one another about the difficulties of life, how else would we know the sins of our fathers? Moshe speaks of the importance of remembering how our fathers were unfaithful and sinned before God. Maimonides understands this command as a requirement for the one who has sinned saying…

 

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