Appeasing Demons and Facing Our Sins
The English major student in me likes expanding on that image of sending the goat out into the same wilderness that the people of Israel traveled through for forty years. Something interesting about the idea that the animal carrying everyone's sins makes a pilgrimage back to the wild even after entering the Promised Land and raising the temple.
I also have to laugh at the image of a Hittite mouse being sent out in earlier times for the same role. Imagine the shock and outrage if the local cat found it and dragged it back to your doorstep!
I’m co-guardian of a puppy, and she is indeed the Satan that needs appeasing sometimes, lol. But appease her too much and then she gets used to it… I sense there’s something in here about the power of fortitude in training the self and the collective to respond differently, but maybe it’s just as hard (or harder) to train us than it is to train a puppy. So of course we keep sending out the scapegoat.
I have have to go with Maimonides, in favor of sending some problems into the wilderness. Not every “sin” needs to be dealt with. There are too many. Let the little ones go into the wilderness. The gift from you mother in law (of blessed memory) that you misunderstood, so you didn’t thank her properly, let it go. The behavior you misinterpreted as flirting at a party 40 years ago, let it go. You have to send the little stuff off into the wilderness before you attempt to face the big issues.
I'm not gonna lie: "Until you face the goat..." was not a string of words I expected to read in my lifetime, in any context :-D
This is a beautiful and deeply meaningful reading of this text. The connection to Isaac and Ishmael is particularly resonant for me. Thank you..
Reading this the day after Yom Kippur, I thank you for this reading of the texts surrounding the שעירִ לעזאזל. Similar to Alex's point, twenty-nine years ago I shared with my congregation how I imagined the "[e]scape goat" functioned:
“Sometimes, in order to move forward, we need a way to signify that we are leaving something behind.
In order to make the next step towards change and transformation, we need to symbolically let go, cut ties, release or unburden something that we are done with—that we no longer want to be, or do—in some way.”
I love this. I have been observing lately how we can’t choose circumstances, but we can choose where we focus. Do we become a light or continue to curse the darkness? I’m wondering as I try and move out of spiraling or negativity or fear, what my symbolic goat might be- how can I let go of thoughts and thinking that doesn’t serve me or the community and embrace something else? Thank you!
I think that personifications in Jewish stories, representing the evil impulse, or the good impulse, are metaphors for the human ability to choose to do good or evil, or to make constructive or destructive choices. Those story personifications can be interpreted as representations of impulses in the self, different parts of what the Rabbis called the heart, and contemporary thought calls the mind, that are normative and human. There may be a part that wants to do the destructive thing and another part that wants to do the constructive thing.
One of the reasons scapegoating exists is because it can be extremely uncomfortable to acknowledge one's own destructive impulses, and also quite difficult to refrain from acting them out. It's much easier to deny that such impulses stem from the self, and instead project them onto "evil" others.
I don‘t know how to express how perfectly timed this essay is for where I am in my life right now. I am crying my eyes out and thinking of the big scary sacrifice. Thank you.
Question for those who are Jewish. I know Rabbi Danya says she doesn't believe in Satan, but what is the basis for the belief or non-belief. I have heard that Satan/the devil, is not mentioned until Jesus meets them in the desert, but I don't know for sure. For me, I think if God is the source of all good, something is the source of evil, but I'm totally open to new perspectives.
This is a bizarrely written section. Starts with Aaron can’t go in the sanctuary without a bribe ;). Then at the end we’re told this is an annual ritual on Yom Kippur. Huh? Looks like a later edit. Usually we get an intro like “this is the procedure to clean the sanctuary on Yom Kippur” and that isn’t here.