Acharei Mot (Lev. 16:1-18:30)

Acharei Mot is usually read as part of a double portion with Kedoshim (19:1-20:27).  Where Acharei Mot concerns rituals and atonement for past behavior, Kedoshim includes a lot of laws concerning personal behavior.  We’ll get to that next week.

This week, I am still decompressing from Passover and two kind-of-stressful choral performances.  Here are some comments from 2012 and 2000:

(2012)  “Acharei Mot” means “after the death of,” of
Aaron’s two oldest sons in this case.  Aaron receives detailed instructions
concerning entering the Holy of Holies so that he will not die like them.
[This always brings to mind the possibility of rewriting this as science
fiction – divine voice=extraterrestrial, cloud by day and pillar of fire by
night are caused by advanced technology which kills Nadav and Avihu when
they inadvertently trigger a protective mechanism, and so on.  But I
digress.]  What follows are the prescribed details of Aaron’s Yom Kippur
service – and indeed, we read this on Yom Kippur – of offering sacrifices
and making atonement (according to Rashi, “making atonement” refers to
confession of sins, not to the sacrifices) for himself, his household, and
the Israelites, purifying the Holy of Holies, altar and Tent of Meeting,
and driving a scapegoat into the wilderness.  This segues into a section
concerning ritual holiness among the people, including not eating blood or
animals were torn or died naturally, and abstaining from forbidden sexual

(2000)  We don’t sacrifice animals to atone nowadays, but we still sacrifice each other.  Don’t each of us know of or remember a classroom where one poor kid was the agreed-upon scapegoat, picked on by both kids and teacher?  Or businesses, where someone must be picked to take the fall for a bad decision or a failed project?  Or, most commonly and most appallingly, families in which one child is so singled out?  And how often are outcries against such behavior dismissed as “oh, that’s just what always happens”?

(2016) And, in the 16 years since I wrote that, the situation has worsened, despite all the publicity and programs against bullying, cyber and otherwise.  Maybe in another 16 years? 

By the way, my Torah Portion Humor missives back to June, 2010 are available online at Older ones (back to Sept., 1999) are available by special request.

Shabbat shalom,


Quotes about Scapegoats

It is ironic that the United States should have been founded by intellectuals, for throughout most of our political history, the intellectual has been for the most part either an outsider, a servant or a scapegoat.  Richard Hofstadter

I think that the roots of racism have always been economic, and I think people are desperate and scared. And when you’re desperate and scared you scapegoat people. It exacerbates latent tendencies toward – well, toward racism or homophobia or anti-Semitism.  Henry Louis Gates

Unintelligent people always look for a scapegoat. Ernest Bevin

There’s no way you can win when you’re the president; you’ve got to be the scapegoat for America’s issues.  Wale


On Blame

Teamwork is essential – it allows you to blame someone else.

A computer is almost human – except that it does not blame its mistakes on another computer.

Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they
do nothing, they don’t hurt anybody. When they do something is when they
become dangerous.

tph find a scapegoat



tph office bully









It's Yom Kippur, and this goat wants your sins

It’s Yom Kippur, and this goat wants your sins (abridged)

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN (2013)

(CNN) – Calling all Jews! Your confessional clock is ticking.

It’s time to fess up.

Blending ancient tradition with modern innovation, there’s a newish Jewish Web app to help you lighten the load of guilt and spill your bad deeds. It’s called eScapegoat, and the whimsical tool lets you type your confessions in a Twitter-friendly format and see others’ also.

Best of all, you can remain utterly anonymous.

“I claimed the soup was vegan. It wasn’t,” wrote one sinner.
“I yell at people from my car, even if they aren’t driving poorly,” shared another.
“I am hot with shame that my son only has a brown belt in his Kung Fu training,” said a third.

The force behind this endeavor is G-dcast, a San Francisco nonprofit committed to making Jewish learning fun through animated videos, apps and more.

You, dear friends, can’t rely on some wandering, set-up-to-die goat to do your bidding  which is why you are commanded to make public confessions in synagogue during Yom Kippur.

But that doesn’t mean burdens can’t be laid on a virtual goat, too. Right?

The Web app was launched on August 9 during the first week of Elul, when Jews traditionally self-reflect, look back on their year, take stock of how they behaved and think about what they can do better.  By Thursday night, [August 15] nearly 5,000 confessions had been “laid on the goat,” Sarah Lefton, G-dcast’s executive director and producer reported. And nearly 21,000 “goaters,” or Web app visitors, had stopped by.

Lefton doesn’t want anyone thinking eScapegoat is a substitute for the real deal. “This Web app is in no way trying to replace public confession,” she said. “We designed it as a lighthearted warm-up for the Day of Atonement. But if people are getting something more profound out of it, that’s great.”


Overheard at Our Hospital

Phlebotomist: I’m here to draw some blood.

Patient: But I just received blood yesterday.

Phlebotomist: You didn’t think you’d get to keep it, did you?

—Rebecca Shafer, Springfield, Missouri


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1 Response to Acharei Mot (Lev. 16:1-18:30)

  1. Pingback: Yom Kippur | Torah Portion Humor Weekly

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