May 3, 2024 / 25 Nissan 5784

In the text of Leviticus Chapter 16 in this week’s Parashat Acharei Mot, which we coincidentally also read on Yom Kippur, we encounter the compelling biblical ritual of the two goats. As detailed in verses 7–10, one goat is offered as a sacrifice to Gd, symbolizing the positive deeds that draw us closer to holiness and a better world. The second goat, sent to Azazel, carries away our missteps and poor decisions, symbolizing those actions we wish to expel from our lives. Notably, both goats are required to be identical, teaching us a profound lesson about balance, equity, and the human condition.

The Torah’s insistence on the identical nature of the goats speaks volumes. It reminds us not to presume that our virtues should appear more significant or more pristine than our faults. Nor should we consider our faults as overwhelmingly defining us. The symmetry between the goats symbolizes the equilibrium we must strive for in our own lives, acknowledging our imperfections while continually aspiring toward goodness.

Judaism teaches us the delicate art of self-perception. We are urged to recognize that while we possess flaws and make mistakes, these do not irrevocably mar our character. Conversely, our positive attributes and achievements, while significant, do not render us infallible. This balanced view encourages humility and perpetual growth.

In times when the world may seem unbalanced—overwhelmed by injustice, hardship, or despair—it is particularly crucial to remember this teaching. The concept of balance extends beyond the individual to the collective. If the world inherently seeks equilibrium, then each positive action we undertake nudges us closer to a better reality. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and psychologist, beautifully encapsulated this idea when he said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” His words urge us to internal transformation as a pathway to influencing the broader scales of justice and goodness.

Therefore, in a world that can often feel heavy with darkness, let us remember the power of a single, small positive act. Each kind deed, each moment of compassion, and each word of encouragement serves as a counterweight to the forces of negativity and despair.

As we reflect on the message of the two goats, let this week be a call to action. Reach out to someone in need—a loved one, a neighbor, a friend, or a colleague. Be the light that they need in these challenging times. Sometimes, the simple act of showing kindness or understanding can tip the scales toward goodness, influencing not just the recipient of our actions but also inspiring others to contribute their positive gestures to the collective balance. Building community occurs through one positive interaction at a time.

In embracing this message of balance and continuous striving from Parashat Acharei Mot, may we all be inspired to carry forward not just our own light, but also to ignite the sparks in others, contributing to a more balanced, equitable, and compassionate world. Because we are…


Shabbat Shalom.