Weekly Parashah

Shabbat Shuvah - Parashah VaYeilech


Marc Chagall
Ten Commandments

September 15, 2018: Parashah VaYeilech
Torah: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 31:1 — 31:30
Halftorah: Hosea 14:2-10; Joel 2:11-27; Micah 7:18-20

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Shabbat Shuvah - The Shabbat of Return - (Repentance)


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L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!

May you be inscribed for a good and blessed New Year 5779!

— Parashat VaYeilech — "And he went"

Torah: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 31:1 — 31:30
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10; Joel 2:11-27; Micah 7:18-20


"You search the Scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life. It is these that bear witness of Me [Yeshua]"  John 5:39


The Shabbat between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah - The Shabbat of Return, named as such from the first word of the Haftarah (Hosea 14:2-10): "Shuvah Israel - Return, o Israel, to Yehovah your God; for you have stumbled in your iniquity. Take with you words, and return to Yehovah; say to Him: ‘Forgive all our iniquity and receive us graciously; and let us offer the words of our lips instead of bulls.’"

Therefore, Shuvah means to return to God and to live a life for Him. As we approach Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, we need to understand the true meaning of this Holy Day.

As we read about the Yom Kippur service in the Torah, in the book of Leviticus chapter 16, we catch a glimpse of what the ancient service was when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem. We read in verse 5 concerning the kohen, the high priest: "And from the Israelite community he shall take two he-goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering." The ram was for himself, to cleanse for his own sins, so that he could perform the ritual of atonement for the house of Israel. The two male goats were God's requirements for forgiveness on Yom Kippur for the people. In verse 7 we read what was to be done with the two goats: "Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before Yehovah at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for Yehovah and the other marked for Azazel." Azazel was the scapegoat and it is at the very heart and essence of Yom Kippur. Continuing reading in verse 9: "Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for Yehovah, which is to be offered as a sin offering; while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before Yehovah, to make atonement upon it and to send it off to the wilderness as a scapegoat."

We have two pictures here, first, a picture of the sacrifice of one goat for sin offering, and second, a picture of an innocent animal who takes the people's sins away as the high priest confesses upon it all the sins of the house of Israel.

Verse 15: "He shall then slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, 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 of the Ark and in front of the cover." Sacrifice has to be made; blood has to be shed for the remission of sins. And after that we are told in verse 20: "When he has finished atoning for the Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward. 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."

The sons of Aaron continued this practice until the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem. This practice of transferring of sins is at the center of all religious practices in Judaism, but, by-and-large, Jewish people have forgotten what the Torah teaches, that our sins are to be transferred to a scapegoat on Yom Kippur. True, some Orthodox Jews do what they call the ceremony of kapparot, in which a woman takes a chicken and a man takes a rooster and they wave them above their heads three times and say: "May my sins be transferred to this chicken (or rooster) and may it go to its death and may I go to life." They understand that the Torah cannot be broken and that is why they are still doing it. But most of Israel does not practice it. So what do they do with this scripture? Does Israel observe a true Yom Kippur service as it is prescribed in Leviticus 16?...

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