"In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness." - Leviticus 16:16
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, from Leviticus 16:1-20:27. Acharei Mot means death, and Kedoshim means holy. The Haftorah is from Amos 9:7-15.
One of the most tried and true methods of Satan - or in Hebrew, the yetzer hara, the evil inclination - is to first tempt a person to sin, and then once he or she sins, to thrust that person into depression. The yetzer hara gets us to sin and then makes us feel so bad about our sin that we think that we can never repair the damage that we have done. The ultimate goal of the yetzer hara is to distance us from God - or at least to make us believe that God has cast us off. However, as our Torah portion reveals, God is always by our side, even when we sin.
In Leviticus 16 we read, "In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy . . . He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness." This verse teaches us that God's glory rested in the midst of the people even when they were in a state of uncleanness, tainted by their sins. No matter what kind of mess the people would get themselves into, God would still be among them, waiting for them to reach out and repent.
The only way to fathom this unwavering commitment and love is to compare it to the relationship between a mother and her baby. Even when the baby is a complete mess, she never abandons him. He may stink, he may be dirty, and he may be screaming unpleasantly, but the mother will hold her child lovingly and clean him up. This is how God relates to us. We can be completely soiled, and yet God will "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7).
So many people fall into the spiritual pitfall of thinking that God is mad at them and that the relationship is permanently damaged. In these cases, we distance ourselves from God and not the other way around. While God may hold us accountable, and even punish us at times, God always loves us and is always close to us. In fact, God especially loves those that He holds accountable. As we read in Proverbs 3:12, "the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in."
I want to encourage us all that when we fail, not to fall for the trick of the yetzer hara. Don't think even for a moment that God has abandoned you because of your sin. God is with us, loving us, and ready to cleanse us; it's up to us to turn to Him. He's there waiting.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President