Choosing Your Own Adventure

Yael Eckstein  |  May 6, 2024

Israelis hiking in Orvim Stream in the Golan Heights, northern Israel.

Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. — Leviticus 16:7

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Acharei Mot, which means death, from Leviticus 16:1—18:30.

Have you ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure story? As a child I used to love those books. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Choose Your Own Adventure books allow the reader to make choices about what happens next in the story. The reader basically becomes a part of the story!

For example, at a critical juncture in the story where the main character needed to make a big decision, the bottom of the page might say, “If Amy chooses to go to the party, turn to page 62. If she chooses not to go, turn to page 134.” The story would then continue based on the path chosen by the reader at the decision-making point.

Thinking about these books from my childhood, I realized that they contain a profound message for life. We do, in fact, choose our own adventure. Have you ever considered alternate paths that your life might have taken? I know I have.

Choosing Your Own Adventure

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about a highly unusual Temple ritual. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would take two goats of the exact same age and size and place them at the entrance to the Temple. After drawing lots to determine the fates of the two goats, one goat would be brought into the Temple and offered as a sacrifice to God.

Then the High Priest would lay his hands on the second goat and, as the Bible says, he would “confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head” (Leviticus 16:21). The goat would then “carry on itself” (Leviticus 16:22) all the sins of the Jewish people into the wilderness, where it would be thrown off a cliff to its death.

The meaning of this Day of Atonement ritual is actually very simple, yet very powerful. Each day when we wake up, like those two goats, we stand before God, as if at the entrance to the Temple. It’s our daily Choose Your Own Adventure moment. One path leads to service of God. The other path leads to disobedience—the wilderness, where nothing grows.

Our choices lead us either closer to God or away from Him. But unlike those goats, God allows us to start fresh every day. This is the blessing of forgiveness and atonement.

Your Turn:

What choices are you facing today? Think about the long-term implications of each option. Which option draws you closer to God?

Stay informed about issues affecting Israel, the Jewish people, Jewish-Christian relations, receive daily devotionals, and more.