With No One Looking

Yael Eckstein  |  April 21, 2021

Young boy at the Western Wall praying.

No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.” — Leviticus 16:17

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. 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.

A question I often ask myself is, “Who would I be if no one was looking?” In this age of social media, we are all very aware that much of what we say and do can be made public. Yet, we need to make sure that we never lose our sense of authenticity. We need to speak our truth, live our truth, and do good deeds no matter who is watching – even if no one is looking at all.

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the service of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This was the High Priest’s day to shine. The whole nation looked to him to offer the sacrifices for the atonement of their sins. Yet, while all eyes were on the High Priest, the Bible commanded that he perform the main part of his service in utter seclusion. No one could witness the actual service of the High Priest; it was a completely private encounter.

With No One Looking

The purpose of this directive was to keep the High Priest grounded in authentic service. If he were to perform his service in front of the whole nation, he might get caught up in how people looked at him with awe and respect. This would detract from his worship of God and could even turn into worship of self. By directing the priest to perform this service privately, with no one looking at him, he was free from the need to impress so that he could focus on his duty to bless.

This attitude can benefit us all when choosing how we spend our lives. Too many people live their lives for other people and miss what God has truly laid on their heart. I once read this anonymous quote that really drives home this point: “Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.”

Your Turn:

Do a good deed today in a way that nobody knows and keep it to yourself.