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Yom Kippur Torah Readings in a Nutshell

Yom Kippur Torah Readings in a Nutshell

Leviticus 16:1-34; 18:1-30

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The Torah reading for Yom Kippur morning describes the service performed on this day by the Kohen Gadol (high priest) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

A special feature of the Yom Kippur service was the casting of lots over two he-goats -- equal in age, size and appearance -- to determine which shall be offered to G‑d in the Holy Temple, and which shall be dispatched to carry off the sins of Israel to the wilderness.

The climax of the service was when the Kohen Gadol entered the innermost chamber in the Temple, the "Holy of Holies." Wearing special garments of pure white linen, the Kohen Gadol would enter the sacred place with a pan of burning coals in his right hand, and a ladle containing an exact handful of ketoret in his left. Inside the Holy of Holies, he would place the ketoret over the coals, wait for the room to fill with its aromatic smoke, and hastily retreat from the holy place.

"This shall be an everlasting statute for you," the Torah reading concludes. "...For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d... once a year."


During the afternoon Minchah service, we read chapter 18 of Leviticus, which details the prohibitions against incest and other deviant sexual behaviors. The Torah reading is followed by a haftorah (reading from the Prophets) which tells the story of Jonah -- the prophet who was sent to prophesy the destruction of the sinful city of Ninveh, ran away from G‑d, was swallowed by a fish, and learned the power of prayer and repentance to evoke G‑d's mercy and annul the harshest decrees.

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Hadassa Klein Riverdale, NY September 23, 2012

the two goats How have we interpreted the sacrificial goats since the destruction of the temple? If we should circomcise our hearts in prayer, rather then sacrificing animals, then what can we now make of the goat that carries our sins into the wilderness? Reply

Chava Texas September 24, 2017
in response to Hadassa Klein:

p.s. Tashlich serves as a similar object lesson that allows us to experience letting go of our sins. Reply

Anat Lyon coto de caza, ca October 2, 2011

I love Chabad! Reply

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