In the days of the Beit Hamikdash, the Kohanim were divided into twenty-four groups. Every week another group would perform the services. On Yom Kippur all the regular daily services, such as the karban tamid — daily continual offering — ketoret — incense offering — and the preparing of the Menorah for kindling, were done by the Kohen Gadol. In addition, he performed all the special services prescribed for that day.

Among these services was the one involving the two he-goats. One was slaughtered, after which it’s blood was sprinkled in the Holy and also the Holy of Holies. On the other he-goat the Kohen Gadol recited a confession and begged forgiveness for the iniquities of the entire community of Israel. Afterwards, he handed it over to be led to the precipice of Azazeil, a steep mountain approximately eight miles away from Jerusalem. There, it was pushed over the cliff, and before it reached halfway down the mountain, it was torn apart by the sharp rocks and the speed of its descent.

To distinguish between the two he-goats, a string of red wool was tied to the one designated for Azazeil. Upon arrival at the precipice, the messenger would divide the string into two parts. One piece was tied between the horns, and the other was tied to the rock from which the animal would be pushed off.

There was a tradition that if the string would miraculously turn white, this would be a sign that Hashem chose to forgive the sins committed by the Jewish people. This was an event that was looked upon by the people as an essential part of the day’s service.

According to the Gemara (Yoma 62a) the he-goat for Azazeil, which was to be thrown over the cliff, and the one offered in the Beit Hamikdash to Hashem were to be identical in color, height, and value.

This rule seems difficult to comprehend. Why was it necessary to spend extra sums of money on a he-goat that would be thrown over the cliff in any event? One can easily understand that the he-goat for Hashem, which is sacrificed in the Holy Beit Hamikdash on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, should be of the best quality possible to buy. But why do the Sages dictate that also the one going for Azazeil should be of comparable value and not allow the use of the least expensive and poorest quality goat that can be found?

It could be said that in this rabbinic dictum our Sages are conveying to us an important lesson as to how an individual should spend the material wealth and resources with which Hashem has blessed him.

The money we spend during our lifetime can be divided into two categories. One goes to spiritual matters such as tzedakah — charity — to the needy, purchasing items required for performance of Torah commandments such as tefillin, Pesach and Sukkot supplies, etc., and tuition so that our children may receive a Torah education.

The other category is our expenditures for physical necessities and personal pleasures. In retrospect, we often feel that money spent on pleasures has been wasted. However, money spent on the spiritual has an everlasting effect.

There are many people who are blessed with affluence and spend freely on personal amenities. They seem to have no shortage of funds to beautify their homes, live a luxurious lifestyle, and go on vacations. Yet they plead poverty when it comes to spending on spiritual matters. There are many examples of such misplaced priorities, but we will merely cite a few.

Parents often spend huge sums of money for a lavish party to celebrate their son’s Bar Mitzvah. “This is a once in a lifetime event,” they tell the professional party planner, “and we want it to be a most memorable affair.” However, they will not buy the boy a good quality pair of tefillin and suffice with the least expensive and sometimes, unfortunately, no tefillin at all. Little do they realize that the party is short-lived, and much of the food will end up in the garbage, while the tefillin is an item which will unite the boy with Hashem for his entire lifetime.

There are people who build an exquisite home and skimp on funds for mezuzot. Oh, if they would only realize that this little mezuzah is the most worthwhile expense in a Jewish home.

There is a very interesting story related in the Jerusalem Talmud about a mezuzah. A prominent Jew named Artabun sent a precious stone as a gift to Rebbe (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) and asked that he reciprocate with something of equal value. Rebbe sent him a mezuzah. Artabun was upset and sent a message to Rebbe, “I sent you an item which is priceless while you sent me an item which is worth very little.”

Rebbe responded, “It is worth more than anything you or I can desire. Moreover, you sent me something which I will have to protect, and I sent you something which will protect you at all times.”

Many refrain from sending their children to a Hebrew Day School because of the high cost of tuition. Nevertheless, these people have no problem with the high cost of camps, vacations, cars, and other amenities.

The two he-goats, the one designated for Hashem and the other which was designated to be brought to the precipice of Azazeil, can serve as metaphors for the above-mentioned two categories of expense.

Hashem, in His benevolence, has blessed us with financial resources. Like a loving father, He does not mind how much money we spend or waste on our personal pleasures. He requests, however, that at least an equal amount of money (and perhaps more) be spent on spiritual matters. If one has money for “Azazeil” — to throw over the cliff — one should not plead poverty when it comes to spending for Hashem.

Recently, I visited a very wealthy individual who lives luxuriously in an exclusive area. My intent was to solicit his support for a charitable organization. After presenting my request, he smiled and politely said, “Rabbi, it seems that you do not read the newspapers or listen to the media — haven’t you heard what is happening in the stock market? Don’t you know that we are experiencing a recession?”

I told my friend that I was indeed up to date and that his response reminded me of a story.

One morning before a little boy left home to go to the Hebrew day school, his mother gave him two nickels; one was for candy and the other for tzedakah. As he walked along he was playing with the coins. One coin fell out of his hand and rolled into a sewer. “G‑d,” he exclaimed, “there goes your nickel!”

If we, G‑d forbid, make a little less in business than anticipated or experience a temporary downward move of the stock market, our reaction should not be, “G‑d, there goes your nickel.”

Throughout the year, let us bear in mind the lesson of the two he-goats. Treat G‑d no worse than you treat yourself. In return, He will reciprocate by showering you lavishly with the means to meet your physical needs and desires, and granting you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.