The Yom Kippur Rites

16:1 God spoke to Moses on the 1st of Nisan, 2449, immediately after the tragic death of Aaron’s two sons that occurred on that day.1 God knew that Aaron shared his sons’ passionate yearning to cling to Him, and therefore, in order to prevent him from suffering a similar death, He told Moses to promptly warn him not to repeat their mistake. Furthermore, He instructed Moses to emphasize that it was on account of having improperly drawn near to God that they died, for He knew that only by threatening Aaron with death could he be dissuaded from emulating his sons’ example.2

Specifically, He instructed him to forbid Aaron to enter the Holy of Holies other than on the tenth day of Tishrei—which is designated as the annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)3—and only as part of the rites specified for that day, as follows:

2 God said to Moses: “Speak to your brother Aaron, and tell him that despite his desire to cling to God to the greatest extent possible, he must not come whenever he simply wishesinto the part of the Sanctuary beyond the partitioning Curtain, i.e., into the Holy of Holiesthus standing in front of the Cover that rests upon the Ark—in order that he not die as his sons did. For I appear thereconstantly in the form of a cloud hovering over the Ark Cover, and entering unbidden to gaze upon the Divine Presence is an act of insolence punishable by death. Rather, I may be ‘seen’ by him over the Ark Cover only when he enters to produce a cloud of smoke by burning the prescribed incense on Yom Kippur, as will be described presently.

3 Furthermore, even on Yom Kippur, it is only by means of the following procedure that Aaron (and all subsequent high priests) must enter the Holy of Holies: by bringing a young bull as a sin-offering and a ram as an ascent-offering, both of which he must purchase from his own money4 and offer up according to the procedure that will be presently described.

4 Furthermore,5 when he enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (or performs any rites pertaining to his entry into the Holy of Holies), he must not do so robed in his regular regalia of eight garments. These garments contain gold, and since part of the purpose of his entry into the Holy of Holies is to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, it is not befitting to be wearing the very material that occasioned6 this sin. Rather, he must wear only four garments, similar to those of a regular priest but made solely out of linen: He must wear a linen tunic, which, together with the other three garments, must be paid for with Sanctuary funds; linen trousers must be upon his flesh; he must gird himself with a linen sash; and he must wear a linen turban. These are holy garments, and therefore, he must immerse himself in the water of a mikveh before every time he dons them, in addition to immersing himself in the morning before beginning the daily rites, as usual.7 The difference between these immersions is that the morning one is performed in a mikveh outside the Courtyard of the Tabernacle, whereas those performed before donning the linen garments must be performed in a mikveh within the Courtyard.8

Moreover, he must wash his hands and feet at the Laver9 before and after each time he changes clothes on this day.

5 From the community of the Israelites, i.e., purchased with money from the communal fund, he must take, in addition to the prescribed daily and additional offerings, two he-goats as a sin-offering and one ram as an ascent-offering. The total number of animals required for the day’s service is thus as follows:

6 Aaron must perform all the rites of this day himself—both the regular rites performed every day and the special rites for Yom Kippur. He must perform these rites according to the following procedure:

First, dressed in the usual uniform of the high priest, he must offer up the morning daily sacrifice,10 burn the morning daily incense,11 clean out the lamps of the Candelabrum,12 and offer up his daily grain-offering.13 He must then wash his hands and feet, immerse himself, don his Yom Kippur garments, and wash his hands and feet again.

Aaron must then bring forward his sin-offering bull and atone for himself and for his household, i.e., his wife, by placing his hands on the bull and confessing his and/or his wife’s possible guilt in having entered the Tabernacle or eaten sacrificial meat while in a state of ritual defilement.

You have been taught14 that if a person knows that he is ritually defiled and then forgets that he is, and while still unaware of his defilement enters the Tabernacle or eats consecrated food and later realizes that he was defiled when he did so, he must atone for this sin by sacrificing a variable sin-offering. If a person is not aware that he is ritually defiled and then enters the Tabernacle or eats consecrated food, and only afterward discovers that he was ritually defiled when he did so, his sin is atoned for by the sin-offering goat of the additional offerings of Yom Kippur, which will be described later.15 If a person is not aware that he is ritually defiled and then enters the Tabernacle or eats consecrated food, and remains unaware of his defiled state, his sin is atoned for by the sin-offering goat of the additional offerings of the other festivals, which too will be described later.16 If a person knows that he is ritually defiled and then forgets this, and while still unaware of his defiled state enters the Tabernacle or eats consecrated food and remains unaware of his defiled state, his sin is atoned for by one of the two special offerings of Yom Kippur—for the priests, the high priest’s bull, and for everyone else, the people’s goat, as will be described presently—but only until he becomes aware of his defiled state, at which point he must sacrifice a variable sin-offering, as above.17

7 He must take the two he-goats and place them, one at his right and the other at his left, before God, i.e., at the entrance to the Courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. A vessel containing two lots must be placed in front of him; on one lot must be written ‘For God’ and on the other, ‘For Azazel.’ ‘Azazel’ refers to any rocky desert cliff that is sufficiently steep and high to kill an animal pushed off its edge.

8 Aaron must then draw both lots from this vessel, one with his right hand and one with his left. Aaron must place these lots upon the two he-goats—one lot ‘For God’ and the other lot ‘For Azazel’—placing the lot in his right hand on the goat at his right, and the lot in his left hand on the goat at his left, as follows:

9 Aaron must begin the process of offering up the he-goat upon which the lot ‘For God’ came up by orally designating it as a sin-offering as he places the lot on it.

10 In contrast to this goat, which will later be slaughtered, the he-goat for which the lot ‘For Azazel’ came up must be left standing alive before God. Aaron must orally designate this goat ‘for Azazel’ as he places its lot on it. Aaron will use this goat later in the day to atone for certain other sins of the people by first placing his hands on it and confessing their sins, and by then sending it away into the desert to be pushed off the edge of Azazel to its death, as will be described presently.18

11 After designating each goat for its respective purpose, Aaron must again bring forth his sin-offering bull and atone for himself and for his larger household, i.e., all the other priests, by placing his hands on the bull and confessing his and the other priests’ possible guilt for having entered the Tabernacle or eaten sacrificial meat while in a state of ritual defilement. He must then slaughter his sin-offering bull.

12 He must then ascend the Outer Altar and take a pan full of burning coals from upon the Altar—specifically, from the side of the Altar that is before God, i.e., the west side—and a spoon19 containing two handfuls, i.e., an amount equal to three maneh [2.4 kg or 5.28 lb], of the same incense that is used daily20 but that has been reground for use on this day so that it be extra fine, and then bring the pan and the spoon of incense into the Holy of Holies, i.e., beyond the dividing Curtain. Once inside, he must place the pan on the floor in front of the Ark, in the space between its poles.

13 He must then place the incense upon the fire burning in the pan, before God, i.e., in front of the Ark, so that the cloud formed by the smoking incense envelop the Ark-Cover that is above the Tablets of the Testimony. He must perform this rite precisely according to these instructions in order that he not die, for deviating from the prescribed procedure is a capital offense. Burning the incense inside the Holy of Holies atones for the sin of talebearing.21

14 He must then leave the Holy of Holies to get the bull’s blood, re-enter the Holy of Holies, and then, facing the Ark, take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle it once onto the ground with his index finger facingupward, toward the eastern side of the Ark Cover; he must then sprinkle some of the blood with his index finger facingdownward seven times in front of the Ark Cover.

15 He must then leave the Holy of Holies, slaughter the he-goat that was designated as the people’s sin-offering, and bring its blood into the Holy of Holies, beyond the dividing Curtain. He must then do with its blood as he had done with the bull’s blood: he must sprinkle it once upwards toward the Ark Cover and seven times downward before the Ark Cover.

16 He will thus effect atonement for any defilement of the holy premises and/or sacrifices that might have been caused by any of the various states of ritual defilement possibly carried by any of the Israelites when they entered these precincts or ate the sacrifices. This atonement will be effectiveboth for their rebellious acts in this regard (i.e., if they committed this sin intentionally) and for all their unintentional sins in this regard (i.e., if they committed this sin after having forgotten that they were ritually defiled). The atonement for committing this sin unintentionally remains in effect until the transgressor becomes aware that he was ritually defiled when he committed the sin, at which point he must offer up a variable sin-offering, as described above.

In order to atone for possible defilement of the Candelabrum, the Table, or the Curtain caused by a ritually defiled person or entity having touched them,22 Aaron must also perform the same procedure on the Tent of Meeting, through which Goddwells with the Israelites even while they are in their states of defilement: He must exit the Holy of Holies, and while standing in the outer Sanctuary west of the Inner Altar and facing the Curtain,23 he must sprinkle some of his bull’s blood and some of the blood of the people’s goat toward the Curtain, each one once with his finger facing upward and seven times with his finger facing downward.

17 No other person may be in the Tent of Meeting—even in the Outer Sanctuary—when Aaron enters it to effect atonement in the Holy of Holies, until he goes out. Only thus will he effect atonement for himself, for his personal and priestly household, and for the entire congregation of Israel, for having ritually defiled the Tabernacle and/or any consecrated food in this way.

Second Reading 18 Still in the Outer Sanctuary, he must then proceed outward to the east side of the Altar that is before God, i.e., the Inner Altar, and effect atonement upon it24 in case it had been defiled by contact with something that was ritually defiled or ritually defiled incense had been burned on it:25 He must take some of the same bull’s blood and some of the he-goat’s blood, but this time mixed together, and place it on the four protrusions of the Altar, beginning with the northeast protrusion and continuing around, counterclockwise.

19 He must then sprinkle some of the blood-mixture upon the top of the Altar with his index finger seven times. He will thus purify it of any possible previous ritual defilements caused by the Israelites and thereby sanctify it for future use.

20 After he finishes effecting atonement for anyone having possibly defiled the Holy of Holies, therest of the Tent of Meeting, and/or the Inner Altar, he must exit the Sanctuary and signal someone to bring him the live he-goat, which was designated for Azazel.

21 Thus far in the general description of the sacrifices, you have seen how the various types of sin-offerings and guilt-offerings effect atonement for specific misdeeds. You will see later how other types of sacrifices atone for other types of misdeeds, as well. And you have seen how certain misdeeds are atoned for by lashes. Nonetheless, there are still many types of misdeeds, both intentional and inadvertent, for which no particular procedure has been or will be specified in order to effect atonement. The he-goat sent to Azazel will effect atonement for all these other misdeeds.

Consequently, someone who has become obligated to sacrifice a specific sin-offering or guilt-offering is not relieved of this obligation by the he-goat sent to Azazel and must still offer it up after Yom Kippur. The one exception is the suspensive guilt-offering:26 If someone committed a sin requiring him to offer up this sacrifice but did not have the time or occasion to do so before Yom Kippur, the he-goat sent to Azazel effects the required atonement and the person is no longer required to offer it up after Yom Kippur.27

The he-goat sent to Azazel atones for (a) sins punishable by execution by the court, (b) sins punishable by excision, (c) vain oaths,28 and (d) false oaths29—even if the individual did not first repent of his misdeed. Regarding all other transgressions for which it atones, the atonement is effective only if the individual repents first,30 as is the case with lashes and all other sacrifices.31 Nonetheless, although normally anyone who repents must confess as part of the process, in the case of the he-goat sent to Azazel, the high priest confesses over the he-goat on behalf of the entire people. In any case, if the transgression caused any damage to someone’s person or property, the he-goat does not atone for it until any such damages have been redressed.32

In order to effect atonement through this he-goat, Aaron must lean both of his hands forcefully upon the live he-goat’s head and confess upon it all the Israelites’ willful transgressions, all their rebellions, and all their unintentional sins; he will thus figuratively place them on the he-goat’s head. He must then send this goat off to the desert with a man who was designated and readied for this task before Yom Kippur.

22 The he-goat will thus figuratively carry upon itself all their sins to a precipitous land. Once in the desert, the designated person must then send the he-goat off the Azazel cliff, to its death.

Aaron must then remove the fat parts of his bull and of the people’s goat, in order to burn them up later on the Outer Altar.33 He then must send the remainder of the bull and goat outside the camp to be burned up,34 as will be described presently.35

23 Aaron must then change into his regular high-priestly garments and sacrifice the two ascent-offering rams and burn up the fat parts of the two sin-offerings, as will be described presently.36 After that, Aaron must change back into the linen garments, enter the Tent of Meeting, and proceed into the Holy of Holies a second time, in order to remove the spoon and pan that he had left there the first time he entered it.37 He must then go to a specially designated place, remove the linen garments that he wore when he entered the Holy of Holies, and leave them there, where they will be hidden away.38 These four garments must not be used ever again; each year, a new set of these garments must be provided for the high priest.

24 After removing his linen garments the first time, he must immerse his flesh in a mikveh in a holy place, i.e., inside the Courtyard, and only then don his regular high-priestly garments a second time in order to continue performing the rites that are not unique to Yom Kippur. (Similarly, he must immerse himself in this mikveh after he changes from the linen garments to the regular ones for the second time—after removing the spoon and pan from the Holy of Holies.)

After donning his regular high-priestly garments for the second time, he must go out to the area of the Courtyard north of the Altar39 and sacrifice his ascent-offering ram, followed by the people’s ascent-offering ram. He will thereby effect further atonement for himself and for the people, this time for his and their sinful thoughts.40After this, he must sacrifice the seven sheep required as the additional offerings for Yom Kippur.41

Third Reading (Second when combined)25 He must then burn up the fat, the kidneys, and the diaphragm42 of the two Yom Kippur sin-offerings—the high priest’s bull and the people’s goat, together—upon the Outer Altar.

He must then immerse himself, change back into the linen garments, and remove the spoon and pan from the Holy of Holies, as just mentioned.43 He must then immerse himself, change back into the regular high-priestly garments, offer up the rest of the additional sacrifices for the day (the ram, the bull, and the goat), offer up the afternoon daily sacrifice, burn the evening incense, and finally, kindle the lamps of the Candelabrum. After this, he must change into his personal clothes and go to his home.44

26 The person who sent the he-goat off the Azazel cliff becomes ritually defiled by doing so. Moreover, he ritually defiles any article he touches—including the clothes he is wearing—during the entire span of time he is performing the rite of the goat, i.e., from the moment he leaves the Israelite camp until he pushes the goat off the cliff.45 Therefore, after performing the rite, he must immerse his garments and immerse his flesh in the water of a mikveh. After doing so, he may again enter the Israelite camp.

27 Aaron must tell someone to take the slaughtered sin-offering bull and sin-offering he-goat—both ofwhose blood was brought inside the Sanctuary in order to effect atonement in the Holy of Holies—outside the camp, to the ash depository.46Someone must burn their hides, flesh, and waste matter in fire over wood.

28 The person who burns them becomes ritually defiled by doing so. Moreover, he ritually defiles any article he touches—including the clothes he is wearing—during the entire time he is burning them. Therefore, after he is done, he must immerse his garments and immerse his flesh in the water of a mikveh. After doing so, he may again enter the Israelite camp.

29 In addition to these rites, the following will be an eternal rule for you: In the seventh month, i.e., Tishrei, specifically, on the tenth day of the month, you must afflict yourselves by abstaining from eating and drinking, anointing yourselves, bathing, wearing leather shoes, and engaging in marital relations;47 and you must not do any work48—neither the native-born Israelite nor the convert who lives among you—

30 For on this day, God will effect the following aspect of atonement for you, in order to purify you.

As stated above,49 the he-goat sent to Azazel atones for all sins not atoned for by other methods of atonement, thus ensuring that all possible infractions of the law can be atoned for. Nevertheless, all these methods of atonement only exonerate the individual from liability for further or more serious compensation for the damage he caused; they do not atone for the sin’s detrimental effects on the individual himself. These effects are atoned for by the observance of the holiday of Yom Kippur itself—i.e., refraining from work and observing the required forms of affliction. This latter atonement—that effected by Yom Kippur itself—is not contingent upon the individual’s repentance for his specific sins, but only on his overall desire to repent in order to be reconciled with God. Thus, by observing the holiday of Yom Kippur together with the other methods of atonement, you will be completely purified before God of all your sins .

As long as the Tabernacle—or its successor, the Temple—is standing, this latter aspect of atonement will remain subordinate to the more prosaic forms of atonement: By wiping your slate clean of sin, these forms of atonement will largely counteract any adverse affect that sin may have on you. In contrast, whenever there will be a hiatus in the existence of the Temple, it will be necessary to resort to other, less radical forms of atonement, and therefore, the simple observance of the holiday of Yom Kippur will play a much more significant role in effecting complete atonement.50

31 It is for this reason that this day is a Sabbath of rest for you and you must afflict yourselves on it as an eternal rule, even when the Tabernacle or Temple will not be standing.

32 As you know, the high priesthood will pass from Aaron to his direct descendants, and if the high priest’s son is qualified to serve, it should pass from father to son. The high priest is installed into office by being anointed with the anointing oil, unless this oil is unavailable, in which case he can be installed by simply wearing the high-priestly garments for seven consecutive days.51 In either case, only the high priest—whether he is invested to serve in his father’s stead by being anointed or he is invested to serve in his father’s stead by wearing the high-priestly garments for seven consecutive days—may effect the various forms of atonement accomplished by the Yom Kippur rites; these rites are not effectual if performed by any other priest.52Furthermore, he must don the linen garments, i.e., the holy garments designated for use only on Yom Kippur, in order for the day’s atonement rites to be effectual.

33 He will thus effect atonement for the Holy of Holies, and he will thus effect atonement for the rest of the Tent of Meeting—i.e., the outer Sanctuary—and for the Inner Altar, and he will thuseffect atonement for the priests and for all the people of the congregation.

34 All this will be an eternal rule for you, in order to effect atonement upon the Israelites for all their sins, once each year.” When Yom Kippur arrived, six months later, Aaron performed these rites exactly as God had commanded Moses.

The prohibition against wearing the special Yom Kippur garments in any subsequent year53 could lead one to conclude that these garments are intended—even more than the regular priestly garments—to showcase the personal “dignity and splendor”54 of the specific high priest who wears them (rather than that of the office of high priest in general), since they may be worn by no one else, even another high priest. Moreover, the fact that even the same high priest is not allowed to wear them again could indicate that they are meant to highlight the current high priest’s unique qualities at that moment, irrespective of how he might change for the better (or worse) in the future—further emphasizing his personal “dignity and splendor.” Nonetheless, Aaron did not fall prey to such a misconstruction. He donned the garments solely in order to fulfill God’s commandment, not to aggrandize himself in any way.55

The Exclusive Venue for Offerings

Fourth Reading 17:1 God spoke to Moses, saying:

2 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, and to all the Israelites, and say to them: ‘This is what God has commanded, saying:

3 As you have been taught, sacrifices must be slaughtered within the Tabernacle precincts. Therefore, any man of the House of Israel who instead slaughters an ox, lamb, or goat that has been designated as a sacrifice inside the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp

4 instead of bringing it to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting to offer it up as a sacrifice to God by slaughtering it in the Courtyard in front of the Tabernacle of God—this act will be accounted for that man as if he had shed a person’s blood. Even if someone slaughters such a consecrated animal inside the Courtyard as he is supposed to, but sprinkles its blood outside the Courtyard, it will be considered as if he has shed blood. In either case, that man will be cut off from among his people: he will die prematurely and childless.56

5 The intent of this prohibition is that the Israelites indeedcontinue to bring God their peace-promoting feast-offerings, which they have until now been accustomed to slaughter anywhere in the open field, but that they bring them to God from now on, instead, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, to the priest, and slaughter them there as peace-promoting offerings to God.

6 As stated above,57 lay people may slaughter sacrifices, but only the priest may dash the blood upon the Altar of God situated at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, and only he may burn up the fat on the Altar in order to please God.

7 By restricting the venue of their sacrifices to the Tabernacle,58 the Israelites will also no longer be able to slaughter their sacrifices to the demons after which they have become accustomed to stray due to the corrupting influence of the Egyptians.59

This will be an eternal rule for them, which will apply to all sacrifices, for all their generations.”

Fifth Reading (Third when combined) 8 You should also say to them: “Furthermore, regarding anyone of the House of Israel (i.e., born Israelites) or of the converts who dwell among them, who offers up—i.e., burns up—the limbs of an ascent-offering or any other sacrifice outside the Tabernacle precincts,

9 instead of bringing them to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to make it intoa sacrifice to God, that man will be cut off from his people: he will die prematurely and childless.

Forbidden Blood

10 You have been taught that you must not consume the blood of animals and fowl.60 The punishment that I will give to anyone of the House of Israel (i.e., born Israelites) or of the converts who dwell among them who consumes any such blood, whether of sacrificial or non-sacrificial animals, is that I will set My attention61 upon the individual who consumes the blood, and I will cut him off from among his people: he will die prematurely and childless.

11 Consuming blood is such a serious offense because thecontinued presence of the soul in the flesh of any creature is dependent upon the presence of the blood in its body. I have therefore given its blood to you—not to consume, butto be placed upon the Altar to atone for your souls. For it is only the blood of a sacrificed animal, which houses its animating soul, that can atone for the soul of its owner, who is offering up the sacrifice. When the priest places your animal’s blood on the Altar, it is thus as if he is placing its soul—and thereby, your soul, since the animal is your surrogate—on the Altar.

12 Therefore, I say to the born Israelites: “None of you, even your minor children, may consume the blood of animals or fowl. The convert who dwells among you may not consume such blood either, nor may his minor children.

13 If any one of the born Israelites or of the converts who dwell among them traps a wild animal or fowl that are permissible for consumption, when he sheds its blood—or the blood of any fowl or non-domesticated animal—through ritual slaughter, he must cover the blood with dust. When slaughtering domestic cows, sheep, or goats, however, it is not necessary to cover their blood.62 Nor is it necessary to cover the blood of animals that are forbidden for consumption if you kill them for some other purpose. In any case, you should only eat meat when you can afford it.63

14 I am commanding the Israelites to cover the blood of wild animals and fowl because, concerning the soul of all flesh, it is the blood of the flesh that represents the flesh’s soul, inasmuch as the soul’s continued presence in the flesh depends on the continued presence of blood in the body. I therefore said to the Israelites, for this very same reason: “You must not consume the blood of any animal- or fowl-flesh, for the soul of any flesh is its blood. All who consume it will be cut off: they will die prematurely and childless.”

Defilement Contracted by Eating Carrion of Fowl

15 You have been taught that touching or carrying animals permitted for food that died by any means other than proper ritual slaughter imparts ritual defilement.64 In contrast, the carrion of permitted fowl imparts ritual defilement only when eaten. Any person, whether a native-born Israelite or a convert, who eats carrion of any type of fowl permitted for consumption—i.e., of any fowl that can become forbidden for consumption on account of suffering from a fatal defect (thus excluding forbidden species of fowl, which are intrinsically forbidden and therefore cannot become forbidden through any other cause)—becomes ritually defiled. In addition, any garments he is touching or otherwise wearing while eating this fowl also become ritually defiled. He must therefore immerse his garments and immerse himself in the water of a mikveh, and will remain defiled until evening, at which timehe will become rid of this defilement.

16 If he does not immerse his garments or immerse his flesh, and in this ritually defiled state enters the Tabernacle precincts or eats consecrated food, he will bear the consequences of his sin: The punishment for entering the Tabernacle precincts or eating consecrated food while ritually defiled is excision (dying prematurely and childless);65 the punishment for entering the Tabernacle precincts while wearing ritually defiled clothing66 or for causing defiled clothing to enter the Tabernacle precincts in some other way67 is lashes.’ ”

Forbidden Relations

18:1 God spoke to Moses, saying:

2 “Speak to the Israelites, and say to them: ‘It may seem to you that the closer a relative is to you, the more fitting he or she should be as a spouse. After all, (a) Abraham specifically sought a relative as a wife for his son Isaac;68 (b) by having children together, spouses “become one flesh,”69 and this goal is accomplished all the more when the spouses themselves are related; and (c) marriages among close relatives have already been both sanctioned and successful: Adam’s children married each other,70 Jacob married sisters,71 his sons married sisters,72 and Amram married his aunt Yocheved,73 by whom he fathered Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Nonetheless, despite any logical arguments to the contrary, I am forbidding you to marry certain close relatives. You heard Me say “I am God, your God” at Mount Sinai when I pronounced the Ten Commandments; at that time, you accepted My authority over you.74 You must therefore now accept these rules regarding with whom you may and may not engage in carnal relations, whether or not they make sense to you.

Furthermore, I am aware that an amorous attachment to another person can be so strong that it may cause you to consider defying these prohibitions or even forsaking Me altogether if you become attached to someone forbidden to you (particularly a non-Jew, whom I will forbid to you later75). Therefore, bear in mind that I, the Creator and ruler of the world, am the source of these prohibitions, so you should not expect any positive outcome from transgressing them. And if you think to flout the possibility of future misery in favor of ephemeral happiness, bear in mind further that I am your God, who will administer corrective punishment that will nullify any transient happiness when you do not comply. And finally, if you ask why I implanted in you the ability to become so strongly attached to other people that it might compel you to defy Me, it is in order to reward you commensurately for overcoming this challenge; be assured that I, as God, can be relied upon to reward you amply when you comply with My will.76

3 You must not imitate any of the practices of Egypt in this regard, particularly the practices of the part of Egypt where you dwelt, which are worse than those of Egypt in general; and you must similarly not imitate the practices of Canaan, particularly those of the part of Canaan to which I am bringing you, which are worse than those of Canaan in general—for the present77 populations of these locales are, in this regard, the most debased in the world. Moreover, you must not even follow their social conventions, such as attending their dramatic performances or sports events, or engaging in their superstitious practices.

4 Rather, you must perform My ordinances (i.e., rational commandments) and safeguard My rules (i.e., supra-rational commandments)78by studying the laws governing their observance. Furthermore, you must continue to pursue them and their study even once you think that you have mastered them; never think that you are free to forsake their study in favor of the study of other cultures or religions. I am God, your God, whose authority you accepted unconditionally;79 you must therefore obey My rules as well as My ordinances.

5 You must even safeguard the details of My rules and My ordinances that are not explicitly mentioned here, but which will be taught to you orally, all ofwhich a man must do in order to live, by them, eternally—i.e., in the afterlife. I, being God, may be relied upon to fulfill My promise regarding this reward.

Sixth Reading 6 No man or woman may come near to any of his or her close relatives listed below, to “uncover their nakedness” (i.e., fornicate with them).

Even though the following prohibitions are couched only as addressing men, they are equally pertinent (where applicable) to women. As stated,80 I am God, who can be relied upon to reward you for observing them.

7 You must not “uncover the nakedness” of your father, i.e., his wife, even if she is not your mother, nor “uncover the nakedness” of your mother, even if she is not your father’s wife. In either case she is, in this regard, your mother; you must therefore not “uncover her nakedness.”

8 Furthermore, you must not “uncover the nakedness” of your father’s wife even after your father has died; it is still considered your father’s “nakedness.”

9 Regarding the “nakedness” of your sister: Even she is only your half-sister (being your father’s daughter but not your mother’s, or your mother’s daughter but not your father’s), andeven if she is the offspring of a forbidden marriage (whether the woman she is born to is allowed to remain in the home as your father’s wife or the woman she is born to must be sentout of the house), you must not “uncover the nakedness” of any such sister. The prohibition against fornication with your father’s daughter applies even to a daughter born to a woman your father had raped or seduced.

10 Regarding the “nakedness” of your son-by-rape-or-seduction’s daughter or your daughter-by-rape-or-seduction’s daughter, you must not “uncover their nakedness,” for even though their parents were not conceived by you in marriage, they are still considered your own “nakedness, i.e., your close relatives. Similarly, you may not fornicate with your own daughter-by-rape-or-seduction.

11 Regarding the “nakedness” of your father’s wife’s daughter: Only if she is “born to your father, i.e., the offspring of a union that does not make her a gentile, is she considered your sister, whose “nakedness” you must not “uncover.” In contrast, relations with your father’s daughter born of a non-Jewish bondwoman are not considered incest,81 despite the fact that a bondwoman is considered “partially Jewish” because she is obligated to keep more commandments than other non-Jews.82 Certainly then, you are not considered related to your father’s daughter born of a “total” non-Jewess; therefore, relations with such a “sister,” although forbidden, are also not considered incest.

12 You must not “uncover the nakedness” of your father’s sister, even if she is only your father’s half-sister, on either side;83 she is the close relative of your father.

13 You must not “uncover the nakedness” of your mother’s sister, even if she is only your mother’s half-sister, on either side,84 for she is the close relative of your mother.

14 You must not “uncover the nakedness” of your father’s brother, i.e., you must not “approach” his wife, i.e., fornicate with her; she is your aunt.85 This prohibition applies only if your uncle is your father’s full or paternal brother, not if he is only your father’s maternal brother.86

15 You must not “uncover the nakedness” of your daughter-in-law, but only ifshe is your son’s legal wife must you not “uncover her nakedness.” Fornication with her is not considered incest if he raped her or if she is a non-Jewish bondwoman or a non-Jewess.

16 You must not “uncover the nakedness” of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s “nakedness.”87

17 You must not “uncover the nakedness” of a woman or her daughter, whether or not she be your daughter also,88 if you are or have ever been married to the other one of them. You must not take in marriage her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter, to “uncover her nakedness.” They are close relatives, relations with whom are forbidden; therefore, such a union is the counsel of your evil inclination.

If a woman is not your legal wife, but you raped or seduced her, you are permitted to marry her mother or daughter (provided, of course, that the daughter is not also your daughter89).

18 You must not take a woman and her sister in marriagethus making them rivals—whether you are married to them both at the same time or one after the other, to “uncover the nakedness” of one upon the other, in the first one’s lifetime. Thus, even if you divorce your wife, you may not marry her sister as long as her sister, your ex-wife, is alive.90 After your ex-wife dies, however, you may marry her sister.

19 You must not approach a woman in order to “uncover her nakedness” during her period of menstrual separation on account of her attendantritual defilement.91

20 You must not lie carnally with your neighbor’s (i.e., fellow Israelite’s) wife,92thereby causing yourself to become spiritually defiled by her.93

21 You must not give any of your offspring to the priests of idolatry in order for them to pass the child barefoot through thetwo fires that were set up for the worship of the deity Molech.94

You must not profane the Name of your God in the eyes of other peoples by worshipping Molech. I am God, who may be relied upon to punish you for doing this.95

Seventh Reading (Fourth when combined) 22 You must not “lie down, i.e., fornicate, with a male as with a woman; this is considered an abomination.96

23 As you have been taught,97 you must not fornicate with any animal, thereby becoming spiritually defiled by it. A woman must not stand in front of an animal to fornicate with it. This is depravity and an unnatural mingling of human and animal seed.

24 You must not spiritually defile yourselves by doing any of these things, for the nations whom I am sending out of Canaan from before you have defiled themselves by doing all these things,

25 and thus the land, which is supposed to be the paragon of holiness, instead became spiritually defiled. I have therefore brought the account of its inhabitants’ sin upon it, and the land has already vomited out its inhabitants, so to speak, and is yours to possess.

26 But as for you, you must safeguard My rules and My ordinances; you must not engage in any of these abominations, neither the native-born Israelitenor the convert who dwells among you—

27 for the people who occupied the land before you occupied it did engage in all of these abominations, and thus the land became spiritually defiled and vomited them out

Maftir 28 so the land not vomit you out for having spiritually defiled it, just as it vomited out the nations that preceded you.

29 For with regard to anyone who intentionally commits any of these abominations but was neither warned nor witnessed doing so, and therefore cannot be punished by the court, the persons engaging in these abominations will be cut off from the midst of their people: they will die prematurely and childless.

The punishments for these types of fornication are as follows:98

30 You, through your representatives, the court, must safeguard My charge by forbidding yourselves to engage in relations with similarly close relatives not included in the list above,99 so that you not commit any of the abominable practices that were performed by those who occupied the land before you, and you not become spiritually defiled by these practices.

Previously, before detailing these prohibitions, I exhorted you to keep them with a threefold argument: (a) that nothing good would result from transgressing them, since I created and run the world; (b) that I would punish you if you would transgress them; and (c) that I would reward you amply if you would not transgress them. Now that you have heard all the details, I will reiterate this threefold exhortation negatively: If you transgress these prohibitions, (a) you will be denying the close relationship between us that is evinced by the fact I, Creator and ruler of the world, concern Myself so intimately with your well-being that I forbid you to do what is not good for you; (b) you will prevent Me, God, from having the pleasure of rewarding you for keeping these prohibitions; and (c) you will force Me, your God, to punish you, instead of valuing these threats of punishment as evidence of My special concern for you above all other nations on earth.’ ”100