In describing the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur , the Torah portion Acharei tells us that the Kohen Gadol “shall atone for himself and for his home.”1 Our Sages explain2 that “his home” means his wife.

By stating that the Kohen Gadol is to atone for both himself and his wife, the verse implies that the High Priest must be married.

However, the requirement that the Kohen Gadol be married is germane only to Yom Kippur ; during the rest of the year a Kohen Gadol may serve even if he is unmarried.

Yom Kippur represents the acme of spiritual service, when the holiest of the Jewish people — the Kohen Gadol — served in the most holy place — the Holy of Holies — on the holiest day of the year.

Why was it necessary for the Kohen Gadol to be married in order to perform this most sacred service? This is even more puzzling in light of the fact that it was necessary for the Kohen Gadol to separate from his wife during the week preceding Yom Kippur.3

The fact that the Torah refers to the Kohen Gadol ’s wife as “his home” rather than simply “his wife” shows that not only must the Kohen Gadol be married, but also that at the time of his service on Yom Kippur he must also have a wife that is “his home.”

But what superior quality makes a wife one’s “home”? Furthermore, what exactly do we mean that the Kohen Gadol ’s wife was his “home”?

The great Sage Rabbi Yossi once said:4 “I have never referred to my spouse as ‘my wife,’ but rather as ‘my home.’ ” R. Yossi’s statement about how he would refer to his wife was one of a number of statements concerning how careful he was to conduct himself in an exemplary fashion. What was so special about his always referring to his wife as “his home”?

In referring to his wife in this manner, R. Yossi sought to indicate his awareness that the ultimate purpose of marriage is to fulfill the commandment “be fruitful and multiply” — to establish a Jewish home filled with children. He therefore saw his spouse not as “his wife” but as “his home.”

Rabbi Yossi’s conduct differed from the other Rabbis’ who would refer to their spouses as their wives. The other Sages would not relate to their spouses only as “their homes,” for they realized that to have a wife — even without children to make her “one’s home” — is a desirous end in itself.

Thus we find that during the first year of marriage — when there are no children — a husband is exempt from military service so that he may “gladden his wife.”5 So too, a husband is freed from certain obligations during festivals so that he will be able to “gladden his wife.”

Clearly, the Torah recognizes the value of the relationship between husband and wife in and of itself.

R. Yossi’s degree of sanctity, however, was such that his view of married life centered around the fact that marriage would enable him to have children. Thus, when thinking of his wife he would envision the result of his marriage — a Jewish home replete with children.

On Yom Kippur the Kohen Gadol was charged with the awesome responsibility of achieving atonement not only on his own behalf and on behalf of his “home,” but — most importantly — on behalf of all Israel.6

Understandably, in order to accomplish this he had to rise to the greatest of spiritual heights. Part of this process lay in sanctifying himself to the degree that he — like R. Yossi — viewed his wife solely as “his home.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVII, pp. 172-176.