Parshas Acharie Mos – Kedoshim
“And Aharon shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for Hashem and the other marked for Azazel.” (16:8)
Two friends met at a train station. Then they each took trains traveling in opposite directions. As time went on, the distance between the trains became greater and greater. Soon, the friends were very distant from each other.
Two other friends used to be part of a gang of robbers. They both died on the same day. One was admitted into Heaven while the other was not. The second fellow complained that it was not fair! Both friends had been part of the same gang. Why didn’t he enter Heaven together with his friend? He was told that his friend had repented his evil deeds whereas he had not.
The Talmud (Yuma 67B) explains that many of the mitzvos in the Torah are logical. Some mitzvos, called chukim, are not understandable to the human mind. Only Hashem understands their purpose. Three of those mitzvos are the prohibitions against eating pork, and against wearing clothes that contain shatnes (a mixture of wool and linen), and the mitzvah of the sa’ir hamishtaleach, the goat that was sent into the wilderness as part of the Yom Kippur service.
The Kohen Gadol performed a very lengthy service on Yom Kippur bringing atonement for the sins of the people. In one part of the service, he took two goats that were identical in height, weight, appearance, and value. Two lots were prepared. On one was written “for Hashem” and on the other was written, “for Azazel”. One lot was picked for each goat. The goat that was prepared for Hashem was slaughtered with holiness and purity and its blood was sprinkled in the Kodesh haKadashim, the Holy of Holies in the Beis HaMikdash. The second goat, the sa’ir hamishtaleach, was escorted into a rocky, uncultivated desert where it was thrown off a cliff.
Two identical goats. Both were brought to bring atonement. One was sacrificed in a majestic way, and one unceremoniously thrown down a cliff with its bones breaking on the way down.
Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Salant (scion of the family of R. Yosef Zundel of Salant) in his sefer Be’er Yosef al HaTorah (as quoted in Yalkut Lekach Tov by Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Beifus) learns a powerful mussar lesson from what happens to the two goats. Two people can be on the exact same level in their service to Hashem. If one sincerely repents, out of love, on Yom Kippur, his sins can potentially turn into mitzvos. Hashem had been unhappy with his actions. Now this person becomes beloved to Hashem. If his friend does not do teshuvah, his sins weigh him down and he may even be considered a rasha.
Two identical people. One improves his actions while one does not. One chooses the proper path in life while one does not. They are now light years away from each other. One is beloved by Hashem and one is not as beloved (because he chooses not to repent on Yom Kippur from his evil deeds). One’s actions earn incredible reward for him, while the other one’s actions earn punishment for him.
Two friends starting in the same place can become light years apart.
The choices we make in life DO make a difference in the direction that we are going!