Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30
Why is this holiday different from all other holidays?
This is the essential question posed by the first chief rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, about the sacrificial Temple service for Yom Kippur as described in Acharei Mot.
On all other holidays we only offer one chatat, one sin offering with a goat. Why on this holiday do we offer two, a goat and an ox?
You were wondering the same thing, weren’t you?
Rabbi Kook teaches some wonderful Torah here:
The ox is a symbol of great strength. Oxen were traditionally used for construction and cultivating land. The ox’s strength was harnessed to till the earth, to transport goods, and other constructive purposes.
Good intentions are not always enough. Even when we mean well, we sometimes cause harm. Acharei Mot and Yom Kippur encourage us to acknowledge and learn from our ‘constructive’ as well as our ‘destructive’ mistakes, so that we can continue to grow as human beings. We are truly strong, in more ways than we realize, which is why in this case, two offerings are better than one.
 Gold from the Land of Israel: A new light on the weekly Torah portion from the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook, by Rabbi Chanan Morrison, pg. 198-99.
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2015 Rabbi Gary Pokras