Ahare Mot

In this portion, we conclude the laws of ritual purity and begin the section known as the Holiness Code.  The readings open with a description of the ritual of Yom Kippur. This ritual with its distinctive rites of riddance, including the symbolic transferral of the transgressions of the Israelites and their priests onto a goat (the scapegoat) which is driven into the wilderness, never to return, is the climax of the laws of purification. In the Torah, Yom Kippur is an annual ritual of purification of the Mishkan (sanctuary). In later Judaism, however, the emphasis shifts to atonement for the sins of the people. The laws of the Holiness Code serve to implement the idea that the Israelite people is collectively obligated to seek to achieve holiness in order to be like God, who is holy. The Code begins with consideration of the family and details forbidden sexual unions. Whereas purity and impurity pertain to states of being, holiness has to do with interpersonal relationships and modes of behavior.