In this portion there is a new reference about the death of Aaron’s elder sons: “And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death (acharei mot) of Aaron’s two sons, when they drew near before the Lord, and they died.” (Leviticus 16:1) to remind us about being and manifesting the ways of the Creator, and not our ways when we strive to be close to His Love for the sake of our Oneness with Him.
Our Sages have different opinions about the two sons who brought a “strange fire” to the Sanctuary and died there. They say that, on the one hand, the two brothers and deputy high priests were indeed bringing their individual versions of what an offering to the Creator should be, and on the other they did it with the ultimate intention of be with Him, “no matter what”.
Our Sages teach us that the lesson here is to follow God’s ways in all aspects of our lives, including how we relate to Him in our individual desire to be close to Him. They also indicate that our lives must be bound to His ways while we are in this material dimension, because here is where He wants us to reveal His Presence. With this reminder we recall the entrance of four of our ancient Sages into the Garden of Eden. One didn’t want to return to the world and he left his body, one returned to the world and lost his sanity after realizing the difference between Earth and Heaven, one rejected any possible human wisdom and became a hermit, and one returned as if nothing had happened. The latter is referred as Rabbi Akiva from whom it is said that “he entered into Heaven in peace and returned to Earth in peace”.
We must learn from Aaron’s sons and Rabbi Akiva’s visit to Heaven that we are meant to live our life in this world and not in a different dimension. We have said that the Divine Presence is already revealed in other dimensions we call Heaven, Paradise, and other realities far beyond our mind. If we live in those, there is no point to reveal or transform anything because everything there exists in its own perfection. It is in this material world where we are summoned by the Creator to fully reveal His Presence, concealed under the darkness of our materialistic and egotistic approach to life. Hence, in this darkness we must be and manifest Love’s ways and attributes as the Light that dissipates the negative aspects of our consciousness that prevent us to live in the Love of God.
The parshah continues with the preparation of the High Priest for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). We have said that the clear discernment of our intention to be close to the Creator is what ultimately transforms (atones for) all aspects of our consciousness. This discernment makes a difference between two realities: “And Aaron shall place lots upon the two male goats: one lot ‘For the Lord’, and the other lot ‘For Azazel’.” (16:8). One representing the elevation of all dimensions of consciousness in order to be transformed by God’s Love, with the purpose to be and manifest His ways and attributes; and the other, all the negative expressions of our existence that must descend to the depths of nothingness (into the desert) from where they came: “The male goat shall thus carry upon itself all their sins to a precipitous land, and he [the carrier] shall send off the male goat into the desert.” (16:22).
From this we learn that ego’s (the male goat) materialistic fantasies and illusions (the sins) belong to the realm of nothingness, because they come from there and must return there. On the other hand, our dedication and devotion to God’s ways and attributes, and redirecting our existence in them, are the means to elevate us to the realm of the absolute Truth that God is. Our oral tradition tells us about Azazel as one of the two fallen angels during the times of Enoch, who taught women how to attract men by using make-up. One lower desire triggered by ego’s illusion to possess and control, reinforced by another illusion called make-up.
Our offerings to elevate every aspect of consciousness to God’s Love must take place exclusively into the Sanctuary (17:3-4) because it is there where we are completely aware of our connection to God. Any other place represents the lower dimensions that keep us separate from Him, and therefore “cut off”: “And they shall no longer slaughter their sacrifices to the satyrs after which they stray. This shall be an eternal statute for them throughout their generations.” (17:7).
Later in the portion there is a new warning about not falling in the lower traits and desires that potentially lead to negative behavior: “Like the practice of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelt, you shall not do, and like the practice of the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you, you shall not do, and you shall not follow their statutes.” (18:3). This is remarked by the repeated statement that we are created by God’s Love, and it must be in Love’s ways and attributes that we must conduct our lives: “You shall fulfill My ordinances and observe My statutes, to follow them. I am the Lord, your God. You shall observe My statutes and My ordinances, which a man shall do and live by them. I am the Lord.” (18:4-5).
The portion ends with a reiterated emphasis (18:24-20) warning that when we defile our consciousness by living under the rule of lower thoughts, emotions, passions and instincts, we expel ourselves from the unity that Love’s ways and attributes are as the Promised Land that God’s Love gives for us to proclaim His Glory in this world, “because He is the Lord our God”.