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Aaron shall bring near the he-goat designated by the lot to Hashem and he shall make it a sin offering. And the he-goat designated by the lot to Azazel shall be stood alive before Hashem to atone upon it, to send it to Azazel to the wilderness. (Vayikra 16:9,10)
In this weeks parsha we are introduced to the two identical he-goats of the Yom Kippur Service. The posuk teaches us that both are instrumental in bringing atonement for the Jewish people. The kohen gadol would cast a lot to decide which he-goat would serve as a sin offering and which would be sent out to the desert.
It is noteworthy that the posuk clearly indicates that both serve as atonement for the Jewish people. We may ask what exactly does each one accomplish, or in other words what is the difference between the two?
Perhaps we may suggest as follows: There are two types of sins. The first type of sin is when we directly violate the commandments of the Torah. The second type of sin is where we fail to perform more mitzvos or achieve a higher degree of spirituality.
Let us suggest that the first he-goat is offered to atone for the actual violation of the commandments. This explains why this he-goat is offered as an actual sin offering. The second he-goat is offered to atone for our failure to perform more mitzvos or achieve a greater degree of spirituality. This explains why it is not offered as a sin offering. In this case no actual violation or sin has occurred, but only our failure to accomplish more. Instead, the he-goat is sent to die in the desert.
We may bring a proof to this idea from the unusual expression the Torah uses to describe the he-goat that is sent away to the desert. The Torah says that the he-goat designated by the lot to Azazel shall be stood alive before Hashem to atone upon it. What is deeper meaning of the words be stood alive. This question is strengthened by noting the omission of these words in regard to the first he-goat that serves as a sin offering.
The commentators explain that the main difference between man and angel is the ability to grow spiritually. There are many different types of angels, each have different degrees of holiness, however each group has no ability to grow spiritually. They permanently remain in the spiritual level that they were created for the duration of their existence. Man however was given the gift of growth. There is no limit to how high man can propel himself spiritually. To emphasize this idea the commentators note that angels are consistently described and those who stand, whereas man is describes and one who moves or travels. The posuk in recording Hashems words regarding man relative to the angels says, I will give you (man) the ability to move between these that stand (angels).
The Torah instructs us to take the second he-goat and have it stand alive before Hashem to atone upon it. This symbolic gesture conveys that this he-goat represents our failure to move ahead spiritually in life. We have failed to achieve our potential and are like the angels who stand still in their degree of spirituality.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001