Donate Your LifeApril 8, 2014 - 5:00 am
“He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat.” — Leviticus 16:8
The Torah portion for this week is Acharei Mot, which means “after the death,” from Leviticus 16:1–18:30, and the Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.
Yom Kippur is still about six months away, but we read about it in this week’s Torah reading. I don’t think that this is by accident; the message of Yom Kippur should guide us all year long.
In this week’s reading, we learn about the central part of the Yom Kippur service as it was performed when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. The service centered around two identical goats. By drawing lots, it was determined that one of these goats would be brought as a sacrifice before the Lord, while the other would symbolically be given the sins of Israel and sent off into the wilderness where it would later die.
What is the meaning of this service and how is it still relevant to us today?
One meaningful message derived from this ancient service suggests that these two goats represent two very different ways of living – and dying. The fact about life is that it comes to an end at some point. We are all going to die one day; we can’t change that. However, we do get to decide how we live.
The goat that is sacrificed to the Lord represents a life lived in service to God, full of purpose and meaning. The other goat represents a person who wanders about aimlessly in this world without any clear sense of purpose, contribution, or meaning. Both goats die in the end, but only one goat lived a worthy life.
There was once a man who stood on a bridge ready to jump to his death. He was in his early 30s, had a wife and kids, but had failed miserably at business and had recently lost all the money that he had left. Feeling like a failure with no value to his life, the man wanted to end it all. But then a thought crossed his mind: What a waste! Here he was, with a sound mind and healthy body, and he was going to throw it away. So the man changed his mind and figured that instead of wasting his life, he might as well donate it to a good cause. He entered the world of science and went on to make fantastic discoveries. He found his own wealth and happiness, too.
The goat that is sacrificed to God on Yom Kippur reminds us that the best way to spend our lives is to give it away. We can spend our days wandering around in a spiritual desert and die without having truly lived. Or, we can “donate our lives to a good cause” by dedicating ourselves to God’s purposes. Then even in death, we will be bound up with eternity.