But as with any piece of Torah, it pays to read between the lines. Two verses, buried among the details of the Yom Kippur ritual, give us a unique perspective on the nature of sin, and our relationship with the Divine in the act of reconciliation. Case #1:
Thus [the High Priest] shall atone on the Sanctuary for the abominations of the Children of Israel, from their sins among all their misdeeds; and so shall they do for the Tent of Meeting which dwells within them among their impurity. (Lev. 16:16)
Does that last phrase jump out at you? The Tent of Meeting which dwells among their impurity. The Ohel Moed, Tent of Meeting, is the epitome of holiness. The Torah says that its holiness is omnipresent even among sinners. Rashi goes a step further, saying that the Schina, G-d’s presence, dwells within even one who suffers from spiritual contamination.
Then, case #2 in 17:7:
They shall no longer offer sacrifices to the demons they follow; it is an eternal decree for all their generations.
The context here is ostensibly to discourage Israel from following the Egyptian practice of offering ad hoc sacrifices to ward off the demons who could imperil a harvest.
In two otherwise unremarkable verses, the Torah teaches us both that G-d resides within us regardless of our standing, and that we always have the natural capacity to make a misstep. I find it even more remarkable that such a timelessly accurate depiction of the yin and yang of human nature is buried within the details of an atonement ritual which for today’s audience, only has literary and ritual resonance. I find it comforting, if not frighteningly predictive, that G-d and the Torah know that humans are, well, human. The spark of the Divine which inhabits us, even at our worst, is always there to be tapped. Our tendency to stray is not an inevitability; it’s rather a constant opportunity to aim higher in an effort to overcome our nature.
It's poignant that we read this just a week into counting the Omer; as we count the days between our deliverance from the impurity of slavery to the holy revelation of the Torah on Shavuot. Let’s resolve to accept the best and the worst which are inevitable parts of our being, and strive to embrace the good, so we will always merit G-d’s blessing.
Shabbat Shalom, and a good month of Iyyar!
Rabbi/Hazzan David B. Sislen