Acharei Mot: Your Heart & The Resurrection
** Please make sure you'v read the Torah Portion 'Acharei Mot' (Lev 16 - 18:30)
In this week’s Torah portion we find ourselves reading of three main subjects. They are;
Leviticus 16 and Yom Kippur
Leviticus 17 with laws related to sacrifice and the admonition to not eat blood
Leviticus 18 and it’s infamous laws pertaining to sexual immorality
Today, I wish to at least attempt to approach this portion from a different angle. Yes, we could talk of Yom Kippur as is usually done and we could focus on sexual immorality and those famous verses regarding homosexuality. Instead, I’d like to shift our focus and address this portion in a way you may not have heard before.
I wish to revisit a very basic assumption regarding Leviticus 16. I want to challenge the assumption that the verses of Leviticus 16 are primarily addressing one specific day of the year, being Yom Kippur.
Initially, this will sound like a ridiculous suggestion, especially when the chapter itself says;
Leviticus 16:29 (The Scriptures)
29 “And this shall be for you a law forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you afflict your beings, and do no work, the native or the stranger who sojourns among you.
Or even Exodus 30:10, which when referring to Yom Kippur says;
Exodus 30:10 (The Scriptures)
10 “And Aharon shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement—once a year he makes atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most set-apart to יהוה.”
Despite this, ‘Acharei Mot’ starts with;
Leviticus 16:2 (The Scriptures)
2 And יהוה said to Mosheh, “Speak to Aharon your brother not to come in at all times to the Set-apart Place inside the veil, before the lid of atonement which is on the ark, lest he die, because I appear in the cloud above the lid of atonement.
Even in the English one can see the difference in the language. Verse 2 does not mention that Aaron can only enter on ‘one day’ of the year but just that Aaron should not come into the Tabernacle ‘at all times’ – or as some other translations say ‘not to come at just any time’
I wanted to point this out because we’ll start here with my original premise, being that the content of Leviticus 16 does not necessarily refer to just one specific day; Yom Kippur.
In Lev 16:2 the Hebrew for ‘not to come at any time’ is ‘b’chal et’. ‘B’chal’ being ‘at any’ and ‘et’ meaning ‘time’. What is of note is that ‘time’ is not the usual word for ‘time’ in Hebrew which would be something like ‘zeman’ or even ‘zemar’ (year) which is how time is rendered in other verses including the above example in Exodus 30.
So ‘et’ here, ‘time’, is not referring to the same ‘time’ or ‘year’ that is mentioned in Exodus 30. Verse 2 differs from verse 29 and Exodus 30 in that it is not saying that Aaron can’t come into the Holy of Holies. It’s not even saying that he can’t come in except for once a year; it’s just saying that Aaron can’t come into the Holy of Holies ‘at any time’.
If we take verse 2 in isolation, it stands to reason that Aaron can actually enter into the Holy of Holies, just not at any time, but only if he follows the proceeding services which Leviticus 16 describes.
We need to also place verse 2 in context though, because prior to this there is no mention of Yom Kippur. Chapter 15 deals with clean and unclean matters (man having a discharge etc.) and chapter 14 deals with tzara’at (leprosy). Prior to this, there is no mention of Yom Kippur.
When we arrive in Chapter 16 beloved, we are simply told that Aaron can’t enter into the Holy of Holies at any time but that if he does want to enter, that he must do so with the service
described in verses 3 to 28 of Leviticus 16. The implication being that so long as Aaron followed this process, that he could effectively do this on any day in order to enter the Holy of Holies.
It’s effectively saying that Aaron can enter the Holy of Holies, not just ‘at any time’ and that he must do so bringing the sacrifices etc. described in Leviticus to verse 28.
There are a few things in the chapter which support this notion.
Firstly, the Talmud rightly records that on the day of Yom Kippur that the High Priest must undergo 5 immersions and 10 sanctifications (hand washings etc.). But, if you go through and count the immersions and sanctifications in Leviticus 16 you end up with 3 immersions and 6 sanctifications.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the day of Yom Kippur required a much larger service than what is actually described in Leviticus 16.
There are additional Yom Kippur sacrifices mentioned in Numbers 29;
Numbers 29:7–11 (The Scriptures)
7 ‘And on the tenth day of this seventh month you have a set-apart gathering, and you shall afflict your beings, you do no work.
8 ‘And you shall bring near a burnt offering to יהוה, a sweet fragrance: one young bull, one ram, seven lambs a year old, perfect ones they are for you,
9 and their grain offering: fine flour mixed with oil, three-tenths of an ěphah for the bull, two-tenths for the one ram,
10 one-tenth for each of the seven lambs,
11 one male goat as a sin offering, besides the sin offering for atonement, the continual burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.
There is also things like the daily tamid offering which needed to be done (the lamb sacrificed in the morning and evening) and the menorah needing tending to. We also overlook Exodus 30 which states;
Exodus 30:18–21 (The Scriptures)
18 “And you shall make a basin of bronze, with its stand also of bronze, for washing. And you shall put it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and shall put water in it.
19 “And Aharon and his sons shall wash from it their hands and their feet.
20 “When they go into the Tent of Meeting, or when they come near the altar to attend, to burn an offering made by fire to יהוה, they wash with water, lest they die.
21 “And they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a law forever to them, to him and his seed throughout their generations.”
These things make the day of Yom Kippur quite the marathon when one factors in the amount of immersions, washing, services and garment changes that Aaron had to undergo. Keeping in mind that the service inside the Holy of Holies were done in just Aaron’s linen garment (white garment) while the outer services were conducted in Aaron’s full High Priest garb, so there was even multiple changes of garment which also required washing and immersions etc.
For this reason, if you just read Lev 16 you don’t actually get an accurate amount of immersions and washings with regard to Yom Kippur.
One of the interesting things here though is that Leviticus 16 omits all these extra Yom Kippur sacrifices, yet for some reason actually does include one of the additional Numbers 29 sacrifices. Verse 3 says Aaron shall come ‘with the blood of a young bull and a ram for a sin offering’ while neglecting the other Numbers 29 sacrifices. Why be selective of which additional sacrifices you include in the Yom Kippur description in Leviticus 16?
Now keep in mind, despite me using Yom Kippur language, that as of yet in Leviticus 16 Yom Kippur has not been mentioned.
The chapter further fascinates because verses 4 – 24 is just describing the service that is undertaken in Aaron’s white garments. Perhaps this could be the reason for being selective of which sacrifices are included and why the Yom Kippur process is not actually described here as is.
Perhaps this answers the discrepancy in Leviticus 16:23 which reads as
Leviticus 16:23 (The Scriptures)
23 “Aharon shall then come into the Tent of Meeting, and shall take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the Set-apart Place, and shall leave them there.
We call this a discrepancy because Aaron enters the Holy Place, takes off his garment, and leaves, making this entrance into the Holy Place almost pointless. There isn’t any description given to Aaron actually doing any official Temple Service inside.
The chapter gets even more interesting because it starts with verse 2 which says Aaron can’t just enter at ‘any time’, then goes on to describe what he needs to bring in order to enter the Holy of Holies (as discussed). What’s missing here is a time as to when these sacrifices are to be brought. Typically, the Torah will start its description of a sacrifice with when to bring it. Here, it skips the ‘when’, breaking ‘protocol’, and launches right into the service having only told us that Aaron can’t enter just ‘at any time’.
It isn’t until verse 29, after this ‘selective service’ is described to us, that we are told a specific day for when this is to occur.
What’s also interesting is that the Torah here, between verses 2 – 23, mentions Aaron’s name 8 times. Before we get to the end of the chapter it’s all directed specifically at Aaron. It’s constant ‘Aaron’ this and ‘Aaron’ that. It actually challenges grammar rules similar to English. In English, once you’ve identified someone by name you no longer have to keep repeating that person’s name, yet the Torah here does so with Aaron. It doesn’t mention his office as High Priest, it doesn’t generalize it to the priests; it mentions Aaron specifically.
The chronology of this chapter is also important to note. As I’ve said, prior to verse 29, there is no mention of Yom Kippur. The service that is then described, at the time it’s described, is simply the way Aaron, specifically Aaron (which is why it only mentions Aaron) is to approach the Father so that he doesn’t get killed due to the presence of God which dwells in the Holy of Holies, as verse 2 says.
It isn’t until later in the chapter that all of this is then attributed to Yom Kippur and the priests that serve after Aaron.
The end of Chapter 16 says;
Leviticus 16:29–33 (The Scriptures)
32 “And the priest, who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and shall put on the linen garments, the set-apart garments,
33 and he shall make atonement for the Most Set-apart Place, and make atonement for the Tent of Meeting and for the altar, and make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.
So, it isn’t until the end of the chapter that we see this service, in which Aaron can approach God, is then given to the priest who ‘serves in his father’s place’ to do on the specific day of Yom Kippur.
What you’re reading then, prior to verse 29 is the service of Aaron (specifically Aaron) and his way of approaching God (arguably on any day), which is then attributed to being part of Yom Kippur.
Again, prior to this no priest is mentioned and no Yom Kippur is mentioned. Prior to this, we’re just talking about the way in which Aaron can enter the Holy of Holies which didn’t include all of the other Yom Kippur sacrifices as described in Numbers 29.
What’s so fascinating is that Aaron, though he is the High Priest, for some reason, stands at a higher level than any other High Priest. As mentioned before, the chapter repeatedly refers to Aaron by name so this privilege of being able to enter the Holy of Holies in this way, at any time, was only reserved for Aaron and not the subsequent priests or any subsequent High Priest..
The priests that follow Aaron are bound by;
Leviticus 16:34 (The Scriptures)
34 “And this shall be for you a law forever, to make atonement for the children of Yisra’ěl, for all their sins, once a year.” And he did as יהוה commanded Mosheh.
Aaron was also bound by this as he had to perform the Yom Kippur service. Unlike the other priests though, Aaron was also given verse 3 which says;
Leviticus 16:3 (The Scriptures)
3 “With this Aharon should come into the Set-apart Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.
Aaron, as long as he followed that process described prior to v 29 could enter the Holy of Holies. He just had to treat entering with the same level of sanctity of Yom Kippur, but he could do so at any time if he followed the service described from verse 3 to 29 which was then later attributed to Yom Kippur (with all the other sacrifices) and given to subsequent High Priests.
For this reason the midrash says;
Rabbah Exodus 38:10
‘Aaron would enter the Holy of Holies at any time…if not for all the merits that came with him he could not do so…’
What then, made Aaron so special?
Well, the sages take a closer look at verse 3 which again says;
Leviticus 16:3 (The Scriptures)
3 “With this Aharon should come into the Set-apart Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.
In the Hebrew the verse starts with ‘b’zot’. ‘Zot’, meaning this, but in the feminine form.
In Hebrew the way one says ‘this’ changes based on the gender of the object being described. So if you’re describing something that is femine you would say ‘zot’, if it’s masculine though, it becomes ‘ze’. But ‘zot’ and ‘ze’ both translate to English as ‘this’.
On the literal level ‘this’ is referring to the subsequent service that is then described. What the sages say though is that ‘zot’, which is feminine, is equivalent to the shekinah, the ‘holy spirit’ which is also feminine.
Of note the following word after ‘this’ is ‘Aaron’ which is obviously masculine. So ‘this’, at the start of the verse, should really be ‘ze’, rather than ‘zot’. For some reason the Torah has chosen to describe ‘this’ in the feminine which is perhaps why the sages suggest that it is referring to the Holy Spirit which is also feminine (but this point is just mine so maybe I’m wrong, regardless, the sages make the connection with the Shekinah).
Thus one of the things making Aaron so special they say is that he came to the Holy of Holies filled with the Holy Spirit. The sages say of Aaron that he was so aligned with God that he was like a walking tabernacle himself (ring any bells?).
The verse than goes on to describe the bull and the ram which Aaron must bring as an offering. The sages say these are selected from the Numbers 29 additional Yom Kippur sacrifices as mentioned before.
I’ve heard it said that the ram here is connected to the ram that was sacrificed at the binding of Isaac, that it’s at least symbolic of that sacrifice. So I’ve heard it said that not only was Aaron special because he was filled with the Holy Spirit, but that he entered the Holy of Holies in the merit of Isaac and the sacrifice that was made in his place, hence why the midrash quoted above says that Aaron could enter ‘if not for all the merits that came with him’.
Aaron was able to enter the Holy of Holies in the merit of the one, Isaac, who conquered death.
Clearly we are speaking of Messiah. That one specific High Priest who sits above any other priest that has ever existed. The one who is filled with the Holy Spirit, who became a living tabernacle and who through the merit of His sacrifice and substitution (i.e. like the binding of Isaac) was able to enter on our behalf and atone for our sins, the one who is so close to the Father that he may enter on any day.
Verse 17 says;
‘And there shall be no man in the Tent of Meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place’
This verse literally says in the Hebrew that ‘there was no man there’. It is not suggesting that there was no man with Aaron inside the Holy Place, but that when Aaron entered the Holy Place, that there was no man there (including Aaron!).
They say that the High Priest at this time was so enveloped in the Holy Spirit that he would cease to be physical. I would suggest, as I’m sure many have done before, that Aaron ceased to be physical because in essence he entered the true Holy of Holies, in the temple above. I say this keeping in mind that the Holy of Holies is symbolic of the heart of God and that the Holy of Holies is representative of the World to Come (heaven in Christian talk) whereas the Holy Place is symbolic of this world, the age where flesh and bone exist and work, and whereas the work of the heart of God is work of the Spirit. So the Holy of Holies intrinsically represents the spirit and the future redemption.
This idea of leaving the physical when entering the Holy of Holies is found in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 9:11–12 (The Scriptures)
11 But Messiah, having become a High Priest of the coming good matters, through the greater and more perfect Tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation,
12 entered into the Most Set-apart Place once for all….
It is also interesting because, as I’ve said, the service of Leviticus 16 is directed just to Aaron (by name), but when it comes to describing the parts of the service inside the Holy of Holies (verses 13 – 20), no name is mentioned, just ‘he’. So, where Aaron ceased to exist, the Scripture ceases to refer to Aaron by name, just an anonymous ‘he’.
Yet verse 17 indicates that ‘no man’ is present in the Holy of Holies but this ‘he’ is atoning for all of Israel. Yes, on the literal level the High Priest is in there performing the service, but clearly this also speaks of Messiah who is more than just man, and who entered the tabernacle not of this world.
Hebrews 9:24 (The Scriptures)
24 For Messiah has not entered into a Set-apart Place made by hand—figures of the true—but into the heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of Elohim on our behalf…
Truly, nothing is new in the ‘New Testament’, including these profound truths regarding the Messiah.
Despite these amazing images and ‘shadows’ that we are now seeing, the ultimate point eludes me as to why all these things are here. Perhaps it is to just teach that the next ‘first’ High Priest, like Aaron, would be particularly special and capable of things that no other priest could achieve. Perhaps these things exist simply to teach us of Messiah.
This whole process though reminds me of prayer. Especially, as we are able to access our Father through Yeshua our High Priest, through prayer, for in the true temple He presents the prayers of Israel and the sacrifices of the righteous, including the ultimate sacrifice of Messiah above.
We also have those 2 things that Aaron had. We have the Holy Spirit, and we have the merit of Isaac, the sacrifice of Messiah who died in our place.
Prayer is essentially our vehicle to do this. It’s a time where even today we can ‘disappear’ and leave the physical behind as we access and commune with our Father. To truly be alone with God is to leave the physical world behind. When we come before our Father we may do well to, like Aaron, treat it with a similar level of sanctity to Yom Kippur.
We must also not forget that the Holy of Holies represents the heart of God. Remember the tabernacle is a picture of a body, the Holy of Holies and the ark being the heart of that body. True communicating with God then is to be ‘heart to heart’.
This in turn connects and teaches us that our lifestyle must be in line with God’s in order to truly connect with Him and transcend our sinful physical nature.
How I make this connection is that within the Ark of the Covenant, the heart, lay the commandments; and because Moses himself says of the Torah;
Deuteronomy 30:14 (The Scriptures)
14 “For the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart—to do it.
So if you’re not hearing from God then perhaps you need to change your heart by changing your ways and walking in the light of God’s commandments, His Torah.
If we do not walk in His ways then we cannot transcend the physical things and we cannot ‘disappear’ in that same way that Aaron did when he entered and was truly alone with God.
Without the right heart God will be distant. Unclean and abominable things are not able to enter the Holy Place so the importance of Torah, in how you are to live and how we are to separate from un-Godly things is vital.
Unfortunately, at least for my generation at large, it’s sad to say but we have given our hearts away. We are embedded in the physical lifestyle of this world.
The Torah repeatedly states;
Leviticus 18:3 (The Scriptures)
3 ‘Do not do as they do in the land of Mitsrayim, where you dwelt. And do not do as they do in the land of Kena‘an, where I am bringing you, and do not walk in their laws.
In chapter 18 we are given laws pertaining to sexual immoral things which we are to abstain of.
Analysis of these laws is quite fascinating but if I were to summarise, it would be to simply teach that if it isn’t within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman then it isn’t a happening thing.
I want to focus on Leviticus 18 for now as it relates so much to the heart and our connection to YHWH.
Deuteronomy 23 also discusses sexual immorality;
Deuteronomy 23:17–18 (The Scriptures)
17 “None of the daughters of Yisra’ěl is to be a cult prostitute, nor any of the sons of Yisra’ěl be a cult prostitute.
18 “Do not bring the gift of a whore or the pay of a dog to the House of יהוה your Elohim for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to יהוה your Elohim.
If you ever want to know how sexual immorality is viewed, then to be honest, these verses sum it up nicely.
It’s particularly harsh because what the verse does is that it likens the daughter of Israel to a ‘whore’ and the male prostitute to a ‘dog’.
We may read this verse and think its referring specifically to ‘cult prostitution’ but that would be a mistake. The world ‘cult’ or ‘ritual’ do not actually appear in the verses. What it really says is that there shall be no prostitute, or sexually promiscuous one, among the daughters and sons of Israel, and to not bring their offerings to the Tabernacle. (‘Offerings’, for you and I can be likened to prayer, meaning, on a level, do not even bring their prayers to God). The word for prostitute here, which varies in the English as ‘harlot’ or ‘perverted one’ is fascinating in the Hebrew.
In verse 17 it’s really ‘q’desha’ and ‘q’desh’.
That should sound familiar because it’s related to the word for holy and what this word specifically means is ‘set apart one’ or someone ‘devoted’.
(These are not the usual words for prostitute in Hebrew which is ‘zana’ which appears in verse 18.)
Why that’s profound is that it teaches us that people that participate in sexual promiscuity are set apart and devoted to something else, they say they are set apart for foreign gods and foreign worship, which is why people translate this as cult prostitution, whereas in reality, sexual promiscuity, if done in the worship of a pagan deity or not, doesn’t matter; it remains a grave sin.
We can see this further for the son’s of Israel who participate in sexual immorality and who are likened to dogs.
Dog is the word ‘chelev’ (which yes is the name ‘Caleb’).
In the Hebrew it is ‘chuf’, ‘lamed’ and ‘veit’.
It is also a combination of two words;
‘ko’ (which is just the quf) and ‘lev’ which is lamed veit.
‘Ko lev’ (which when put together becomes ‘chelev meaning dog) translates as the phrase ‘with all its heart’. When one applies this to a dog it’s quite a nice picture. Dog are mans best friends because they love ‘with all their heart’.
Why this bodes poorly for the sons of Israel though is that it teaches us that when one participates in sexual immorality that they are giving away their heart; giving it away to the desires of the flesh and giving it away to impurity.
I say all this because how one lives impacts on your connection with God.
How can you connect with God when you don’t have a heart?
Do you observe Torah, do you set time apart to be truly alone with God and enter into intimacy with Him; do you have your heart intact and pure when you approach his throne? Or have you given away your heart and reduced your life to the simple desires of the flesh like an animal that can’t control itself. We cannot ‘disappear’ as Aaron did if we behave like a dog.
This doesn’t just relate to sexual immorality, I’ve made connection here because of the content of the portion, but it relates to everything in our life and whether or not we choose to put life, that is to put God’s ways, within our heart, or whether or not we choose to give our hearts away in sin; and quite literally live life as if we are dead.
How can you live without your heart?
Living in the physical, following the ways of Egypt is a life of death and if that’s what you’re choosing, then don’t wonder when God isn’t responding to you and when you’re unable to draw near to His presence.
The heart is not a physical organ; it is spiritual, and something that can be given away. People that are living in sin thinking that they are alive are deceived. The Bible literally (as with tzara’at, leprosy) describes people who sin as dead people. So sin is the cause of death, and Gods ways are life. If we wish to connect with His heart, then we need his life pumping through us with a heart that is full of His ways, and His spirit.
Sadly, many of us have given our hearts away.
Do not fret; the gross nature of sin should fill us with wonder at the mercy and love of YHWH, and fill us with love for The One who can enter into the Holy of Holies on our behalf. But just because you’ve here as a sinner doesn’t mean that the verses of Leviticus 18:4 – 5 don’t also apply to you (or the rest of the good news for that matter).
Leviticus 18:4–5 (The Scriptures)
4 ‘Do My right-rulings and guard My laws, to walk in them. I am יהוה your Elohim.
5 ‘And you shall guard My laws and My right-rulings, which a man does and lives by them. I am יהוה.
Returning to God restores life, His are the ways in which we live.
But allow me to expound this verse further.
Verse 5 says ‘which a man does and lives by them’. Rather than ‘ish’, which is the common word for ‘man, the verse says ‘adam’, which yes means ‘man’ or ‘mankind’, but it’s absolutely a remez (connection) to Adam, the first man of creation and to the second Adam, Messiah.
Rather than ‘a man’, the verse literally says ‘ha adam’, meaning, ‘the man’, as in the singular/specific man (Adam). The verse then is only speaking of one particular ‘Adam’ (man).
‘Ha Adam’ has long been understood as a reference to The Messiah due to its clear relationship with Adam and the ‘heavenly Adam’ which is Messiah found in the book of Ezekiel.
The word ‘lives’, as in the part of the verse ‘lives by them’ is ‘chai’.
Chai means ‘life’ and in this form translated as ‘to live’. It also means ‘to be alive, keep alive, to revive, to recover, and to return to life’, i.e. – resurrection.
The verse therefore, which is the key to those without heart can be understood as;
'Do my right rulings and guard my laws, to walk in them. I am YHWH your Elohim. And you shall guard my laws and my right rulings which The Messiah does; be resurrected by them. I am YHWH your Elohim.'
Perhaps then Aaron, that special High Priest, who entered the Holy of Holies and ceased to exist, emerging alive is then a picture of Messiah, the Resurrected One, Our Master and King who brought us life. So take heart, and live.
Ezekiel 16:5–6 (The Scriptures)
5 “No eye felt sorry for you, to do any of these for you, to have compassion on you. But you were thrown out into the open field, to the loathing of your life on the day you were born.
6 “Then I passed by you and saw you trampled down in your own blood, and I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ And I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’