Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Yom Kippur"

Lev 16:10, 21 NASU

“But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. “Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness.”

Scapegoating is a useful and incredibly powerful tool for shifting blame and advancing a mission. While unethical and destructive, the practice provides solidarity when a group is struggling for survival. The scapegoat is seen as the reason for everyone’s misfortune and sacrificed at the altar of the greater good by those in a position of power who think they know best. It becomes generally accepted that scapegoats deserve what they get no matter how horrible the punishment. The collective campaign to eliminate a rival, oust a co-worker, or crush a competitor breaths new negative life into the organization. Impassioned by a sense of righteous indignation, witch hunters are blinded by their own propaganda and will rest only after someone burns at the stake.

In the early days of Israel, the High Priest ceremonially imparted the sins of the nation to the scapegoat which annually bore “all their iniquities to a solitary land” (Leviticus 16.22) on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The poor beast was beaten and driven into the wilderness while having its hair plucked out and, according to the Talmud, pushed over the edge of a cliff to its death. This inhumane practice was led by “the hand of a man who stands in readiness.”

When quotas are not met and plans fail, it becomes tempting to find a fall guy. There’s always some eager soul “who stands in readiness” to suggest a scapegoat. We really don’t need scapegoats anymore. Jesus already took the hit for every sin and failure you or I could ever imagine or commit. Jesus is enough. For me, that’s the meaning of Yom Kippur. I can stop blaming others. Jesus is enough.


Cartoon by Chris Allison (www.toonhole.com).


maffy said...

What a fantastic post! When I was in rehab last year, I had this strange experience of being the "scapgoat" among certain patients, and I didn't understand what was happening until someone clarified for me this scapegoating concept.

It was SO strange. I knew that I wasn't doing anything except trying to be helpful to all, but once one person attacked me for something (for showing others some flamenco steps, of all things), there was this gang-up mentality that really enlightened me as to how humans will create negative alliances as a way to connecting with each other, even if that connection is based in anger.

As soon as I toughened up and took a stand for myself, the scapegoating stopped, and I even got some apologies. But what an education that was! I really think that kindness can bring out the evil in people, for some reason, which, when I think about it, is the story of Jesus in a nutshell. He was goodness incarnate and was murdered for it, like so many truly good people in history.

I can't say I'm as good as Jesus, but I do believe my joyousness in such dire circumstances brought out something very very bad in certain folks.

Very thought-provoking...all of it. Thanks for the post!

Dave Scriven said...

Hi Maffy,

What a great insight. You have experienced what it feels like to be a scapegoat. Not too cool, I'll bet. You're right. This truly is the story of Jesus.


Ramone said...

Hi Dave,

Thank you for posting this. The elaboration on the process our hearts go through when "scapegoating" someone is really deep, and true.

What really gets me, though, is the picture of the scapegoat with the arrows in it... it strikes me deep in my gut, because it speaks of Jesus Christ, who took all my accusations, sins, offenses, immoralities, thoughts, judgments, all my unjust and unrighteous arrows. He put Himself in their path and willingly received them all for me.

Thank you for sharing this.

Awhile ago I got a picture of the "scapegoat" and wrote up a lengthy thing about it here:


Bless you in Jesus,

Dave Scriven said...

Thanks Ramone. I will check out your article.