Homeward Bound

April 30, 2017 at 8:37 AM , , ,

“…And he will initiate atonement for himself and for his household….” – Vayikra 16:6

וְכִפֶּר בַּעֲדוֹ וּבְעַד בֵּיתוֹ – ויקרא טז, ו

One of the integral components of the Kohen Gadol’s service on Yom Kippur was the bull offering, the blood of which he sprinkled in the Kodesh Hakadashim, the Holy of Holies, to atone “for himself and for his household.” “His household,” explains the Mishna (Yoma 1:1), is a reference to his wife. The Mishna deduces from here that an unmarried Kohen Gadol was not suitable for the Yom Kippur service.

Kohen Gadol’s service

This requirement for the Kohen Gadol be married in order to serve on Yom Kippur stands in stark contrast with Nadav and Avihu, whose deaths are mentioned at the beginning of this parsha, who according to one opinion in the Midrash were punished because they never married, or according to another opinion, because they (consequently) never had children (see Vayikra Rabbah 20:8). As Chassidus explains, the root of Nadav and Avihu’s mistake was that they pursued spiritual ecstasy and rapturous love of G-d, not keeping in mind that G-d’s ultimate desire is for us to sanctify our physical lives, not abandon them. As a result, they neglected the Divine precept of marrying and building a family, opting instead for a more spiritual existence—a choice for which they were ultimately punished. Conversely, the Kohen Gadol must predicate his extraordinary spiritual service on a commitment to G-d’s desire that we fuse our spiritual pursuits with our physical lives. His entry to the Holy of Holies is therefore not in contrast with his family life, it is in fact contingent on it.

The Kohen Gadol’s synthesis of his extraordinary spiritual life with his mundane family life serves as a lesson to us all. Firstly, that our physical lives and our spiritual experiences must not be mutually exclusive; in our moments of spiritual excitement and inspiration—“in the Holy of Holies”—we must plan concretely how we will translate these spiritual highs into enhanced Torah observance in our mundane day-to-day. On the other hand, we must establish our homes and families on a recognition of the value of spiritual aspirations, and constantly seek opportunities for spiritual growth. Accordingly, we must imbue our families with the conviction that an increase in spiritual wealth, such as devoting additional time to prayer and Torah study, is not a cause for financial concern; on the contrary, this will bring us abundance and prosperity in our physical and material lives as well.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 3, pp. 989-993


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