Torah Pearls #29 – Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30)

Torah Pearls Acharei Mot, Leviticus 16:1-18:30, Nehemia Gordon, Torah portion, Torah Pearls, Day of Atonement, goat, Yom Kippur War, Temple Mount, PopeIn this episode of The Original Torah Pearls, Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30), we center in on the Day of Atonement and discuss the two goats and what they represent. Listen in as Nehemia recounts the miracle of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Also, Keith tells of his recent adventures beneath and upon the Temple Mount, plus a bonus story about his meeting with the Pope.

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Torah Pearls #29 - Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30)

You are listening to The Original Torah Pearls with Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson, and Jono Vandor. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at

Jono: G'day wherever you may be around the world, it is good to have your company. It is time for Pearls from the Torah Portion with Keith Johnson and Nehemia Gordon. G’day, fellows!

Nehemia: Hey, g'day, it’s great to be here talking to you from Jerusalem. And I’m doing a shout-out to Judy B., who listens but doesn’t have Facebook. Thank you for the grapefruit, Judy.

Jono: You got a grapefruit? Okay. It’s time for the Pearls from the Torah Portion. Hey, we’re in, I can’t ever pronounce this.

Nehemia: Acharei Mot.

Jono: Acharei Mot, thank you.

Keith: Acharei Mot.

Jono: Leviticus 16:1 to 18:30, and it begins like this. Are you ready? Hey, so this is Yom Kippur, this is the Day of Atonement. “Now Yehovah spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron,” now, that was unfortunate, “when they offered profane fire before Yehovah, and died.” Now, before I go on, Nehemia, this is one of those cases where we’ve talked about a whole bunch of other stuff and we’ve just sort of digressed, something that happened a little while ago. What happened was the two sons of Aaron approached with profane fire, or strange fire, and they were consumed by Yehovah; they were burnt up.

Nehemia: And it’s actually very possible, or I guess not just possible, this apparently is something that was revealed immediately after those events, or it could have been shortly after those events, and these intervening chapters may have just been inserted because that was the topic that was being dealt with. Okay, so here we’re dealing with these issues of priests and purity, and let me throw all that stuff in. Remember how we said, each section of, really, the first 15 or so chapters of Leviticus, starts out with, "This is the Torah of this, and this is the Torah of that," and each of those presumably at one time it was a separate scroll. Like, Leviticus 15 probably was one single scroll, and those may have just been sewn together in that order, because they were topically significant.

Then he comes in here and says, "Okay, this is what Yehovah said after the death of the two sons of Aaron." Why is this being inserted here? Well, that’s because the sacrifice that’s described here, which is the ceremony of the Day of Atonement, part of it is to…what you see in verse 11, it says, “he shall atone for him and for his house.” Basically, up until this point, they haven’t really been given a mechanism for atonement, and when they sin, God lashes out with fire. So now he’s setting up this atonement system, so that, "Okay, you people aren’t just going to be burned up every time, but there’s going to be some kind of system because I know you’re not perfect and I know you sin and I love you and I don’t want to destroy you." And so, God gives us these different mechanisms that we can then use when there’s some genuine repentance, to then get atonement.

Jono: And there it is. And so, his sons died and verse 2, “…and Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron your brother, Do not come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. Thus, Aaron shall come into the Holy Place with the blood of a young bull of a sin offering, and of a ram of a burnt offering. He shall put the holy linen tunic…’” hey, here’s some of those ancient clothes that I like so much. Oh, man.

Keith: Okay, so hold on.

Jono: Yeah?

Keith: Hold on now. So, I want to clarify something very quickly because there’s a translation issue here, I just want to bring up…

Jono: Please.

Keith: …and this is application, actually. So, it says here, “When he died, he approached Yehovah. Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place.’” Now, very quickly, “the most holy place,” we all agree, would be where? Behind the curtain, correct?

Jono: Yeah, sure.

Keith: Okay. Verse 3. “Aaron shall enter the holy place with this.” Now, this is how Aaron is to enter, and in my NIV, my Nearly Inspired Version that most Methodists read, it says, in verse 3, “this is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area.”

Jono: Really?

Nehemia: Oh.

Keith: So, my question is this. I’d like to hear what your version is, and then Nehemia, I would like you also to give a little Torah Pearl here, hint hint. So, Jono, can you give us the Australian version?

Jono: Okay, so verse 3, right?

Keith: Yeah.

Jono: What I’ve got is, “Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place,” Now “place” is in italics so it actually says, “Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy with the blood of a young bull,” well, what I’ve got is “the blood of” in italics as well. So really if you take the italics out, what it says is, “Aaron shall come into the holy with a young bull as a sin offering,” and, I suppose, referring to the blood, “and the ram as a burnt offering.” Nehemia?

Nehemia: Yeah, so you have really three sections, and I think we talked about this. You have the courtyard, the Holy and the Holy of Holies. In the Temple, that becomes then really the same, that’s in the Tabernacle, and the same three sections are essentially transferred, in a form, into the Temple itself.

What it’s talking about here is, he just shouldn’t come to Holy of Holies whenever he wants, and then here’s this process, he starts off in the Holy, does all these sacrifices and then eventually the only way he’s allowed to come into the Holy of Holies is described later on in the chapter. He brings the incense burner, or the burner full of incense, he sticks it inside, behind the curtain, before he actually goes in. Once it fills up with a cloud full of incense, only then is he allowed to go in. What that does is, it prevents him from actually looking upon the Ark of the Covenant, which really no one is supposed to see. He’s essentially standing before the Ark of the Covenant, and all he sees is this cloud of smoke from the incense.

Keith: So, I’d like to bring up a couple of things before we get into the nitty-gritty here.

Jono: Please.

Keith: I’m over here in Israel and I’ve been going to different “holy places.” So, one of the places that I went to on Sunday, which is the high holy day for some denominations, I went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And the reason why I wanted to go on Sunday is I wanted to see worship in action. And if you’ve ever been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on a Sunday, there’s nothing like it. Because when you walk in, you literally have three or four different groups that are doing their Sunday morning worship service. Now, one of them gets to have the most holy place, and can you tell me, Jono, where you think the most holy, the Kodesh HaKodashim is?

Jono: Oh, man.

Keith: Where’s the most holy place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

Jono: You know what, I’ve never been there, but I imagine that if there’s a pulpit that’s got to be it.

Keith: The pulpit? Okay.

Nehemia: No.

Keith: No? Okay, Nehemia. I mean, I don’t know, I have some friends that never walked into a church. I know you’ve been in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, so do you know where the Holy of Holies is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

Nehemia: I would assume, not being a Catholic or Christian of any kind and not really knowing, but I would just assume the holiest place in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the tomb where Jesus was supposedly laid according to the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox and such. Is that right?

Keith: That’s a great assumption. And so, what I wanted to do is, I wanted to see it for myself. So, I went there, and the reason I’m bringing this up is there actually is a connection here, guys, I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus. So, I went on a Sunday morning, I walked in and I decided I wanted to see this, and sure enough, I saw a replication of what Aaron had to do in order to deal with the Day of Atonement. I watched a rehearsal of the Day of Atonement activities in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Nehemia: Really?

Keith: Yes.

Jono: Okay, so I’m confused.

Keith: And let me say, and I have it on video. And I’ve got it on video.

Jono: Wow. Let’s put it on tape. What does it mean, Keith, why were they doing this?

Keith: So, guys, the reason I’m bringing this up is because what I was watching, and this is really the reason I’m bringing it up, what I was watching was an attempt to take Leviticus Chapter 16 and to apply it on a weekly basis with their Holy of Holies. They consider that the Sepulchre itself, where they believe that Jesus was buried, to be on the order of the Holy of Holies. So, what they do is they have their incense, they take their incense, they have the singing, they have all of these things that they do. And one of the biggest things they do is they take these censers, and I was actually taping it and started coughing, I got so close with the smell of the incense in your nose, and they’re singing, and all of this preparation to enter this holy, holy spot. And I was watching this, thinking about what we’re doing, and I got to tell you guys, it’s scary. Because it’s almost like, let’s take some aspects (and, of course, people know this as they’re listening) let’s take some aspects of the parts of the Bible that we think we can replicate, that we can kind of add to. And this happens to be one of them. I mean it really is weird to watch it.

Jono: Wow.

Nehemia: So, what’s the answer? What’s the holiest spot? Was it not the tomb?

Keith: The holiest spot is the very thing you said, the holiest spot is the Sepulchre itself, the actual grave.

Nehemia: Now, having said that, I’ve been told that next to the Sepulchre is this spot, where I believe the Greek Orthodox, that they say is the center of the entire world, and they say that’s the holiest place in the whole world, although maybe not as holy as the tomb, I don’t know.

Keith: And they just don’t…

Nehemia: And the strange thing is there you have…and I’m not making this up…in that room, looking down upon the spot, which they say, the Greek Orthodox Christians say, it’s the center of the world, is this triangle, and in the center of the triangle is the all-seeing eye. And it’s the weirdest thing. It’s just like on the US dollar bill. I don’t know what it’s about, there’s something going on there.

Jono: That is weird.

Keith: So anyway, I guess my only point was, is that I was watching this activity, which is sort of a takeaway from this actual action of Aaron and what the thing is.

Jono: Okay.

Keith: But again, the point being here that the difference between the Holy of Holies and then him saying here, "Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the most holy place, behind the curtain." So, let us discuss this for a little bit, before I bring up the next thing, because I don’t want to take over here, but this is an exciting chapter, for me.

Jono: Okay. Now, were they wearing the holy linen, Keith?

Keith: Oh, absolutely.

Jono: They were wearing the linen? I want some linen like this. “The holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with a linen turban,” you know honestly, I would love to get around in a linen turban. I just think that would be so cool. Anyhow. “These are holy garments. Therefore, he shall wash his body in water, and put them on. And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering. Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and his house.” Now, this is what you were talking about, Nehemia. “He shall take the two goats and present them before Yehovah at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots.” Now, what does it mean to “cast lots”? What, he’s throwing dice? Or what’s he doing?

Nehemia: Well, so the way it’s usually understood is, there are two pieces of parchment and on one of them he’ll write “La Yehovah,” belonging to Yehovah, and on the other he’ll say, “la Azazel,” to Azazel, or belonging to Azazel. He’ll stick them in a box, or something like that, and he picks one out. The first one he puts on the first goat, and the second on the second goat, and that’s how he decides which one will be slaughtered and which one will go to Azazel.

Now, the question is, what is Azazel? And that’s not entirely clear. It’s obviously something to do with the desert. Some say it’s a specific desert, possibly in the area of Gaza, because the Hebrew word for Gaza is “Aza,” and this is Azazel, which you can translate as the Gaza of God. But then others say it’s actually an area which is in the Judean desert, to the northeast of Jerusalem. So, it’s not entirely clear exactly what Azazel is, but it’s obviously some area or location in the desert.

Jono: Keith, I’ve got “scapegoat” here.

Keith: Absolutely, also do I.

Jono: Okay. There we go.

Nehemia: So, doesn’t it say Azazel in yours?

Jono: It doesn’t say Azazel, this is…we’ve got “scapegoat”.

Nehemia: What?

Keith: It’s called scapegoat.

Nehemia: Wait a second, so it says, he sends it to the scapegoat?

Jono: No, no. What I’ve got is…

Keith: No, it’s “a lot for the scapegoat.”

Nehemia: Can you read it in your translation?

Jono: Yeah, “One lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat.”

Nehemia: So, in Hebrew, it says, “one lot for Yehovah and the other for Azazel,” and then, later on, he sends it to Azazel. So, what does it say in verse 10? Read that translation starting in verse 10.

Jono: Okay, it goes on. So, let me go from 9, “Aaron shall bring the goat on which Yehovah’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before Yehovah, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.”

Nehemia: What?

Jono: That’s what I’ve got. Keith, what have you got? Help me out here.

Nehemia: You’re kidding me.

Keith: What do you mean, Nehemia? What it says is…this is why we’re talking about this. It says…

Nehemia: What are you talking about? Leviticus 22, verse 10, “And the goat which came upon the lot for Azazel shall stand live before Yehovah to make atonement upon it, to send it to Azazel,” to the desert. Azazel is a place.

Jono: Okay, all right.

Nehemia: And in Hebrew when you’re really upset with someone, in Modern Hebrew, you say to them, “lech la Azazel,” “go to Azazel.”

Jono: Oh, truly?

Nehemia: Yeah, in Modern Hebrew. But Azazel is a place, either in the Judean desert or in the northwestern Negev. That’s what I was just talking about; it’s one of those places, either near Gaza or more likely in the Judean desert. In any event, you send the goat into Azazel, and the point is, that then the goat goes free and takes away into this remote desert, takes away with it the sin and makes atonement by taking away the sin. Which is really interesting, because the living goat that walks away and survives is the one that carries away the sin, off to Azazel, to the desert.

Jono: Now, Keith, this brings us back to Pekudei, I think, if I remember correctly, Leviticus 5:11, when we were saying, atonement can be made with fine flour. Doesn’t that fly in the face of, you know, we had the discussion about, there is no atonement without the shedding of blood? Now, here’s another example, right? This is another example, isn’t it, Keith?

Keith: Well, I know that we have three different approaches, as far as the translation here, of what we’re calling the scapegoat, the Azazel. But Azazel being a place…so then this idea of scapegoat is a what? What’s the technical term that we’re using here?

Jono: Well, you know…

Keith: Because…is there a name for this particular goat?

Jono: It’s interesting because when we talk about a scapegoat…

Nehemia: The Azazel goat.

Jono: …we’re saying someone is the scapegoat.

Keith: Okay.

Jono: That’s the person that you pick on, that just sort of receives all the flack because…

Keith: Okay, I understand that, but what I’m saying is that in the Scripture here itself, we’re sending it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. That’s what the NAS says, we’re sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat, Leviticus 16:10. And my favorite other version says, “We’re making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat.”

Jono: Okay.

Nehemia: Well, here, let me read you from two other translations. JPS, Jewish Publication Society, has, “while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the LORD, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel.” New Revised Standard Version, which is a Christian translation, has Leviticus 16:10, “but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.”

Jono: There it is.

Nehemia: And in the Hebrew it clearly says Azazel.

Keith: Amazing.

Jono: So, I believe you. You know, what’s interesting...

Keith: This is important, and the reason I think we want to slow down here is because when you and I, Jono, hear the word “scapegoat,” we have an image in our mind. The scapegoat is, this is the focus, the scapegoat is the one that…

Jono: He’s the one that gets in trouble…

Keith: It’s sort of a negative.

Jono: …and takes the heat for everyone else.

Keith: It’s the negative.

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: But actually, in this situation, he doesn’t have such a bad deal.

Jono: No, he gets to live.

Nehemia: He’s the one who gets to live, yeah.

Keith: No, no, I’m saying, he gets to go to Azazel.

Jono: There you go.

Nehemia: He gets to go free in the desert.

Jono: Sure.

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: And look, a goat can live in these deserts for quite a long time, as long as it finds water…

Keith: Okay, and I’m going to keep bringing this up.

Nehemia: …there’s plenty of grazing ground in the desert.

Jono: There it is.

Keith: I’ve sat and talked to the shepherds and I've watched the goats and it’s amazing what they do, they go up and they sit on these rocks and they go and find grass in places where you and I could never. But the point is, the scapegoat, which I’ve always seen as the negative, actually is the one that brings atonement. Is that what you’re saying, Jono?

Jono: That seems to be what it says.

Keith: Well, we better check this because this is important.

Jono: Alright, well, let’s…

Keith: Nehemia, just double-check this now because this is a pearl.

Jono: Shall we go further into it? Because it does sort of unpack it a little bit more if we read on, if we read further. Shall we do that?

Keith: Let’s do that.

Jono: “Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house, and shall kill the bull as the sin offering, which is for himself.” Now, that’s pretty clear. “Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before Yehovah, with his hands full of the sweet incense beaten fine and bring it inside the veil. And he shall put the incense of fire before Yehovah, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the Testimony, lest he die.” As we were talking about before, Nehemia.

“And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. Then he shall kill the goat,” the one that’s been chosen for Yehovah, “kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for…” Now this is what I’ve got, it says, “which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. So, he shall make atonement for the Holy Place.”

Now, I start to get confused here. We are getting to the goat for Azazel, but before we get there, I want to deal with the goat for Yehovah. Nehemia, it says, in verse 15, that “it is for the people,” that’s what I’ve got in my translation, but in 16 it says, “to make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for their sins; and so he shall do.” Now, it says here, “he shall do it for the Tabernacle of Meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.”

Nehemia: Right.

Jono: Verse 17, “There shall be no man in the Tabernacle of Meeting where he goes to make atonement in the Holy Place,” it says now, “until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself,” it says, “and his household, and for all the assembly of Israel.” Verse 18, “That he shall go out to the altar that is before Yehovah and make atonement for it.” Now, which one is it? I get confused when I read those verses.

Nehemia: So really, all of these. Meaning, what’s happening is, the children of Israel, through their sins, are desecrating the Tabernacle, and it’s the job of Aaron and his sons to prevent them from doing so. So, this atonement is really for everybody and all these things. He’s making atonement for the desecration of the Tabernacle by the children of Israel, which should have been prevented by Aaron and his sons. So, all of these really need atonement, all for the same thing, which is that…look, there’s all these rules that we read in Leviticus about, the woman sits in the seat and you touch the seat…

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: …and the toilet seat, and all that.

Jono: Yes.

Nehemia: And not literally, but really the point is that, there are all these rules, and in reality, it’s almost impossible to maintain a perfect state of ritual cleanliness. Really, what you would have to do is, each person coming to the Tabernacle would have to purify himself just before he walked in and wait until sunset. You actually find…I was there just there the other day, two days ago…the southern steps, as you approach the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount leading into the ancient temple, there are all these mikvahs, all these ritual baths. Because practically wherever you’re walking, you’re going to, you know, shake someone’s hand or touch someone, or you’re going to end up becoming ritually unclean. The point is that it’s very difficult to maintain this perfect state of ritual cleanliness, and so Yehovah says, "Okay, I know you’re not going to be able to do it perfectly. Do your best, and there will be this atonement, this general atonement, for everybody and all these things on Yom Kippur."

I think that’s interesting, that this is so important, that Yom Kippur becomes the focus of atonement for the ritual impurity that wasn’t maintained in relation to the Tabernacle.

Jono: Okay, so let me get this straight in my head. Keith, as we mentioned in the last Torah portion, we mentioned the leprosy of the house that Yehovah placed in the house and the priest does this, he does that, to atone for the house. And we made the connection with this section here, saying that perhaps it is because of the person who sins that the leprosy was brought upon the house, and am I right to say that this is because of the sins of Israel within the holy place, the Tabernacle, the altar, and so on and so forth, that this sacrifice is made to atone for those things, because of the sins of Israel, rather than for the sins of Israel? Do you see the difference of what I’m saying?

Keith: In other words, it’s a result; because of the sins, this is what we’re going to do.

Jono: Yeah. Sure.

Keith: Right.

Jono: Okay. So, we’re good, so we’ll keep going. So, this is verse 20, “When he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place,” there it is again, “the Tabernacle of Meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat.” Now, here we are, the scapegoat; right, Keith? “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and their transgressions, concerning their sins, putting them,” the sins, “putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities into an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”

Keith: Wait. So, let me just back up for one second here. And Nehemia, you can just keep your ears closed or go get a drink of water or something on this one, okay? Okay, you go get some water because here’s what the image is. So the image is, and there’s some parallel here, the image is, okay, we’re going to take the sins of the people, we’re going to place them on the goat, we’re then going to have someone that’s going to lead the goat out to Azazel, to the wilderness, and you would think the next thing that would happen is, since all of the sins are placed upon the goat, that this person would then raise their hand and sacrifice this goat.

Jono: Sure. I mean here we are…

Keith: But that doesn’t happen.

Jono: …the sins are placed upon the goat, there is a transference made…

Keith: Okay, so the transference is there, he’s carrying the sins of the people, the community, he’s out into the wilderness, and at this point, we’re expecting for someone to raise a hand and slice its throat or something and spill its blood…

Jono: Yeah, sacrifice it.

Keith: …and then there’s atonement.

Jono: That’s right, but that’s not what happens.

Keith: But something’s missing here.

Jono: Well, that gets sent out into the wilderness. This is what we understand to be called “the scapegoat,” this is the goat for Azazel. Okay.

Keith: Okay.

Jono: Hey, now, listen, the goat has just had…all the sins of the people of Israel have been transferred…I mean I tell you what, if I was that goat, I’d be looking for a counselor quick smart. I’d be moping around in the desert going, “oh, I’m so guilty, I’m so full of shame, I’m the most miserable goat in the world, I’m so bad.” Maybe, not. Okay, moving right along.

Nehemia: I’m so baaaad.

Keith: No, I just think it’s interesting that the parallels only go up to a certain point, and I think this is why we’re slowing down a little bit and looking at Azazel and the issue of scapegoat and the goat being sent. See, for me what happens is, if I read the first section of this from the Day of Atonement, I quickly move to the details of what Aaron has to do, and I’m still thinking about that goat, but I’m not thinking about the application of the goat, I’m not thinking about the practical sides of the goat. I’m thinking that the goat somehow becomes the one that gets slaughtered, but in fact, we find that that’s not what happens.

Jono: Off you go.

Keith: So, by using the word scapegoat, if you’re the scapegoat, then what does that usually mean?

Jono: Well, it usually means that you’re the one that takes the heat for everybody else.

Keith: You take the heat and the punishment falls upon you.

Nehemia: If you think about the word scapegoat, where it comes from, it’s the goat that escapes. It doesn’t get slaughtered.

Keith: Well, there it is.

Jono: Fair enough.

Keith: There it is. No, that’s good. I think it’s worth it to slow down to see that because there’s a sort of, I use the word, sometimes, sleight of hand, but it’s something just transitioned really quickly without actually thinking about what actually happens, and so these are the parallels that take place, at least from my tradition, up to a certain point, and then the parallel drops off.

Jono: So, there it is, the scapegoat.

Nehemia: Well, I imagine there’s got to be someone out there who says, well, the goat for Yehovah, that was Jesus at the crucifixion, and the scapegoat, that’s Jesus at the second coming.

Jono: No, look, I’ve heard that one. I’ve also heard…

Nehemia: Is there not someone who says that?

Jono: No, I’ve heard that one, but I’ve also heard that one was Jesus; one was Barabbas. Keith, have you heard that one?

Keith: Okay, but still, what about the…

Nehemia: Barabbas takes away the sins?

Jono: Well, that’s what they’re saying.

Keith: What are you talking about?

Jono: Well, he’s the one that got set free, right?

Keith: I’m bringing this up from the perspective of sensitivity. Here’s why I’m bringing this up: I’m asking the question, "where do the parallels drop off?" And the parallels definitely drop off here because this goat, and it clearly says, let me just read this, it clearly says, in verse number 10, “This goat is to be presented alive before Yehovah to be used for making atonement.” So, this goat is in the process of making atonement, and it doesn’t die.

Jono: This is the goat that’s used to make atonement and it doesn’t die, yeah.

Nehemia: Can I play the devil’s advocate? Or I guess, the Christian’s advocate as it were, here?

Jono: Go ahead.

Keith: There you go.

Nehemia: Which is that, I think you’re taking this too literally, Keith. Last week I was giving a lecture over at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University, and I was talking about…and Keith was there…I was talking about metaphor and allegory and how some people take it too far. You know, it’ll say, Judah is a lion, and they’ll say, okay, if Judah’s a lion, therefore Judah walks around in the street and poops. The point is, that when you have a metaphor or an allegory, not every characteristic of the thing that it’s being compared to applies to the thing that you’re comparing it to, or the thing that’s being compared, something like that.

Keith: Very nice. Okay, Mr. Advocate.

Nehemia: In other words, you can’t take every single aspect of the lion…

Keith: Okay.

Nehemia: …and say that applies to Judah. The point, when you say Judah’s a lion is, he has some of the attributes of a lion.

Keith: Okay, I’d like to spend a card, Jono. I never do it.

Jono: Keith?

Keith: Since he wants to be sensitive to my background…so tell me then, Nehemia, is this goat atonement or not atonement?

Nehemia: Well, obviously it is; it says it is.

Keith: Okay, so then we shouldn’t bring it, we shouldn’t go that far down the…

Nehemia: You have several different things in this passage that accomplish atonement for different things. So, there’s a bull that Aaron is bringing specifically for his house, and then you’ve got the goat for Yehovah, and then you’ve got the goat for Azazel that’s sent out to Azazel carrying away the sins, and each one of these has some kind of function for atonement.

So, look, if you want to say, "Okay, well this is a symbol of the atonement that will be accomplished according to…" some theology you have…I’m not telling you to do that or not do that, obviously. I’m a Jew; I don’t believe that. But if someone were to do that, I think it would kind of be ridiculous to then come afterward and say to them, “Oh, well, what about this aspect, where they took the innards and they burnt them”? You know, the innards of your guy weren’t burnt. I mean come on! Like, it’s a metaphor, it’s a symbol, and I think you’re taking it a little bit too literally and beating the Christians over the head with it.

Jono: Okay.

Keith: No, no. I’m actually being sensitive here. I’m trying to ask myself the question, where does the parallel go and where does it end?

Jono: Listen, Keith…

Keith: That’s what my question was.

Jono: Another common one that I have heard on a number of occasions is that the goat for Yehovah, from the tradition that I come from, the goat for Yehovah is Jesus, or Yeshua, that the scapegoat, the goat for Azazel, is the devil, Satan. That’s another one that I’ve heard. Listen, there’s any number of parallels.

Nehemia: See, that just gets stupid, because then what? Satan carries away the sins?

Jono: Yeah. What? Satan atones for us? That’s just ridiculous. But it’s not an unusual one to hear, there’s all sorts of different parallels.

Nehemia: Well, look, here’s the takeaway for me, which is, if you want to interpret these things symbolically, first understand what they literally mean.

Keith: That’s what I’ve been saying.

Nehemia: And what I see happen so many times is people end up doing what you call, the tail wagging the dog.

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: What they’ll do is, they’ll decide on what the symbolic meaning is, and then based on the symbolic meaning they’ll start to interpret it literally and say, "Okay, well, this is what it means because it has to fit the symbolism," and they never understand what the basic words mean.

First, understand the literal meaning and then we can talk about the symbolism. The symbolism doesn’t always fit exactly with what you’re trying to compare it to. I mean, it’s just like Judah’s a lion; again, not every aspect of a lion applies to Judah. You know, use your head here.

Jono: Okay.

Keith: So, this is my reason for bringing this up because I do want people to be able to understand it first, and then ask yourself, does there need to be a parallel? See, the reason I love the show, the reason I love what we’re doing, and doing it from the perspectives that we’re doing it, we’re trying to find common ground on what does the Bible mean. I think, at least two of us are, I’m not sure about the third one.

Nehemia: What? Wait, who’s the third one?

Jono: Okay. “And he who released the goat…”

Keith: You two decide. I’m just kidding. No, here’s what I’m trying to say, you guys.

Jono: Okay.

Keith: And I want to say this quickly so we can move on, I just think this is an important one because oftentimes it can be thrown out. It can be thrown out. Here’s what happened here in the first century, here’s what happened in the Temple, and here’s the connection, when in fact, and I can go and give you a thousand examples of this, where the first issue is not “what does it mean,” the first issue is, what do I want it to mean? And what I want it to mean and what it means often are two different things. So that’s why I wanted to struggle through that, I appreciate everyone playing their role, and now we can move on.

Nehemia: So, what I do want to talk about here, because this is a section dedicated to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Hebrew year, I’ve got to talk about something that happened on a Yom Kippur 38 years ago, which is something that really changed the people of Israel forever. What I’m referring to is the Yom Kippur War. It’s actually something that I’ve given a lot of study to, because on October 6th, 1973, Yom Kippur of that year, there was an invasion of Israel, a surprise, sneak attack, by the Syrians and the Egyptians. They actually were backed up by many different countries; there were North Korean fighter jets backing up the Egyptians and attacking Israel. You had elements of the armies of Libya and Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Iraq actually sent a major military force, which by itself was larger than all the Israeli forces in northern Israel. So, it wasn’t just by two countries; they were attacked by numerous Arab and non-Arab countries. It almost meant the end of Israel; I mean, people were literally talking in terms of the second Holocaust. And the way in which they stopped this military attack, this surprise attack, is incredible. It’s a miracle that rivals, in my opinion, anything you have in the Tanakh. I’m going to talk specifically, really quickly, because I know it’s not the subject of the program, but really quickly I want to talk about one particular story…

Jono: Please.

Nehemia: …which is one of the pivotal battles in the northern front against the Syrians. So, the Syrians invaded Israel with 1,400 tanks, which is incredible. I mean, if you read about some of the major tank battles in history, like the Battle of Kursk, it rivals that, it approaches that, and if you include all the armored personnel carriers, some say it was actually larger than the Battle of Kursk.

Israel on its side had 177 tanks. They were outnumbered almost 10-1, and in the main part of the northern front where the main battles took place, they were outnumbered 15-1 at the beginning of the battle. It’s incredible, after four days of fighting, they managed to stop the Syrians and push them back. How this happened is…it blows my mind. So, one of the really exciting things, this key battle was called the Valley of Tears. It was called that because, after the four days of fighting, the Israeli forces looked out into this valley. They were standing with their tanks over the valley, and they saw it full of destroyed Syrian tanks. There were, something on the order of, 260 Syrian tanks, and another 260-or-so armored personnel carriers and other armored vehicles. The numbers are staggering, and this is an area maybe 2-3 miles wide, and it was full of all this destruction. It blows my mind.

One of the amazing things about this is the numbers involved in the story. So, it turns out that the Syrian 7th division invaded Israel on the 7th day of the week, it was a Shabbat, in the 7th Hebrew month. Now, up until now, I’d say, okay, that’s just a coincidence, you know, numbers, whatever, I’m not impressed by numbers. Well, you keep looking at the numbers, and it turns out that the unit that stopped the Syrians in the Valley of Tears was the 77th Battalion of the 7th Israeli Armored Brigade. They fought for about 77 hours, and after about 77 hours Israel was down to only 7 tanks remaining.

Jono: Oh.

Nehemia: They had three on a little hill called “Hermonit,” and another four remaining over on another hill up on the other side of the Valley of Tears called Booster Ridge. The Syrians have hundreds of tanks that are continuing to pour into the Valley of Tears. They haven’t even committed their elite reserves, which are T-62 Soviet tanks that could storm through Israel, and I mean they could have been in Haifa in a couple of hours and cut Israel in half. So, they’re standing there, 7 tanks, and they’re just about out of ammunition, and the radio broadcast, going back and forth between the 7 remaining tanks and the commanders is, "we’re out of ammunition, we want permission to withdraw." They’re begging them, they’re saying, hold on for 10-15 more minutes. Well, finally the four tanks over on Booster Ridge start to hand out hand grenades because they’re out of ammunition; they’ve got no more artillery shells, or shells to fire at the tanks coming at them. One tank over on the other hill is told, stand there. If they see a Jewish tank, they might be afraid and stop; but he’s out of ammunition as well.

Just as they fire their last shells in the 77th battalion, 13 tanks show up under the command of an Israeli tank commander who had been on vacation in Nepal. He took an airplane back through Tehran, the capital of Iran; eventually ends up in Israel, when he hears the war broke out. He has put together 13 tanks, which were damaged in previous battles, and they’re being manned by people who escaped from the hospital in Tzfat.

Jono: Oh, wow.

Nehemia: Because they’ve heard that the second Holocaust is about to descend upon Israel, and they said, look there’s no point in us laying in the hospitals sick, we better go fight. And these 13 tanks show up and they start to fire on the hundreds of Syrian tanks. Well, the Syrians apparently decided that they could never win. They said, wow, if reinforcements showed up and we’ve been fighting for four days, forget this. There’s a fortress down in the middle of the Valley of Tears that the Syrians didn’t even bother to capture; they were going around it to the right and to the left. There’s a guy sitting there with binoculars in the fortress, and he looks out deep into the valley, and he sees a line of Syrian resupply trucks coming towards the Valley of Tears bringing weapons for the Syrians. The line of trucks stops all of a sudden and starts to turn around and go back into Syria. And at that moment, they realized that they had won.

Jono: Oh.

Nehemia: And those 20 remaining tanks now, 7 from the original battle, 13 reinforcements, they start to go down into the valley and chase the Syrians back into Syria. Which is insane, because, I mean, they were basically out of ammunition. They were with wounded men, and there’s hundreds of the enemy, they’re outnumbered, and they’re chasing the enemy back into Syria. Well, why do I mention all this? Because we’re talking about Yom Kippur, and that’s the Yom Kippur miracle in modern times, and I actually wrote about this story in a book.

Jono: I’m glad that you mentioned the book. I know Keith has had the opportunity to read the book, I have had the opportunity to read the book, and I just want to tell everybody, it is awesome, it is just such a great book.

Keith: It’s amazing.

Jono: It’s amazing. Where are we going to pick up? It continues on in, let’s see now, “…statute for…”

Keith: Well, we said it was a lasting ordinance when it actually takes place.

Jono: A lasting ordinance, “For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before Yehovah. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.” And it continues on like that, doesn’t it, in verse 34?

Nehemia: Say forever.

Jono: Say forever.

Keith: Forever.

Jono: “This shall be an everlasting statute for you…”

Nehemia: Say everlasting.

Jono: “…to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year. And he did as Yehovah commanded Moses.” That’s the end of verse 16.

Nehemia: Amen.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: Awesome.

Jono: Seventeen, we continue on. What is in…now my little heading here in my New King James says the Sanctity of Blood. That’s what I’ve got here, Keith, Sanctity of Blood.

Keith: What? What do you mean it says, “The Sanctity of Blood”?

Jono: That’s what it says, it says “The Sanctity of Blood.” That’s the subheading inserted, added into my Bible, Leviticus Chapter 17.

Keith: You’re kidding me.

Jono: That’s what it says.

Keith: Mine says “Eating Blood Forbidden.”

Jono: Oh, okay, very different subheadings.

Keith: Yeah.

Nehemia: I think the key thing in Leviticus 17 is that, we’re first of all not allowed to eat blood; and secondly, what you do with blood is also regulated by the Torah. If you’re bringing a sacrifice, the blood has to be brought to the altar; and if it’s a non-sacrifice, then you need to make sure not to bring it to the altar because people would go and be out, and actually, you see this with modern hunters, where they have all these rituals related to the hunt, when they kill the animal and what they do with the blood. Some of them will actually drink the blood, as shocking as that is. But what it’s saying here is, when you’re out hunting, well, whether it’s a bird or a land animal, then you have to pour the blood on the ground and cover it with dirt. The purpose of that is so that you don’t catch the blood and pour it on an altar. When it is a domesticated land animal, specifically of the three species, bull, goat or sheep, you’re required to, first of all, bring it as a sacrifice; and secondly, pour the blood on the altar. Then he has a statement here which says, and I guess this is the source of your heading, Jono, in yours…

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: …it says in verse 10, “Any man from the house of Israel, from the sojourners among you, who eats blood, I will put,” literally it says, “and I will put my face against that soul who eats the blood and I will cut it off from the midst of its people.” Then it says in verse 11, “For the life,” and literally it says the soul, “For the soul is the flesh, it is the blood, and I’ve given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood with the life, ” or “in the life,” it could literally be translated as well, “it shall make atonement.”

So, the blood here of these animals is to be used for atonement, and when it’s not used for atonement, you need to make sure not to eat it or to pour it on one of these illicit altars. That was one of the issues that they were dealing with, is that people would be out in the middle of nowhere, and they’d say, okay I’m not near the Tabernacle, I’m just going to pour this on this rock over here, because I don’t want to lose the blood, I know the blood has a function for atonement. The point is, the blood must only be brought in the altar, in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple. Any other place where you’re pouring blood is considered forbidden; and not only is it forbidden, it’s actually a pretty big deal.

It says in verse 4, “And to the entrance of the tent of meeting he has not brought it.” Let’s start in verse 3, “Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters a bull or a sheep or a goat in the camp, or he slaughters it outside the camp, and to the entrance of the tent of meeting has not brought it, to bring it as a sacrifice to Yehovah before the Tabernacle of Yehovah, blood shall be reckoned for that man. He has shed blood and that soul shall be cut off from the midst of his people.” So, actually bringing a sacrifice and pouring the blood anywhere but the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and later the Temple, is considered murder. It’s considered spilling blood.

Jono: Oh, wow.

Nehemia: What it’s basically saying here is that, yes, God gives you the permission to slaughter animals, but that blood must be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting as a sacrifice. Now, Deuteronomy 12 has an exception to that, which is, if you’re too far away from the altar, you can then slaughter an animal as a non-sacrifice. But then again, you have to make sure to spill the blood on the ground and not pour it as an atonement, because blood poured anywhere outside of the Tabernacle and the Temple is considered to be murder, according to here, Leviticus 17:4.

Jono: You know what, and Keith, it reminds me of something that I read just recently. I’m just remembering it now, I read an article in the BBC and it was saying, it wants to introduce more traditional meals back into the British cuisine. Now one of those comes from Ireland, and it’s called black pudding. Do you know what black pudding is?

Nehemia: Oh.

Keith: Black pudding, which is blood pudding, isn’t it?

Jono: Blood pudding, but it’s not just any blood pudding; it’s actually the congealed blood of the pig.

Nehemia: Oh.

Keith: Oh, my goodness.

Nehemia: That’s a double whammy.

Jono: That’s a traditional meal over there. It blows my mind. They want to make it more popular than it is, they want to bring it back into traditional cuisine. Anyhow…

Keith: That’s the summary on blood.

Jono: There it is.

Keith: And now, Jono, you get to do chapter 18.

Jono: Alright, chapter 18. “Then Yehovah spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, I am Yehovah your Elohim. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe all My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am Yehovah your Elohim. You shall, therefore, keep My statutes and My judgments, if a man does, he shall live by them,’” Keith, he shall live by them, “I am Yehovah.” I’ll tell you what, that’s…

Keith: Well, I think, what I wanted to say about this, I love these passages in Scripture, they’re like these really clear statements. Regardless of what’s going to come after, or regardless of what was before, these are like these statements, like, you’re going about the Bible and then all of a sudden there’s this statement. And here’s this great statement, he says, “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you.” So, your past, where you used to be, and where I’m bringing you in your future, this is what you must not do. You must obey my Torah and be careful to follow my decrees. “I am Yehovah your God.”

And when I hear those statements that come in the midst, whether it’s Leviticus, or Numbers, or Genesis, or Ezekiel, or wherever it is, it makes me stop and say again, he’s like, "Hey, listen, don’t do what they did, don’t do it the way you used to do it, and where you’re going, don’t do it, do what I want you to do here." And then, of course, we have this section regarding, my subtitle says, “Unlawful Sexual Relations.” What does yours say, Jono?

Jono: I’ve got a subtitle that says, “Laws of Sexual Morality.”

Keith: So, we could go through each one of these, and you could do your normal thing where you could read each one of these verses…

Nehemia: You should actually do that with great detail.

Jono: You want to go through that with a fine-tooth comb.

Keith: Or we could focus on the sandwich, and I want to give you the sandwich, okay? Can I do this?

Jono: Please.

Keith: So, the sandwich. In the midst of the sandwich you have the meat, on the outside you’ve got the bread, sort of the bookends, you know, you’ve got the beginning and you’ve got the end. But what I think is really interesting is what’s being spoken in the beginning, wherein he says, “do not do what they used to do, do not do what they do where I’m taking you. Obey my Torah.” Then he says in verse 24, “‘Do not defile yourself in any of these ways,” what ways? The ways that you just heard, and I think this statement is really amazing, and again, I’m looking at the NIV here; hopefully, there’ll be something in one of you all’s translations that make it even more clear. “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.”

Jono: How about that.

Keith: That’s what it says in my NIV. Nehemia, I also have my Hebrew version here, and I would like for you, if you would be willing, to read that same verse in verse 24, and I actually have an agenda here everybody, so just bear with me; 18:24, and tell the folks what it says.

Nehemia: Okay. You want me to read verse 24 specifically?

Keith: Yes. Verse 24 specifically.

Nehemia: It says, “al titamu bechol ele ki bechol ele nitmehu hagoyim, asher ani meshalech mipnechem,” do not become made unclean with any of these, because with all these, the nations who I’m sending away from before you became unclean.

Keith: Aha, so, how did they…

Nehemia: It could also be translated, they made themselves unclean. Don’t make yourself unclean.

Keith: They made, that’s what I was going to say.

Nehemia: So, in other words, “Do not make yourself unclean with all these, because with all these, the nations that I’m sending away from before you made themselves unclean.” It could be translated as a passive or as a reflexive.

Jono: Sure.

Keith: Okay. So basically, when I read this, I think of the nations, and again, we can go through each of these verses, and I hope that people will read each of these verses, but the point is, this is how they became unclean or defiled themselves.

Jono: Defiled, yeah.

Keith: These are the things that cause them to be defiled, whichever way you want to say it, there were choices that were being made. I always tell my sons this; choice versus chance. And the choices that we make end up being, there’s a manifestation of those choices. So, the choices that they made regarding this aspect, defiling themselves through these unclean ways of sexual relations caused them to be the ones that are being removed from the land. Then all of a sudden, he brings His people there and what do His people do? The same thing. That’s something we can talk about later, but I think that’s the sandwich.

Nehemia: Can I read another passage which, to me, relates to this?

Keith: Yes, please.

Nehemia: Which is Genesis chapter 15, and this is the promise to Abraham. It starts in verse 13, and back then he’s Abram, before he’s Abraham, Avram. “And He said to Avram, ‘surely know that your seed will be a sojourner in a land that is not theirs and they will serve them, and they will afflict them 400 years.’” And in verse 14, “and also the nation that they serve, I will judge, and afterward, they will go out with great property.” And then in verse 15, it says, “And you shall come to your fathers in peace and you shall be buried in an old age.” Verse 16, “And the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not complete until then.” Now, that’s really interesting because here in verse 16 what it’s saying is the Amorite, that is, these nations of the land that we call Canaan, God knows that at some point in the future they’re going to no longer be deserving of living in that land, and he’s going to drive them out.

So, there’s two things; one is, He’s giving the land to Abraham because he’s been faithful and he deserves it, but the people of that land, they also deserve to be driven out. That’s what it’s saying here in Leviticus 18 as well; that these were the sins of the people of this land that He’s driving out. He says, in verse 27, “For all these abominations, the people of the land who were before you did, and the land became unclean. That the land did not spit you out when you defile it as it spit out the nation that was before you.” So, the nation that God drove out and gave us their land, it was because they were sinful and no longer deserved it, and He’s warning us, don’t do it. If you do these sins, you also will be spit out of the land.

Jono: So, what happened to them and it will happen to you.

Nehemia: Exactly. Can I be really controversial here for a minute, and we may have to edit this out?

Jono: Please.

Nehemia: But can I be really controversial…

Jono: Please do it.

Nehemia: …and put Keith on the spot? So, I want to understand, Keith, from the tradition that you come from, the Methodist tradition, the Christian tradition, where the Torah is nailed to the cross and it’s all done away with; how can they look at this passage and say these things don’t apply anymore, when they actually applied before the Torah was even revealed? And I think the reason they applied is that God expects just a certain level of common sense that you don’t commit sexual abominations. He doesn’t have to tell you what they are, you’re supposed to know not to commit sexual abominations. Even if you’re an Amorite or an Egyptian who’s never been commanded these things, you’re going to be held accountable for those things.

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: Whether you received the commandment in the form of a revelation or not. So how does your tradition deal with this?

Keith: Well, first of all, Nehemia, you’re being entirely too hard on the Christians. You’re making a huge assumption, and the assumption is the first words that you said, “How can you read this?” You see, we don’t read it. It’s not being read. We don’t have to read it. This isn’t something that has to be read, and this is why I’m so excited to be on this show. The reason that I love the Torah Pearls, and Jono, you’ve given us this opportunity, is for those who come from my tradition, I can guarantee you, many of them have not read this. So, what we’re really talking about, and I can’t answer it if you say they’ve read it and they’ve made the decision, but for me, for many years, I would never read this. Are you kidding me? Now, we’re reading it and what’s beautiful about it is that this is the Word of Yehovah. This is His word, which he gave to His people; His will, His way, His word. And now, as I’m reading it and other people are going through this Torah Pearl section with us, they’re reading it, and now, they’re getting to ask the question: what does this mean for me? And truthfully, the sad thing is, and I know you were giving me an opportunity to say this, the sad thing is that it’s not often read and certainly it’s not often applied.

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: So that would be my answer. Ask me that next year after people have read it, and they say, "Okay, so what does this mean for me?" And I think that the Word of God is the Word of God, it’s still good for us today. That’s my approach, and I’m sticking to it.

Jono: Amen. I think we’ve concluded the Torah portion. Let me finish with this one. Now, but you know what, we’re going to end with a prayer from Psalm 119, verse 18, but before we get there, this is just the final verse of this Torah portion, verse 30. “Therefore, you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am Yehovah your Elohim.”

Nehemia: Come on with that.

Jono: There it is.

Keith: I know I said I was going to get a chance to say something. I know we have at least a few minutes left, I have to say this.

Jono: Yeah, Keith, please.

Keith: I’m over in the Land, and one of the things that I wanted to do this time that I didn’t do last time is I wanted to go to the Temple Mount. And going to the Temple Mount this time was so completely different. In 1987, I came here on a Christian tour and at that point, the Temple Mount was open all day. People could go up there, you could walk and see the rock, the Rock of Abraham, etc. I mean it was very open, etc. So, I go up to the Temple Mount. Now before I get there there’s a sign from the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Chief Rabbi says, “For all Jews, it is forbidden to go to this holy spot.” And he gives his explanation, etc. Well, I guess I was okay because I’m not Jewish and I’m not under the authority of the Chief Rabbi. But I went up to the Temple Mount because I wanted to understand what is happening today. And Nehemia, you were talking about what happened and how the people were spit out of the land and then all these things. And there’s a really interesting thing that we’ve done, and I have to thank Nehemia for this; we actually went underneath the Temple, about the first few days that we were here. And Nehemia, I know we don’t have a lot of time, but I just want you to explain to the people, real quickly, what the reasoning is behind the whole idea of going under the Temple and what’s under there. And then I want to say something about what’s above, okay?

Nehemia: Yeah, well, so we went to what’s called the Western Wall Tunnels; and you know, the Western Wall has been visible on the surface for really the last 2,000 years as the last remaining part of the Second Temple. Jews used to come and pray at the Western Wall. It’s even called the Wailing Wall, because when Jews come to it, and I know myself this happens, we’re overcome with emotion and cry often, as the last remnant of the Temple. What they decided to do, after the Eastern half of Jerusalem was liberated in 1967 in the Six Day War, is, they said, let’s see how much more of it is preserved, maybe underground. And they dug underneath houses. There’s an entire neighborhood built up against the Temple Mount, and they dug through people’s basements, below their basements in many instances, and they found the Western Wall continues for another approximately another 500 meters…

Jono: Oh, wow.

Nehemia: …which is about 3/8th of a mile for the Americans. So now you can actually go into the tunnel that goes all along the full length of the Western Wall. What they found was something really amazing, which are these giant stones. One of the stones there is the length of a bus and weighs approximately 600 metric tons; a single stone.

Jono: Oh, goodness.

Nehemia: To the point where archeologists say, we don’t know how they lifted up these stones. But they asked the question, what are the functions of these stones? Why do you need a stone that big? And the answer that some archeologists give is, they say, "Well, the Temple Mount, the wall holding up, essentially, the platform that the Temple Mount was built upon, that’s what actually remains. That this retaining wall, they didn’t use mortar. So, it’s the sheer weight of the stones that hold these foundations together." Essentially what we’re seeing with the 600 metric ton stone is this massive foundation that stabilized the entire system. These massive foundations give the whole thing stability. And it’s really exciting to me to walk through this and see it.

Jono: Incredible. Keith?

Keith: So, I wanted to say, Jono, you know, we’re talking about this issue of the laws and how to approach Yehovah, and cleanliness and all these things, and yet we have this Temple Mount that still exists today. Still today there is a spot where historically, practically, archeologically, we would look and say, "hey, it used to stand over there." So be me for a second; I’m the Methodist, I come to Israel, I’ve been here 4 or 5 times. I come this time and we go beneath the Old City of Jerusalem, underneath the Temple Mount, we see these rocks, we see the foundation of the very thing we’re reading here. The foundation of what we’re reading here exists today. So Nehemia, he’s from the Hebrew University, he makes reservations and he takes us under there, and it’s really a wonderful, powerful experience. However, I couldn’t go to the basement, I couldn’t go to the foundation without also going up to the top. Now, everybody knows this is controversial, I posted this I think two weeks ago, where they had just sent an article out saying, if you’re a Jew or if you’re a Christian, you must not read your Bible, you must not pray, if we see you mumbling on the Temple Mount, you’re going to be immediately removed. You all know about that, right?

Jono: Wow.

Keith: I mean this is…

Nehemia: Just so the people understand that, the reason is that the Temple Mount is today by Israeli law considered to be a Muslim holy site. So, if a Jew or a Christian goes into the Temple Mount, the place where Yehovah placed his name forever, and moves their lips silently, it’s assumed that they’re praying. That’s considered desecration of a Muslim holy site, which is a crime in Israel.

Keith: So, what I did, Jono, and I want to announce it here on Pearls for the Torah, with Nehemia on the phone. And Nehemia told me, he said, "Keith, listen, you don’t want to start an international incident." But I did something really radical, and I don’t know how I’m going to share it, I’ll probably send it to you first.

Nehemia: Jono knows all about that.

Jono: Keith, you didn’t go up there and blow your shofar?

Keith: So, what I did…no, they wouldn’t let me bring my shofar. They confiscated my shofar every time I tried to get to the Temple. In fact, one time they took it and put it in the office, I didn’t know if I’d get it back.

Jono: Oh, wow.

Keith: And the problem is it’s not mine, it’s Nehemia’s, so I was wondering about how I would get it back, and I talked my way out of getting it back. But one of the things that I did is I had a Muslim man take me to the Temple Mount, set up my tripod and proclaim the name Yehovah on the Temple Mount. And I did it twice. And I did it knowing full well that they’re telling me that if we see you moving your mouth, praying, or if we see you reading your Bible, we’re going to remove you. And the reason I said I wanted to do it is to declare again that Yehovah is God. The earth is His and the fullness thereof.

Nehemia: Amen.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: And I understand the political issues and I understand that you don’t want to be stupid, I understand all of that. But it literally was as if he opened a door and he said, I’m going to take you from the basement down at the very foundations of this place up to the platform, right in front of the golden dome, where they now let just the women go in to that one in the Al-Aqsa mosque with just the men on the other side. They’ve dug out so that they could put how many people, thousands of people could go in and worship there. They’ve done all sorts of archeological changes to the Temple Mount, but they can’t change this one fact: His name is still there. And so, I went there, and I proclaimed his name in front of a Muslim man, and nobody said anything to me.

Jono: You’re kidding. There was no problem whatsoever?

Keith: I’m telling you what happened.

Jono: You’ve got this on video? You videoed this, right?

Keith: Of course, I do, but the point is what we’re talking about here. What we’ve been talking about, the Torah Pearls, look, they said no Christian and no Jew; I’m a Methodist, I couldn’t see it where the Methodists couldn’t do that. Christians and the Jews can’t do it, but the Methodists can do it, so I went to the Temple Mount and I don’t know when I have to get out of Israel I guess before I do it, but I wanted to say on this what’s been powerful for me, and Nehemia, this goes back to what you said, and then I’ll shut up for the rest of the day. What you just said was this, you said, "how can your tradition read this and not apply it?" And my point was simply that we don’t read it. What’s happened for me, Jono, what’s happened for me these last 10 years is to not only read the Bible but to understand how to apply it. And one of the things that I’m understanding more than anything is that what was good then, is good now.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: His word then is His word now.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: And I’m telling you something; I am inspired to be dealing with these kinds of passages because this is talking about approaching the Creator of the universe, and he’s made a way for us to do it.

Jono: Wow. Amen.

Keith: So anyway, I just wanted to tell you that, it was really a powerful experience.

Jono: I can’t wait to see the video.

Keith: Wait until…I don’t know when.

Nehemia: You’re nuts.

Keith: Anyway.

Jono: That’s amazing you weren’t arrested! So Nehemia and Yoel, Nehemia goes to, they both go to the altar of Joshua, but you had to go one up, didn’t you, Keith? You had to go one up.

Keith: I wasn’t one up. I was down in the basement again, and I’m saying, so wait a minute, why can I be in the basement and I can’t be up on top?

Jono: Yeah. I’m looking forward to seeing that. I’m really looking forward to seeing that, and I’m sure there’s only one of the many adventures you’ve had while you were there on this visit in Israel, and I’m looking forward to talking with you about that, and maybe we’ll get the opportunity to go into detail with some of those on air in the not too distant future. But that is the Torah Portions, so thank you for sharing that; that is really exciting. Nehemia, can we pray the prayer? Would you?

Nehemia: Absolutely. And I think considering that Keith is the one who went up to the Temple Mount and proclaimed the name, he’s the one who should pray the prayer.

Jono: There it is, Psalm 119, verse 18.

Keith: Well, I just want to say this. That it is an honor to be doing this, continuing to do this with the Word, because I really believe that the Word is applicable for us, and we do need to constantly ask him to have our eyes opened. I’m going to read it here. Well, let me tell you what. I just feel like praying in the Spirit.

Jono: Please.

Keith: Father, I want to thank You for this opportunity, I want to thank You that our eyes are in many ways closed, but in many ways, You are the one who opens our eyes. And thank You for opening our eyes to see the wonderful things in Your Torah that still apply to us today.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: There is no place where Your eyes are not able to follow us, there is no place that we can hide from You, including where Muslims and others have declared that there’s no room for You, in many ways, and I just pray right now that You would continue to keep our eyes open and our hearts open and our minds open to You and your will, Your way, and Your word that we might be Your people called by Your name. Amen.

Jono: Amen. Amen. Thank you, Keith Johnson and Nehemia Gordon, you’ve been listening to Torah Pearls. Next week we are in Kedoshim, Leviticus 19…

Keith: Kedoshim!

Jono: Kedoshim, Leviticus 19, verse 1, to 20, verse 27. Until then, dear listeners, be blessed and be set apart by the truth of our Father’s word. Shalom.

Keith: Jono, I’ve got to tell you something, all I kept thinking about was Nehemia, and I said, you know, I guess I’ll wait till I get back into the United States to release it. But I did the same thing, I went into St Peter’s Square, they sent the cops over to the obelisk when I was over there, reminding the world that there’s only one Yehovah, and he’s our Father. But the reason I did it was because the Pope, and I don’t even think I told Nehemia this, the Pope told me to do it. Because at the…

Nehemia: What?

Keith: No, I’m telling you.

Nehemia: Did you hear his voice?

Keith: No, listen. I have it on tape. I have the Pope telling me to proclaim Yehovah’s name. Listen to me, so, the Pope comes, and I’ve got my ticket. Jono, I went to the US bishop’s office and I asked for a ticket. I said, look, I’m a Methodist, I need to see the Pope. So, they said usually it’s a 3-month process. But I went to the office and they gave me my golden ticket after they explained to me how the Pope was going to give me forgiveness for my sins, and I have it on tape, where the nun explains to me what he’s going to do for me. No, it’s golden.

So, I get my golden ticket, I go to my seat, I’m on the 7th row, I’m right at the front, and they send the stinking Swiss Guard over there. There’s no Swiss Guard anywhere else, he stands right in front of me. Like, I mean there’s no Swiss Guard, no, I’m telling you what happened. So, he comes by, the Pope finally comes by and the Catholics accosted me so I couldn’t ask him my question.

Jono: Ah!

Keith: So, he’s in his Popemobile…

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: …he gets up there to start talking and he addresses Nehemia and me, and he says this, he says, in the Latin language, he says, “Sanctify God’s name.”

Nehemia: What?

Jono: Well, there you go.

Keith: What are you talking about? He did it. And guess what he did.

Jono: What?

Keith: Outside, in St. Peter’s Square and inside St. Peter’s Basilica there are two witnesses, there’s an inside witness and an outside witness to the name Yehovah. The Pope, as the last thing he said to the people as we’re all waiting, he said, “Sanctify God’s name.” So, I went to the obelisk to sanctify God’s name…

Jono: There it is.

Keith: …and the police came. So, I got angry and I went to leave, and I had Nehemia’s little shofar, and I blew the shofar in St. Peter’s Square because the Pope told me to sanctify God’s name. Why do I say that? Because at the end of his preaching, he said the Lord’s prayer, “Itkadesh shimcha.”

Jono: There it is.

Keith: Sanctify Your name. So I did what he told me to do. Then the police came.

Jono: Oh, wow.

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  • donald murphy says:

    all need to avoid christendom. a false concept in total.

  • anthony waite says:

    Shalom Nehemiah!
    I click to vote and it says, invalid Data. keep up the great work, Yehovah Elohiym commissions you to continue.

  • Nicholas says:

    I think that the interpretation that Barabbas associates with the scapegoat is correct. Barabbas and the scapegoat may symbolize the sinfulness of everyone other than Messiah, so because Messiah was slain we are not slain, and the wilderness may represent this time which we experience on this fallen earth (as opposed to the Age To Come). Therefor the slain goat represents the sinless Messiah and the sins are placed on the other goat which escapes death. Why this is difficult for Christians is because we know Messiah took our sins on Himself, but I simply think that is not the perspective being described when it says our sins are on the scapegoat, rather that scapegoat symbolizes those who actually committed sins.

    It also helps what Nehemia says that symbolism does not necessarily apply in every single detail, so in Christian terms we must “rightly divide the word of God”.

  • Nicholas says:

    At about 48:00 Nehemia asks Keith about those who consider the Torah done away with, in context of the expectation that all people not commit sexual abomination. There is a simple answer, because there is no Christian I know of who says sexual abomination laws are inactive in the New Covenant. Those who disregard Torah still hold to the New Testament which, in itself, is very clear that those who commit sexual sin will not inherit the Kingdom Of God.

    Now, I’m just clarifying, because I understand that Messiah does teach us to keep Torah. Paul says Torah is beautiful, beneficial, spiritual, and true, but that we are not saved via keeping Torah; and he also wrote that we are saved by Grace via Trust In Messiah, unto good works which were before ordained, and it’s obvious that Torah is where those works were ordained; so keeping Torah is the result of Salvation, but not the source of Salvation.

  • Teresa. Henriques says:

    I just want to tell you that I feel delighted with the teachings of you three, as if I were there seating together with you. Thankyou very much. May YEHOVAH bless you for helping people to understand His Word. Big embrace from Bogotá, Colombia. I wish there were Karaites in Bogota. I have been following your teachings, Nehemia, many years ago.☺

  • MARIO says:

    Nehemiah can you please confirm any details about the two goats. Did they have to be twin goats? Same age? Or it does not matter, any two goats would do? Surely there were some qualifications?

    • Joy says:

      My comment has nothing to do with the two goats nor Day of Atonement. There are two more chapters in the portion. Question from CH 17 – were the Hebrews not allowed to eat beef Were beef, lamb and goat meat only for sacrifices, not for food (every day supper)? Question from CH 18 – is “uncover nakedness” a euphemism for sexual intercourse? Need clarification of the meaning, since it was not even read, much less discussed. Thank you. Why was there no place to comment except as reply to another comment? Are you forcing people to facebook?

  • Krisha Hunnicutt says:

    Hmmm…is there a connection with the story of Ishmael and Isaac?

  • Jp says:

    there is actually in the apocrypha book of enoch, a reference to Azazel being the chief angel that fell. if we look at it this way, the devil was given the reign of the cursed world, so this atonement goes to him whom Yehovah now calls satan. i guess we could say that his angelic name was azazel and when he caused the fall his name was changed to Satan (Adversary). this would make this verse make sense

    Lev 16:10 But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before the LORD, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness. (Tanakh-1917)

    of course these books are apocrypha so it is still unconfirmed, just relating the information.

  • Tom Troutman says:

    It occurred to me that, from the perspective of a Christian, Yeshua fullfills the position of both goats in the sacrifice. First, he was led off to be the sin offering, crucified with all of his blood spilled out over the ark of the covenant. Then , resurrected, he went offf to fulfill the atonement. To the Fathers side instead of the desert.
    Thank you all for your work and diligent study!

  • Janice says:

    I call Holy what Yehovah calls Holy, He did not call church of seplecure Holy, neither do I.

  • Janice says:

    Jesus and BarAbbas is a contrast comparison to the Goats, The innocent, Jesus executed, the guilty BarAbbas is set free. Innocent pays the price for the guilty.

  • susan Smith says:

    The book on the Yom Kippur war??? Where does one find that?

  • auntganny says:

    How many times my heart is lifted up in worship to Yehovah when I hear your teachings from the Hebrew Scriptures that are such a beautiful picture of what Yehovah did for us in Yehoshua. The two goats…one of them has his blood spilled for sin, i.e., a picture of the One who suffered death in my place and provides forgiveness; and the second goat, a picture of One taking my sins far away and they are not remembered anymore.
    Two pictures of the work of salvation that my Lord Yehovah in Yehoshua did this for me. Isaiah talks about these things, too. I love these verses about Yehovah Elohim; He is our Savior. There is no other.

    Isa 43:3
    3 For I am Yehovah, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

    Isa 43:10-11
    so that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
    Before me no god was formed,
    nor will there be one after me.
    11 I, even I, am Yehovah,
    and apart from me there is no savior.

    Thank you so much for opening up to me more and more this wonderful Being, the Lord Yehovah, and his great love for mankind, that He was willing to suffer so much for us. I love the pictures in the Tanahk…pictures that Yehovah gave to us to let us know what He was planning to do in accomplishing/finishing forever His great work of redemption! So blessed!

  • Thomas Garza says:

    May I suggest that the ACTS of perversion in Canaan were encouraged with the preoccupation that was provided through rituals, aphrodisiac abuse and drunkenness, en masse. The “culture” wrote the List provided by Moshe and may I suggest that the only thing more perverse than the ACTS of reprobate sexual conduct was the IDOLATRY and forms of worship that fomented such behavior. Sexual perversion was the prevalent symptom of an underlying issue. It would be wise to understand the spiritual environment that was in place to result in such degradation. Why ? May I suggest that the same “environment” is growing, GLOBALLY.

  • Janice says:

    Holy is a legal term, and is only defined by Yehovah, not by men, nor institutions of men outside the Torah. Most is in Leviticus, and can learn from Mishna, as are 10 levels of holiness. Where does Yehovah call a burial site or grave Holy? Where in New Testment is holy used in term of a burial sight. No one person is called Holy in the Tanak, the people of Israel as a whole are called Holy. There is a HOly One of Israel, this is most likely in the Hebrew Holy Echad, no a numeric one. We should not call a person, place thing Holy, which Yehovah does not call.

  • I remember the story about Peters vision…the three times that the vision appeared was the three Gentiles arriving at his door. But, the meaning was one that the Gentiles were to be preached to that God was calling them to Torah. The two goats could be two purposes…sin meant death for the goat on the alter where his blood was spilled and the second goat takes the sins but lives….Yeshua accomplished both.

  • Ged says:

    2 aposotles bothered to quote from book of Enoch where it says a lot about azazel. I know is not Scripture but gives some insight about the `mysterious` azazel

  • daniel says:

    Thanks, Nehemiah. We can’t get too bogged down in symbolism…but my input goes back to my early years in Christian day-school; the scapegoat may or may not live a long life(and left to it’s own devices), or meet some untimely demise (even goats fall off cliffs or fall prey to carnivores), or, like the evil ones, await judgment at a later time. At least it makes one think of the things of YHVH, and ultimately, we’re in His hands.

  • 0sarah2 says:

    Where in the Tanach does it say, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin.”?

    • Petrap says:

      What do you think the sacrifices are for, and who is the Blemish free lamb who gave His life on the High Feast of Pesach? Hag Pesach was practiced for centuries until the Blemish free lamb, who taught and upheld every jot and title of the Torah of His Father, rode into Yerushalayim who gave His life so we may live. As Hebrews we can return to, and live according to Aveenu Shebashamayim ways without the fear of death. We have the Torah of Moshe and the Testimony of Yeshua.

    • Neville Newman says:

      Nowhere. That is actually a slight interpolation of Hebrews 9:22 (the “for sin” part is added).

      However, Leviticus 17:11 comes close.

      • Krisha Hunnicutt says:

        I would like for Nehemiah to involve himself in this particular Q & A. Some interpretations use the words “remission” and “atonement”, indicating there is a separation between man and Jehovah that must be addressed, and a cleansing that requires a blood sacrifice. Perhaps the term “sin” was based on an interpretation from the Hebrew. It will take a Hebrew scholar who also understands the cultural dynamic and the intent behind the sacrificial system and the Hebrew root of the term “sin” so freely used, and that which is required by Jehovah to address “sin”, perhaps without understanding the multiple layers cited in the Tanak. I’m guessing there are fine points here I am missing. I would like some clarity.


    I would like to suggest an interpretation of Azza-Zel to augment what you have all said. It has been suggested that the name ‘El Shadday’ is a proto-Hebrew term. I would like to suggest that Azza-Zel is also a proto-Hebrew or proto-Semitic term of similar origin, possibly related to the biblical Hebrew words `Azzah (fortified place) and Tseil (Shadow). Azza-Zel could mean ‘Fortress of Shadow(s)’. The 2 goats could represent how, after death, the soul is purified by the glory of God. The one goat whose blood is brought into the Temple represents the purified soul returning to God, and the goat sent into the desert represents how one’s sins are removed from the soul in Azza-Zel. Yeshua often spoke of ‘The Outer Darkness’, and I think that was what he called the Azza-Zel – a place where the soul is purified and cleansed of sin before entering into the eternal Presence of God in heaven. The goat being sent into the desert symbolised our sins being sent to Azza-Zel after death (and left there)

  • erin says:

    A few answers to Nehemiah questions I can tell based on why Christians don’t read Torah is churches are telling members, upon my asking them, why they don’t read is due to Jesus/ YSHVH did complete requirements of law! This has been proven false by YHVH to me so I no longer claim Christianity but a child of The Most High of Abraham, Isaac and Yaakov.
    Also I’ve been learning great amount of research facts that the all seeing eye, on money and in historic books (Google, no copyright) a very lengthy trail on illuminati and marxists alongvwith jesuit priests masked symbols for worship to satan.
    Ecen colleges, churches and politics (government affiliations like UN) All have same symbol eye.
    What I’ve learned in time with YHVH is by rereading Tanakh, Brit Hadashah over and over aloud. Prophet messages like Jeremiah state this conspiracy.

    May YHVH aid us all to His pergect plan as we reason together Amein!

    Shalom and blessings to you all and thank you for your openness in every study of TORAH

  • home43garays says:

    Enjoying the different perspectives of you three in these studies. Laughing a little because I guess I didn’t realize how much other Christian denominations throw the OT out with the bath water. My traditional Christian perspective has always included the search for “the truth” about God in all 66. Although admit in my experience not much time spent in Leviticus in general! And feel as though I have been reading the OT with sunglasses on by not having the expertise to explore and apply the full richness of Hebrew context and history (including His Name and its meaning). So Blessed by your studies – thank you!

  • Peggy Pedersen says:

    It seems that for atonement one goat is killed, and the sins are sent away on the other which recalls the statement in the Psalms 103:12 “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west”.

  • Christiner says:

    Your discussion about the scape goat was inconclusive. Here is my take on the matter. Sin is transferred from Israel and put on the live scape goat which is taken away from the congregation to the desert. It bares sin and is taken to a hostile environment which mostly will result in its death. Why couldn’t this represent satan? Sin originated with him. He is responsible and he is led away from a sinless camp to the desert where he dies.

    • Evelin Carr says:

      Does Satan really dies in the desert? Not according to Revelation. But also if your interested to learn more about the person Satan then check out Dr. Miryam Brand “Understanding Sin and Evil”. It’s very eye opening. It paints a total different picture on teachings that we grew up with.

  • Glenda McIntyre says:

    The episodes are a blessing thank you but the download link on this page for this episode Acharei Mot – Leviticus 16:1-18:30 wrongly downloads a duplicate of the previous episode Metzora – Leviticus 14:1-15:33

  • Nicholas Mansfield says:

    It was something like a couple of months ago now when I was first reading “Shattering The Conspiracy…” and was reviewing youtube excerpts of Nehmeia’s work. I encountered his wall here and started to review these too. I watched this clip at night then started reading from my prior place in the book. Nehemia provides a perspective that clashes strongly with Friedman’s “Who Wrote The Bible?” I was reading on from this, to pages 144-5, which raises the 1973 war events, and had to admire YHWH’s hand for the timing of these things. I have experienced YHWH’s hand in my own life/death battles and I cannot deny what I see. God is certainly not dead.