At the beginning of the parasha, the service of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) on Yom Kippur is described. He would draw lots over two goats to decide which one would be ‘For G‑d’, that is, brought as a sacrifice in the Holy Temple, and which one would be sent ‘To Azazel’ (the name of a steep cliff from which the goat would be thrown), both thus atoning for the sins of the nation of Israel.

This holiest of days is known...also as Yom Kippurim, a ‘Day like Purim'...

This holiest of days is known alternatively as ‘Yom Kippur’, literally ‘the Day of Atonement’ and also as Yom Kippurim, a ‘Day like Purim (lit. lots)’, referring to the lots drawn over the two goats. According to the holy Zohar, the goat which was designated to Azazel, was given for the purpose of appeasing the Sitra Achra (literally, ‘the Other Side’; a Kabbalistic term for the forces of impurity), so as to prevent it from interfering with the holiness of the day. This is significant for the following reasons:

The drawing down of the lights of chochma is accomplished specifically through a great desire to receive, the aspect of the left side [of the sefirot, the side of judgment, with whose harsher aspects the Sitra Achra is associated]. Since the nature of holiness is the desire to give and to emanate, this corresponds to the goat which is designated ‘for Hashem'.

However, it is known that the drawing down of these lights is only possible if there are great vessels to receive them. Therefore, in order to receive them in Holiness, after the great lights are drawn down they are received by way of the middle line [of the sefirot], which enclothes these lights in the chassadim of the right side. Thus, the Sitra Achra’s role is to just draw down the light, but not to make use of it, except by way of chessed, the aspect of giving and emanating.

The Sitra Achra also benefits from the receiving of these lights, but this benefit causes it great harshness (din) since they are not using the lights according to the way of holiness. Instead of using the lights for positive things, such a revelation of these lights causes destruction and harm in the world.

Similarly, it is impossible for a person to say that he does not want any personal benefit, but that it all should be for the sake of Heaven. This is not in the ability of man since the essential nature of man is the desire to receive.

This is what is written in the following parasha, Kedoshim: "Be holy, since I, G‑d, am Holy." Rashi says, "One might ask if ‘I will be like G‑d?’ Therefore it says, ‘I am G‑d,’ that My Holiness is above your holiness." This means that only the Creator can not have the desire to receive for Himself and that He exclusively gives. However, a created being must also benefit, which means to receive what is necessary to eat, drink and sleep for him to be able to serve G‑d.

A person cannot be only a giver without receiving anything for himself...

The same applies to learning Torah. It is permissible and even desirable for one to enjoy learning, for this gives one more motivation to learn. This is the meaning of "One might ask if ‘I will be like G‑d?’" A person cannot be only a giver without receiving anything for himself; only G‑d can do this. What we receive is the portion that we give to the Sitra Achra, which is within all people; otherwise, holiness could not continue to exist. This is the meaning of "Be holy:" give to others from what you have received beyond what is necessary for yourself, for this is the appropriate way for a created being to express its G‑d-given holiness.

Delivered orally; translated by David Devor from his notes and extensively edited by staff.

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