Parshat Acharei Summary

Parshat Acharei (also called Acharei Mot) is the 6th parsha in Sefer Vayikra (also known as Leviticus).

This parsha is verses Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30, or a total of 80 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Parshat Acharei is often combined together with Parshat Kedoshim.

Aliyah 1: Leviticus 16:1 – 16:17, 17 verses

Leviticus Chapter 16 describes in detail the Yom Kippur service in the Tabernacle and the Temple.

As was described in Exodus 26:31-33, the Tent of the Tabernacle was divided into two sections. The inner most section, where the Ark was placed, is called the Holy of Holies.

The High Priest is allowed to enter the Holy of Holies only once a year, only on Yom Kippur.

Several unique offerings are to be brought on Yom Kippur.

One of those offerings are the two male goats. These goats are supposed to be an nearly identical as is possible.

The High Priest draws lots over these goats to designate them for their part in the service. One goat is designated “for God” and the other “for Azazel“.

The goat designated “for God” is brought as a sin offering.

The High Priest brings a sin offering for himself and his household.

He brings coals from the outer altar and incense and brings them into the Holy of Holies.

Blood from the sin offerings is sprinkled inside the Holy of Holies and in front of the curtain placed before the Holy of Holies.

two goats - parshat acharei

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Aliyah 2: Leviticus 16:18 – 16:24, 7 verses

Blood from the sin offerings is placed on the upper corners of the outer altar.

The High Priest stands near the goat “for Azazel” and confesses the sins of the Jewish people on it. The goat is then led out to the desert, as if it were carrying away the sins of the people.

Aliyah 3: Leviticus 16:25 – 16:34, 10 verses

The day of Yom Kippur is to be celebrated every year on the 10th of the seventh month which we call Tishrei. Yom Kippur is similar to the Sabbath and no work is to be done on it.

Also, we are commanded to “afflict” ourselves. According to Jewish tradition, the affliction is to refrain from bathing, anointing with oil, marital relations, wearing leather shoes, and eating and drinking.

Aliyah 4: Leviticus 17:1 – 17:7, 7 verses

Animal offerings are only to be brought in the designated place. When the Tabernacle was in operation, then offerings should only be brought there, not in any other part of the camp.

Aliyah 5: Leviticus 17:8 – 18:5, 14 verses

It is forbidden to eat blood.

When an animal is slaughtered, its blood must be poured out and covered with dirt. This rule applies to kosher birds and to kosher animals that are cannot be brought as offerings. In other words, it does not apply to sheep, goats, or cattle. It does apply, for example, to deer.

God has commanded the Jewish people various decrees and laws. We are to reject the practices of other nations and only observe God’s commandments.

Aliyah 6: Leviticus 18:6 – 18:21, 16 verses

The Torah commands us to refrain from certain sexual relations.

The forbidden relationships come under the general category of what could be called “incest.” In other words, the Torah forbids a sexual relationship between two people related by various family ties.

Verse 19 forbids having relations with a woman who is experiencing her monthly period.

Verse 20 prohibits having relations with a married woman.

Verse 21 prohibits participating in the worship of Molech. We will learn more about Molech in Parshat Kedoshim (Leviticus 20:1 – 6).

Aliyah 7: Leviticus 18:22 – 18:30, 9 verses

A man should not have sexual relations with another man. Neither a man nor a woman should have sexual relations with an animal.

Practicing any of the forbidden sexual relations contaminates the Land of Israel.

Haftarah Summary

Ashkenaic tradition: Amos 9: 7 – 15

The prophet Amos reminds the Jewish people that sin leads to estrangement from God and expulsion from the Land of Israel. However, God will eventually redeem His people and bring them back to the land.

Sephardic tradition: Ezekiel 22:1 – 16, which is the haftarah for Parshat Kedoshim according to Ashkenzic tradition.

The prophet Ezekiel upbraids the residents of Jerusalem for the many sins they are committing, many of which are forbidden in the parsha. He tells them that God is about to scatter them among the nations of the world. Only then will they come to recognize God.

Further Reading

These days, without a Temple, we do not bring animal offerings on Yom Kippur. Here’s an article that discusses the issue of animal offerings in the future 3rd temple.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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