After the deaths of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, God tells Moses to tell Aaron that he cannot freely come into the Holy of Holies – the central and most holy part of the Tabernacle – where Ark of the Covenant was kept. He, and all High Priests that followed him, were allowed to enter this area only once a year, on the 10th day of the seventh month (today we call this Yom Kippur).

This Day of Atonement is a day when all work ceases, and the Israelites are to practice self denial. Aaron, and those that followed, are commanded to make atonement for his and all the Children of Israel’s sins. This ritual involves sacrificing a bull and a goat. A second goat is sent off to the wilderness, after all the people’s sins are confessed over it.

The portion continues with God giving commandments regarding how animals are to be sacrificed. The people are reminded not to consume blood, or eat an animal that has died or been killed by wild beasts.

Acharay Mot ends with rules regarding improper sexual relations, such as incest. The Israelites are commanded not to copy the customs of the Egyptians or Canaanites. They must follow God’s rules. 

Torah Portion in English

1) The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they drew too close to the presence of the Lord. 2) The Lord said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, lest he die; for I appear in the cloud over the cover. 3) Thus only shall Aaron enter the Shrine: with a bull of the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.— 4) He shall be dressed in a sacral linen tunic, with linen breeches next to his flesh, and be girt with a linen sash, and he shall wear a linen turban. They are sacral vestments; he shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.— 5) And from the Israelite community he shall take two he-goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 6) Aaron is to offer his own bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and for his household. 7) Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the Lord at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; 8) and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the Lord and the other marked for Azazel. 9) Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the Lord, which he is to offer as a sin offering.

Getting to Know my Parasha

What Does my Parasha Say?

  1. What is the Holy of Holies?
  2. What is the Ark?
  3. In the shrine that contains the Ark, where will God appear?
  4. What will Aaron be dressed in?
  5. What type of offerings does he make?
  6. When is the only time that the priests can enter the Holy of Holies?
  7. What happens on the Day of Atonement?
  8. What is Aaron doing with the two goats?