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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Achrei Mot

Inside Out Revisited

On the eighth day, the outside turned into inside, whereas, on Yom Kippur, the inside, which is usually off limits to visitors, turns into an outer area, in that it can be selectively approached.
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In our discussion of Parashat Shemini, we presented the Meshech Chuchma’s thesis regarding Nadav and Avihu’s fatal mistake. They understood that on the eighth day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, the holiness extended to the Mishkan’s outer areas, including the outer mizbeach (altar), and so they brought an offering that should have been brought inside. We will now apply that thesis to the yearly Yom Kippur avoda (worship) in the Beit Hamikdash, which is the first topic of our parshiyot. The Torah strongly connects the two, as the introduction to the matter of Yom Kippur mentions both the death of Aharon’s sons and the warning that only Aharon may enter the Kodesh Kodashim (Holy of Holies), only once a year, and in a specific manner.

There are various similarities between Yom Kippur and the fateful eighth day of inauguration. They share the following: a special offering of ketoret (incense), the fact that the Kohen Gadol is very involved, bringing a personal korban and special korbanot on behalf of the nation. Each has an olah and a chatat brought. (Shelamim is not appropriate for a fast day.) The avoda of each of the days, with these offerings, contained a strong element of receiving atonement for the nation and for Aharon and his successors.

Yet in the following aspect, major differences between Yom Kippur and the eighth day of inauguration appear. In the regular avoda of the Mikdash, the place to bring the ketoret is the Kodesh (the Holy) on the golden altar. On the eighth day, the whole Mishkan received a special consecration with Divine Presence, as all became holy. The sanctity emanated from the Kodesh Kodashim, reaching the Kodesh and even the main mizbeach, which was situated in the azara (the courtyard before the Kodesh). Therefore, Nadav and Avihu attempted to bring the ketoret outside, with tragic consequences. On Yom Kippur, the Torah stresses that the ketoret is brought all the way into the Kodesh Kodashim, where it atones and makes spiritual improvements. On this day, the sanctity is actually drawn in, making it appropriate to make such an offering there, but only in the exact manner prescribed, and only by the Kohen Gadol. When done correctly with the help of the day’s holiness, the sanctity extends from the Kodesh Kodashim outward, impacting on things and people. This difference is reflected in the differing nuance of the respective p’sukim. On the eighth day, it says: "for today, I will be seen to you" (Vayikra 9:4). In contrast, on Yom Kippur, it says: "for in the cloud, I will be seen on the kaporet (the covering of the ark)" (ibid. 16:2).

In summary, on the eighth day, the outside turned into inside, whereas, on Yom Kippur, the inside, which is usually off limits to visitors, turns into an outer area, in that it can be selectively approached. We pray that we will soon be exposed to the revelation of the Divine Presence in all different areas of the Mikdash.
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