Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Spoken of in Leviticus 16, this is the traditional day for the Jews where atonement is made for sins of Israel that have caused a ritual impurity or separation from God or their own people or sins committed in ignorance. Nadab and Abihu are mentioned here, perhaps because the presence of their rebellion and death brought a ritual impurity that required ritual renewal.
In ancient Judaism, two goats, a bull, and a ram were to be brought to the tabernacle (or later Temple) courts. The bull would be for a sin offering of the priest and blood would be sprinkled on the “mercy seat” of the ark of the covenant. The ram would be completely burned as a “whole or burnt offering.” The two goats were brought, hands were laid upon them, and one was released into the wilderness as the scapegoat. The Chicago Cubs did not make up this concept, though they continue to practice it! The scapegoat is a misnomer, developed out of the idea of “the goat who escapes” but the word, Azazel, is not that easy to translate. Another example of how it’s been translated is something like “spirit of the wilderness or the edge” The idea is that one goat is for the Lord and the sins of the people and the other carries the sins of the people to the edge, outside the camp.
Jews in America do not sacrifice goats and bulls but practice Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins a period of reflection and repentance and giving of forgiveness for sins against one another, even those committed in ignorance. Yom Kippur is the end of ten days of repentance and various forms of fasting. Honey cakes are baked, candles are lit the night before Yom Kippur to symbolize the hope of the human soul being light in the world. Often, white garments are worn to symbolize forgiveness, purity, atonement. A ram’s horn, or Shofar (same thing blown before Jericho walls fell), is blown to end Yom Kippur and Saturday will be a special Shabbat and feast.
I do not practice these Holy Days but study them and observe them, so if you know of a mistake I’ve made, please point it out, because I want it to be accurate and I’d like to learn more about the Jewish faith and practice that has been the foundation for our Christian faith, the tree into which we are graphed (Rom 9).