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    It all adds up – Acharei Mot

    A major portion of this week’s sidra recurs in the Torah readings on Yom Kippur morning and afternoon since it describes the atonement procedure in the Temple in ancient days.

    A second link with the High Holydays comes with a piece of rabbinic mathematics. The solemn Un’tanneh Tokef concludes with the proclamation of the three principles of atonement – t’shuvah, t’fillah and t’zdakah, penitence, prayer and charity.

    In some Machzorim three other Hebrew words appear in small print above these three principles. The additional words are tzom, kol and mamon – “fasting”, “voice” (i.e. prayer) and “money”. Each of these three words has the same numerical value according to gematria – 136. Three times 136 is 408.

    A rabbinic work entitled Tzemach Tzaddik points to the verse in the sidra, B’zot yavo Aharon el hakodesh – “With this shall Aaron enter the sanctuary” (Lev. 16:3). The numerical value of zot, “this”, is 408.

    The lesson we learn from this calculation is that a high priest, or for that matter a religious leader of any kind, has no automatic claim on God’s favours. Just because a person is a high priest does not of itself dispose the Almighty towards him.

    His acts of office have to be accompanied in his personal life by the appropriate attitudes of humility, reverence for God and blameless living.

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