After the deaths of his sons Nadab and Abihu.

Aaron said not a word —

Not to his brother Moses,

Nor to his wife, Elisheba,

The mother of Nadab and Abihu,

Nor to his other sons, 

Eleazar and Itamar,

Who worried greatly about him.

Aaron awaited HaShem’s further wrath,

Entertaining fantasies of personal destruction,

Instead he awoke each day,

Astonished  he was still breathing.

Then one day 

Moses whispered  in his brother’s ear:

“You are not to die now.”

Aaron spoke as if for the first time:

“But how am I to live carrying so much guilt?”

“You shall follow HaShem’s commands to the letter,

You will atone for yourself, your family and then your people.

In so doing,

You will be a model of repentance for your people,

So that they can atone.

Aaron followed HaShem’s commands

Sending a goat to Azazel

Sacrificing a bull in purification

Confessing sin,

Making expiation for the priests and for

All the people of the congregation.

And to this very day, the leader of a Jewish community

Models Aaron’s atonement, 

Not by actual animal sacrifice,

But by first reading aloud from the torah,

Each step of Aaron’s repentance

And then by confessing his own sins

As his congregation confesses theirs.

In this way, neither the leader 

Nor the congregation 

Carry their guilt into the indefinite future,

But are instead purified

And forgiven by HaShem.

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