'ABODAH OF THE DAY OF ATONEMENT:
By: Max Landsberg
An essential part of the Musaf service of that day, based upon the detailed account given in the Mishnah Yoma of the sacrificial service performed by the high priest in the Temple at Jerusalem. The basis for this elaborate function is found in Lev. xvi. Originally this part of the service seems to have consisted only in the recital of the Mishnah treatise, Yoma. Gradually it was further elaborated, and becamethe most solemn and impressive portion of the Atonement service.
The ritual in the order (Maḥzor) most universally used begins with a beautiful prayer for the synagogue reader, followed by a cursory review of the Biblical history from Adam down to Aaron. Then the whole Temple service is minutely described: the preparation of the high priest during seven days preceding the festival, the appointment of a substitute to meet the emergency of the high priest's becoming disqualified, the preparation of the holy vessels, the offering of the regular morning sacrifice, the baths and ablutions of the high priest, and his different changes of garments.
Laying his hands upon the head of a young bullock, his own sin-offering, the high priest made confession for himself in these words:
Description of Temple Service.
"O Lord, I have sinned, I have trespassed, I have done wrong before Thee, I and my house. O Lord, grant atonement for the sins, trespasses, and wrongs which I have committed before Thee, I and my house, as it is written in the Torah of Thy servant Moses, 'For on this day he shall atone for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the Lord'."
He then proceeded to the eastern part of the court, where he found two goats and drew lots for them, selecting one for God and one for Azazel. On the head of the latter he tied a red woolen thread, and then, returning to his bullock, laid his hands upon its head and made the second confession, including therein the children of Aaron, that is, the whole priestly tribe. Then he killed the bullock, received the blood in the sprinkling bowl, and had it stirred lest it should coagulate while he performed the fumigation. He next took burning coals from the altar, put them into a golden censer, and after having provided himself with two handfuls of incense, he entered through the veil into the Holy of Holies. Between the two staves of the ark (or on the stone which took its place) he deposited the censer and cast the incense upon the coals. And when the whole place was filled with a cloud of smoke, he left it and, walking backward, took the blood from the person who had stirred it, entered with it into the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled with the blood once upward and seven times downward, counting the numbers in the prescribed manner. Then he returned, slaughtered the goat, and, with its blood, received in another bowl, sprinkled as before. After having once more sprinkled with the blood of the bullock, he poured the two bowls of blood together and purified the golden altar by putting the mingled blood round the horns, and sprinkling it seven times. Thereupon he went to the living goat and over its head he made confession of the people's sins, inserting in the formula recited before, "Thy people, the house of Israel."
In all the three confessions he pronounced the distinctive name of God (the Shem ha-meforash). And the priests and the people who were in the court, when they heard the holy name of God coming from the high priest's mouth, bent their knees, fell down and worshiped, and exclaimed, "Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forevermore." Then the scape-goat was led away into the wilderness and put to death by being thrown down a rocky precipice. The high priest sacrificed the pieces of the other goat and the bullock, read the lesson of the day from the Scriptures, and put on his gold-embroidered garments. Thereupon he offered up a ram for himself and one for the people, put on his linen garments, and brought the censer from the Holy of Holies. Then he took off his linen garments, which were put away forever, and, clothed in the gold-embroidered garments, offered the daily evening sacrifice and the incense and lighted the candles.
During the long and elaborate service he bathed five times and washed his hands and feet ten times. With joy and exultation he was then accompanied home by his friends, to whom he gave a feast, because he had left the sanctuary unharmed.
The so-called prayer of the high priest after the completion of the service is then recited. Now follows a glowing description—after Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), 46 et seq.—of the beauty of the appearance of the high priest, and those are pronounced happy who had seen all the old glory, while the misfortune is deplored of the living who are deprived of Temple, altar, and priest, and have constantly to submit to new and intolerable sufferings. The service closes in the ancient ritual with ardent prayers for the reestablishment of the pristine conditions and the magnificent ritual. In the reform ritual expression is given to the view of an atonement for mankind by the sacrifice which Israel, as the martyr priest, is destined to bring.