Parshat Acharei Mot: Starts With You

Parshat Acharei Mot: Starts With You
Leviticus 16:6

וְהִקְרִ֧יב אַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־פַּ֥ר הַחַטָּ֖את אֲשֶׁר־ל֑וֹ וְכִפֶּ֥ר בַּעֲד֖וֹ וּבְעַ֥ד בֵּיתֽוֹ׃

Aaron is to offer his own bull of sin offering, to make expiation for himself and for his household.

In the detailed Yom Kippur ceremony described in this Torah Portion, it is Aaron’s job to request forgiveness on behalf of the whole people of Israel. Aaron cannot, however, jump right into atoning on behalf of the whole community. He begins instead by asking for forgiveness for himself. The message seems simple: If the nation is going to be better in the coming year, Aaron must lead by example.

However, it goes beyond this. Aaron is not just seeking to build a more just future, but seeks atonement for the past. If Aaron is going to ask God to forgive everyone of the errors they made, Aaron has to believe in the power of forgiveness. To believe that God could forgive the whole community of Israel, Aaron has to believe that he himself is worthy of being forgiven. 

Perhaps we are already aware that real change starts with each one of us. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the popular quote goes. We are reminded that forgiveness starts with us too. We might add another maxim to this popular saying: to truly forgive others, we must learn to forgive ourselves.