Rabbi Marc Margolius - The Goats And Us (178.0 Kb)
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Azazel would therefore appear to be the head of the supernatural beings of the desert. He was thus an instance of the elevation of a demon into a deity. Such a development is indeed rare in Hebrew religious history of the Biblical age, but Azazel was really never a national Hebrew god, and his share in the ritual seems to be only the recognition of a local deity. The fact that such a ceremony as that in which he figured was instituted, is not a contravention of Lev. xvii. 7, by which demon-worship was suppressed. For Azazel,... More >>>
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Azazel would therefore appear to be the head of the supernatural beings of the desert. He was thus an instance of the elevation of a demon into a deity. Such a development is indeed rare in Hebrew religious history of the Biblical age, but Azazel was really never a national Hebrew god, and his share in the ritual seems to be only the recognition of a local deity. The fact that such a ceremony as that in which he figured was instituted, is not a contravention of Lev. xvii. 7, by which demon-worship was suppressed.
For Azazel, in this instance, played a merely passive part. Moreover, as shown, the symbolical act was really a renunciation of his authority. Such is the signification of the utter separation of the scapegoat from the people of Israel. This interpretation is borne out by the fact that the complete ceremony could not be literally fulfilled in the settled life of Canaan, but only in the wilderness. Hence it was the practise in Jerusalem, according to Yoma vii. 4, to take the scapegoat to a cliff and push him over it out of sight. In this way the complete separation was effected.
The goat designated for God (ha-seir la-Adonai) is sacrificed as a sin-offering, its blood used to purify the communal shrine from the community's sins. The goat designated for Azazel (ha-seir la-Azazel), Aaron is told to lay his hands upon it's head and to confess over it all of the community's transgressions, symbolically transferring that guilt to the goat. Then the goat is set free in the wilderness, to carry all of the transgressions to the wilderness. This second goat, of course, is the famous scapegoat, the vicarious bearer of society's sins. (Rabbi Marc Margolius)
Rabbi Marc Margolius has been spiritual leader of West End Synagogue since 2010. He also currently directs alumni programs for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, a center for the cultivation of Jewish contemplative practices among rabbis, cantors, educators and lay leaders.
Rabbi Margolius previously conceived and directed for five years the Legacy Heritage Innovation Project, an initiative supporting systemic educational transformation in congregations across North America, Europe and Israel, and served as Director of Jewish Life and Identity for the Jewish Community Centers of Philadelphia.
As spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania from 1989-2003, Rabbi Margolius helped develop a national model of the synagogue as a Shabbat-centered community constructed around intergenerational learning. He served as adjunct faculty at the Center for Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania, and his work has been published twice in Sh'ma's annual anthology of outstanding High Holiday sermons.
Ordained in 1989 at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbi Margolius graduated from Yale College and Yale Law School. He has long been active in interfaith matters and social justice issues. As a legal services attorney, he specialized in civil rights and poverty law, and served as staff attorney for the Commission on Law and Social Action of the American Jewish Congress, Pennsylvania Region.
Rabbi Margolius lives in Manhattan with his wife, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen; he is the proud father of Max, Sam, Galia, Meital and Ziv. Though born in Brooklyn and raised in Westchester, New York, he is a dyed-in-the-wool Philadelphia sports fan.