What I'm Reading Today: Leviticus 16-17
Contained within today's chapters from Leviticus lies the origins of the concept we know today as scapegoat. "When Aaron finishes making atonement for the Holy of Holies, the Tent of Meeting, and the Altar," the passage explains, "he will bring up the live goat, lay both hands on the live goat's head, and confess all the iniquities of the People of Israel, all their acts of rebellion, all their sins. He will put all the sins on the goat's head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready. The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness."
Some folks might listen to this verbiage and say, "What a strange and unusual concept for a primitive people to practice!"
I don't think the concept itself is all that strange and unusual. And I definitely don't think the practice is all that primitive. I say that because here in the United States we have a similar practice in which we engage. The only difference between the way we and the early Israelites engage in the practice is that we don't use a goat – we use our elected officials to serve as our scapegoats.
Every so often, we gather in voting booths; assign blame; and then send the designated scapegoats off into the wilderness in hopes that the act will absolve us collectively of our responsibility for the problems we are facing. We hope the next batch of elected officials will meet our expectations. When they don't, we simply repeat the cycle all over again just 2 years later.
Lost in the process of sending out the goat/elected officials into the wilderness is important soul searching about the ways in which we have contributed to the problems we face.
Today, I would invite us all to examine the circumstances of our lives (and the condition of our world) and ask ourselves, "Are there situations in which I have preferred to identify a single scapegoat on which to heep the blame in order to absolve myself of all responsibility?" If you find such a situation, use that awareness as an opportunity to step in and break the cycle of blaming. See what you can do yourself to restore health and vitality to the systems in which you participate.
Til next time …