Vechol adam lo yiyeh be’ohel moed bevo’o lechapeir bakodesh ad tzeiso. “And any person will not be in the Tent of Meeting when he comes to cause atonement in the Sanctuary until his going out.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 16:17). When the Kohen Gadol goes into the Holy of Holies to perform the incense service he must be completely alone.
This coming Sabbath we read a double Parshah, Acharei Mos and Kedoshim. The first one tells about the confessional service (from which we get the expression “scapegoat”) and Yom Kippur, the prohibition against eating blood, forbidden relationships, and the holiness of the Land of Israel.
Kedoshim tells about a range of mitzvahs including gifts to the poor, honest business dealings, loving your fellow as yourself, forbidden mixtures, and the penalties for engaging in forbidden relationships.
Imagine: the Kohen Gadol was the one out of hundreds of thousands of Israelites chosen to perform the atonement service on the holiest day of the year. Undoubtedly people treated him with the utmost respect, perhaps even awe.
Despite being the personification of spirituality and discipline, the Torah tells him no one will be in the Tent of Meeting when he enters it. In order to properly perform the service and connect with G-d on this holiest of days he had to put aside all thoughts of honor. G-d calls on him to act as if no other people exist. By visualizing himself completely alone, he is free from seeking the approval of others.
This is a very important lesson for us. So often we get wrapped up in what other people think of us. Such endless worry or excessive self-consciousness can become debilitating. If, even for a short time, we can imagine a world in which other people do not exist we can free ourselves from this anxiety and enhance our self-respect.
Further, such concerns are illusory. In reality, people do not think about us nearly as often as we think they do. To the extent they are thinking about us it actually makes no real difference in our lives. For people who habitually judge us, in most cases, we cannot get their approval even if we tried.
Better to follow the Torah’s advice. When we feel unduly concerned about our public image, imagine a world devoid of other people and press forward with our spiritual growth, indeed all facets of our lives, free from the need to be honored. In this way, we build a firm foundation for our self-respect.
Question – What dangers do you see in being completely dissociated from public opinion?
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