“And no man shall be in the Tent of Meeting when he comes to effect atonement in the Holy, until he comes out. And he shall effect atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.” (Leviticus 16:1-17)I think it interesting that one person can atone for the sins of his community. I'm not sure what the benefit of such an action would be. If he or she atoned for me, would I feel less guilty? Would I go to Heaven (which Jews don't quite believe in)? Will they please God on my behalf? Would I feel remorse?
If Aaron atones for my sins, do I still have to do so? Do we believe that God has an extensive data base which keeps track of all this?
I suspect that the act of atonement is one of setting an intention without any expectation of benefit. That is all we can do—saying I'm sorry or expressing gratitude. What the world gives me in return is up for grabs? But if I'm not aware that Aaron has atoned for me, or that Christ died for my sins, would it make any difference in my life?
We learn in Leviticus 16:1 “and they died,” referring to Aaron's two sons who died by improperly making an offering. There are many kinds of death. For a man not to have a son is a type of death. My father's stepfather divorced my dad's mom when it was discovered that she could not have any more children. He needed a son for his pseudo-immortality. Another type of death is to be estranged from community or God. Perhaps these deaths are even more painful than the physical death that we abhor.
Is there a 1:1 correspondence between our actions and what happens to us? It doesn't appear so in the physical realm. But how about the mental realm. How we are treated by others is sometimes more important than our physical lives. That is why some kids who are bullied will take their own lives. They want to be released from a punishment worse than death. Or why more US soldiers die of suicide that in battle. They have died spiritually as they faced the horrors of war. Ending their physical life was the only release.