The Two Goats and the Lottery Box

There in the eastern sector of the court, to the north of the altar, stand two goats in preparation for the lottery:

"And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering... and he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the Tent of Meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for Azazel... " (Lev. 16)

A wooden lottery box was kept there as well, and within it were the two lots, in accordance with the verses above. This box was just large enough to hold the two lots, and for the priest to put both his hands inside. On one lot the two Hebrew words meaning "For the Lord" were written, and the other was inscribed with single word "For Azazel."

Azazel is actually the name of a place; it was to this location that the scapegoat was sent. Azazel was a high, rocky precipice in the Judean desert. The goat was sent off this point to its death.

These lots were originally made of wood. This was probably what we know today as boxwood; some have written that a wood resembling mahogany was used. Later, the lots were prepared from gold by the High Priest, Yehoshua ben Gamla, during his term of office. He was praised by the sages for this initiative, which was done to increase the honor of the holy day.



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