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Service of the Kohen Gadol: Incense

The most dangerous part of the service of the Cohen Gadol on Yom Kippur was when he entered the Kodesh Kodashim, the Holy of Holies. The most dangerous of all the times he entered was when he went in to offer the incense. The Torah says, in its literal translation, that he should enter with smoke. It seems to mean that he should place the incense on the coals before entering the Holy of Holies so that he will enter with smoke. The Oral Law teaches that it actually means that he must enter with the coals in a pan in one hand, the incense in the other and only place the incense on the coals after he is inside. The smoke must start after he is inside the Holy of Holies.

The reason that the smoke must begin only after entering is because it represents this level of Teshuva. We are beginning again. The Cohen Gadol does not enter with smoke that already existed. He begins the smoke only after facing God in His holiest place. Teshuva has healed me to the point that I face God and am granted a fresh start. I may have failed in the past. However, I am coming to You and committing myself to beginning again.

I must picture how I would start my life all over again if only granted the opportunity. Yom Kippur, and the healing powers of Teshuva provide me with just that opportunity. It is almost impossible to imagine two people in a relationship being able to start fresh without any of the problems and issues of the past. Yet, God provides us with that gift through the healing powers of Teshuva.

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