top of page
  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Goat is Falling

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

Masechet Yoma was filled with details about the requirements for the Kohen Gadol, the order of the day, the sacrifice, the service.

I don't always remember all that I learn from Yardaena Osband and Anne Gordon in the daily podcast of Talking Talmud, but I know how difficult it was to learn about the details of the service involving the goat and the cliff. Although it is difficult to learn about the death of an animal, somehow this ceremony hearkens back to the very heart of Yom Kippur, that we are imperfect and honest repentance is vital to who we are.

As with some of the poems that I have been writing, the beginnings of this poem came to me in my sleep. I have always been moved deeply by the Avoda service because it is a choreographed and interactive. During the service I feel that have been placed back in time which results in emotional reactions, especially as we bow and put our heads to the floor during the re-enactment. Having the chance to write this poem gave me the opportunity to process the strong connections between now and this powerful ceremony and contemplate the meaning behind the fate of the goat.

As I wrote I could hear the words of the piece written by Ishai Ribo, Seder Ha'avodah. To listen to this dramatic piece of music, I have included the link under the poem.

I hope that I have done some small bit of justice to the powerful Avoda service through this poem.

And The Goat Falls

And the goat falls.

He is pushed from behind.

A push of necessity,

of command.

And the Kohen is dressed in gold

And he is washed,

and he changes

to white

and he changes again

And he enters and he exits

And he exits and he enters

the Holy space

And hands are placed


on the horns of the goat.

Man and goat connect

for a brief moment.

The goat looks at the heavens.

And sins are transferred.

A thousand sins, a million?

For we are but human,

and so imperfect.

And the goat is falling

and we are falling

in our hearts.

And the goat is broken.

And we have sinned.

As we fall we are searching

the crags

of our

ripped souls

We, too, are falling

We, too, are broken.

We are frightened.

And the thread is scarlet.

We are trying to cling

to a branch,

to a rock.

Our hands are raw.

Our knuckles are white.

White as bone,

White as the clouds above

that Isaac viewed on the altar.

And the goat falls.

We are waiting

We are holding our breaths

Our souls are shaking

like the wind blowing in the desert.

We are falling.

Who shall live and who shall die?

Who shall fall and who shall rise?

And the Kohen enters and exits

Again and again

And the colors change

Blood red

White as snow

Gold and white linen

Washing away sin

Washing away imperfections

And the goat tumbles

And the goat is broken

And we are broken.

We are bowing

We are lowering

ourselves to

the floor below

Our heads pressed against

the floor

We feel the grit

on our foreheads

We are there

with the goat

We are humbled.

We are weeping


For the goat

For his brokenness

For our brokenness

We are tumbling


as we tumble

we search

deep and deeper

Can we find the white in the red?

And the Kohen Gadol

enters the Holy of Holies

He is just a man

dressed in gold

dressed in white

washed and washed again

he stands for us


he waits for God

for answers

We are waiting

Does waiting have a color?

Is it white as snow?

Does it shine like gold?

Or is scarlet like blood of

life and death?

The Kohen enters into the room

Gold and red and whites

all mixed together

a kaleidoscope of three.

The shapes forming pointed

patterns of

good and bad intentions.

Linen and breastplate

cliffs and brokenness

souls and voices

silence and prayers

all echo loudly in the desert

You stand for us

Can you un-break us?

We are searching

We are sorry

We search our minds

we beat our breasts

Our hands fall upon our chests



Can we beat away our sins?

We fall to the ground

We imagine the goat falling


And we are broken

And then there is silence

for a moment

for an eternity

And a voice is heard

Baruch Shaym K'vod Malchuto

A bleat

A cry

And red flows

A a string turns from red to white

A mention of the Holy name


Ana HaShem

From tent to tent

From outpost to outpost

from then to now

and from now until forever

We listen

We wait

We rise up

The Kohen Gadol emerges


We lift our heads from the floor

There are grains of sand on our foreheads

There are pieces of rock

under our nails

The goat has fallen.

Who will live and who will die?

Who will fall and who will rise?

We are rising

We are rising

Baruch Shaym Kvod Malchuto L'olam Va'ed

And the goat is gone

And we are still but human

Shaken to our core

We are here

The goat is gone

The thread is white.

We lift our eyes to the sky

and then

we bend our heads

We close our eyes and we weep

And the day ends

and the Kohen Gadol changes one final time

One more time he washes

He dons his everyday clothes

and returns to his home.

51 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page