Turning Over a New Leaf? Two Models of Atonement

Parashat Tzav

This week’s parashah concludes with a description of the days of miluim, initiation, the days that focus on the dedication of the sanctuary, and that mark the official inauguration of Aharon and his sons as the priests who will serve in it.  The verses also indicate that these days are charged with atonement.  As a result, these days of miluim — or at least some of the details associated with them — become a model for what other moments and rituals of atonement might look like, including the rituals associated with Yom Kippur and the purification from death effected through the ashes of the red heifer.  What is the place of atonement in an event that marks a new beginning?  What is the effect of associating ritualized, routine atonement (such as that which we do each year on Yom Kippur) with the atonement of a one-time occurrence (such as that of the miluim)? (5777)