Project Genesis

The Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)

Yom Kippur


Question: What is Azazel?

Answer: Thank you for your excellent question. There are two opinions about the identity of Azazel. One is that it is simply the name of the cliff that the scapegoat sacrifice was tossed from on Yom Kippur. Another opinion is that it is the name of a “fallen angel”, who lives, or was bound, at the end of that cliff. There are Midrashim (homiletical teachings from the Rabbis of the Talmud) that teach that the “Bnei Elokim” or “sons of G-d” mentioned in Genesis were angels who said to G-d that if they were on earth they would not be evil like the humans were. G-d told them if they thought so they should try living on earth, and there they too became corrupted, even worse than the humans because of their supernatural powers, so they were bound in the earth. One Midrash records the names of these angels, and one of them is Azazel. Some take this Midrash as a metaphor, whereas some take it literally.

All the best,
Rabbi Kolakowski

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