Thus shall he provide atonement upon the Sanctuary for the contamination of the Children of Israel, even for their rebellious sins among all their sins; and so shall he do for the Tent of Meeting that dwells with them amid their contamination. (Vayikra 16:16)
The Yom Kippur service in the Mishkan was a process that resulted in atonement for the sins of the entire nation. The Kohen Gadol worked tirelessly and even entered the Holy of Holies to bring about the cleansing of our people from the contamination of their sins. Even the worst of sinners was included in this gift of atonement on the holiest day of the year.
There was once a king whose only son got involved with bad friends who drew him to their way of life. Slowly but steadily the prince descended from his lofty manners and morals to those of the dregs of society. The king, out of love for his son, did not want to abandon him; he secretly followed him wherever he would go, no matter how bad, in order to watch over him from behind a curtain of secrecy. The king’s servants made sure the king could remain close by providing a divider between the monarch and his son to shield his majesty.
One day the prince was about to do the unspeakable. A servant of the king could not hold himself back and revealed himself to the young man in an attempt to prevent the abomination. The son, who recognized the king’s officer, was shocked, realizing that his father must be close by. He wondered, “Could it be my father is here?”
The officer said, “Know that your behavior is reprehensible and is upsetting your father.”
“What do you mean?” the puzzled young man asked. “My father hasn’t been in touch with me for years! He wouldn’t recognize me and he certainly doesn’t know about my current status!”
“Do you see that divider?” the officer asked. “The king is behind there. He has been with you since your expulsion from the palace but he has been hidden so you didn’t feel his presence. His only concern is your well-being. If you gather your strength and climb to the top of this wall, you will see your father crying for your return to your once-princely ways.”
Our parashah reveals the power of atonement. “Thus shall he provide atonement upon the Sanctuary for the contamination of the Children of Israel, even for their rebellious sins among all their sins” (Vayikra 16:16) — it is available even for rebellious transgressions. Rashi adds: “…the Tent of Meeting that dwells with them amid their contamination (ibid.)” — Even though they are contaminated, Hashem dwells with them.
This applies to all Jews at all times. No matter how bad one’s behavior has become and no matter how contaminated with sin one is — Hashem is like the king longing for the return of his son. He is with the sinner and watching and waiting for repentance. The only reason a sinner doesn’t sense the close proximity of Hashem is the “divider” his sins have built, blocking Hashem from his view. The Gemara says: “A Jew, even after he sins, is still a Jew” (Sanhedrin 44a). One must never give up and feel there is no hope. Every Jew is a child of Hashem and He longs for our return, no matter how far we have strayed or how low we have sunk. Even the most contaminated Jew is in close proximity to Our Father in Heaven. Our sins block our view but His love is certain. He waits for our return. He longs for our repentance. Do not disappoint Him.