was torn into two pieces. Whatever hand the Azazel lot came up in, the goat on that side of the Cohen Gadol would be marked by tying half of the red sash to its horns. The other piece of the sash was then tied to the door of the Temple. The Cohen Gadol would then lay his hands on the head of the Azazel Goat and confess the sins of the people upon it. Pursuant to the instructions in Scripture, the goat that we know as the Scapegoat was then to be led into the wilderness and released, taking the sins of the people with it.
Although it was not required by Yahveh, the Jews reasoned that they needed to insure that the Azazel goat did not return from the wilderness bringing their sins back into the camp. Therefore, the tradition of pushing it off a cliff was instituted. During the time it took for this to happen and for word to get back to the Temple that it was accomplished, the other duties of the Cohen Gadol were put on hold. It is recorded in the Mishnah that Yahveh (in His mercy or perhaps His sense of humor) began miraculously turning the red sash tied to the temple door to pure white at the very moment the Azazel died signifying that the Cohen Gadol could continue with the rest of his duties.
More on this in my next post.