"I beseech You, HaShem;
Grant atonement for the sins,
and for the iniquities and transgressions
which the entire house of Israel
has committed against You,
As it is written in the Torah
of Your servant, Moshe:
'For on this day
atonement shall be made for you,
to purify you from all your sins
- before HaShem you shall be purified'."
As above, the congregation responds with the words "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom, for ever and ever."
Across the Bridge
After confessing for Israel, the Kohen Gadol gives the scapegoat into hands of the individual who had been designated to lead it into the desert. This, too, was considered a great privilege. Even though it is not an intrinsic part of the service and therefore could even be done by an Israelite, it was customarily safeguarded within the priestly ranks.
"Take Our Sins and Go!"
A special bridge led directly from the Temple court to the outskirts of the city. This bridge connected the Temple Mount complex with the Mount of Anointment, and the scapegoat was led over this bridge and out into the desert. On the way, groups of people called "Babylonians" (but actually identified as Alexandrians) attempted to get at the scapegoat. The Mishna (Yoma 6, 4) describes that they were an annoyance: "They pulled at the goat's hair and cried 'take our sins and be off with you! Take our sins and go!'" They were eager to urge the kohen who led the scapegoat, that he should not tarry or hesitate in the least.
All along the way between Jerusalem and the cliff - the scapegoat's destination, a series of way stations had been manned since before the onset of the Yom Kippur. This was a system that had been devised to insure that the mission was indeed carried out; men had been pre-positioned at equidistant locations to render the scapegoat's warden any assistance that he may require, and to accompany him along the way. The Mishna records that the distance between Jerusalem and the desert cliff was 90 ris - 12 mil. The distance between each station was one mil, or 2,000 amot (with the exception of the distance between the last station and the cliff, which was 2 mil).
Ten Booths (continued)
These "stations" were actually booths, and food and drink were kept there in the event that the kohen leading the scapegoat should feel physically unable to continue without breaking his fast. In such a case, he would be permitted to eat and drink - as the kohen passed by each booth, they would call out to him: "There is food and water here!" Yet despite the distance and the heat, the Talmud records that no kohen ever had to break his fast; the psychological advantage for the kohanim of knowing that the food and water were there should the need arise was enough.
Distinguished citizens of Jerusalem accompanied the kohen until the first booth; afterwards, men from each booth accompanied him as far as the next station.
To the Cliff
However, the men of the last station could not accompany him all the way to the cliff, since this was a greater distance and one is not permitted to walk more than 2,000 amot in any direction on the Sabbath or holidays. Therefore, they stood and watched from their position, to make certain that the scapegoat was sent off in the prescribed manner.
The Scapegoat Dies
Arriving at the cliff, the kohen removes the crimson wool that the Kohen Gadol had tied to the scapegoat's horns. He divides it into two pieces; one piece he reties once again to the animal's horns, and the second, to a rock. This is so that he will also be able to see when the crimson color has turned white, and know that atonement has been made for Israel's sins. Then he pushes the goat backward with his two hands.