Ashes, Ashes... We Don't Fall Down
Updated: Apr 13
Tzav 5780- Shabbos Hagodol
Yossel tells his boss, “We’re doing some heavy Pesach cleaning at home tomorrow and my wife needs me to help haul stuff up to the attic and out to the garage.” “Sorry, Abe,” the boss replies, “We're short-handed and I just can't give you the day off.” “Thanks, Boss,” says Yossel, “I knew I could count on you!” This year things are so different. We’re not working a steady job or engaging in our daily routines. The roles of father and mother are being shared unusually.
Ashes, Ashes… One of the daily services performed by the kohanim discussed in the beginning of this week’s parsha involved removing one scoop of the ashes from the top of the mizbeach and placing them on the ground near the mizbeach’s ramp, where they were miraculously swallowed by the ground. This job was considered a great honor and the kohen would wear his priestly garments. Each morning the kohanim drew lots to determine who would receive the privilege of removing the ashes. But every so often the pile of ashes on the mizbeach needed to be properly cleaned out. On these occasions, the same kohen who had won the drawing would remove his usual priestly garments, dress in less prestigious clothes, and take the ashes out of the Temple to a sacred place. Why did he need to change his clothes? Our chachomim liken the daily removal of ashes to a servant pouring wine for his master. True, his clothes may get a little dirty in the process, but since he’s serving in the presence of his master it’s only fitting that he dress appropriately. The occasional deep cleaning of the ashes, however, is likened to preparing food in the kitchen. The master is not present, so the servant wears simpler, dirtier clothes. But if these two services are so different (similar to the roles of chef and waiter), shouldn’t they be done by two different kohanim? Why must the same kohen do both and change his clothes in between? Doing so demonstrates that when we’re serving Hashem on His terms, no matter what the work entails, it is holy. Had the roles been filled by different kohanim, it would insinuate that one role is greater than the other. But when they’re both done by the same person, we understand that they are equally honorable. (Likutei Sichos vol. 37 pg. 5) During this devastating time, we have a choice to either be frustrated and even insulted by our sense of displacement. (I don’t belong sitting at home all day. I have a job! Why am I playing with my two-year-old? I should be at a shiur!) Or we can recognize that for now, this is our avoda. Right now Hashem wants us to be here. This role, and the one we are used to playing, are equally honorable, because, like the kohen’s tasks, both are for Him. Good Shabbos, and besuros tovos by everyone,
Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier