The first thing done at the beginning of each day at the Holy Temple was cleaning of the ashes from the previous day. What is the lesson here?
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Tzav” (Leviticus 6:1–8:36), and in it we read about the various services that the Kohanim, the priests, would perform as part of the animal offerings in the Temple.
One of these services was “the removal of the ashes.” As the verse says, “The Kohen shall wear his linen tunic, and linen pants…and he shall raise the ashes from the offerings that the fire had consumed on the altar, and place it next to the altar. He shall then remove his garments and shall wear other garments, and remove the ashes to the outside of the camp, to a pure place.”
As one can imagine, lots and lots of ashes piled up on the altar every day. On any given day, there was possibly no end to the sacrifices that were brought. Between the communal sacrifices and the individual, private sacrifices of ordinary people, the kohanim were certainly busy at the altar, and as mentioned, the ashes from the offerings certainly piled up.
The first thing that was done at the beginning of the day was the cleaning of the ashes from the previous day. This couldn’t be done at the end of the day because some offerings had to sit and burn all night long.
Our sages teach us that there is a great lesson to be learned from this routine.
The message in beginning the day with the removal of the ashes, essentially the removal of the garbage, is to teach us that each day we must begin anew. Each day must be independent from the previous day. We should try to make today better than yesterday. We need to dispose of any “waste” that may have came our way yesterday and begin a fresh, new day. Wipe the slate clean and start again.
This is why the day began in the holy temple with the removal of the ashes from yesterday’s service. What sacrifices were brought yesterday? Sin offerings? Maybe today there will be no sins! So get rid of yesterday’s ashes and get rid of yesterday’s troubles! Today is a new day!
We can take this message and extend it to our own lives. When we wake up in the morning, we must get up “on the right foot.” We should move past the challenges of yesterday and start fresh. That’s how to begin a new day in the service of God.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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