Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:  Tzav  

Nisan 11    (Leviticus 6 – 8)

The New Old Path

Taking Out the Trash
by Rabbi Benji Levy
How do you begin your day? Some people start with a cup of coffee, and others with a brisk walk. In Temple times, the priests would begin their day in an entirely different and unexpected way. After getting dressed, the priest would ‘raise the ash of the elevation offering that the fire consumed on the altar and place it next to the altar’ (Lev. 6:3).
Essentially, the priest began his day by literally shovelling all the ash from the previous day off the altar and placing it outside of the Sanctuary (Rashi ad loc). It would seem this tedious task was below such venerable individuals, and that someone else should be dispatched to carry it out. Why is it necessary for the person who spends his day immersed in lofty and holy endeavours to carry out this mundane chore?
Perhaps the Torah is teaching that even the most menial of tasks, such as ‘taking out the trash’, can be imbued with implicit holiness. Whilst many religions define that which is holy and spiritual by its distance from the material world, and by maintaining a clear separation between the spiritual and the material, here the Torah is sanctifying the material by synthesizing it with the holy. Through taking this most physical of actions — clearing the ash — and imbuing it with spirituality, the Torah is demonstrating that holiness is not only achieved through separation and abstinence, but rather it can be reached through harmony between the material and the spiritual, and through an acknowledgement of the material as essentially spiritual.
Indeed, this idea is so important that it is taught through the first task of the priest’s day, which remains the first part of the ‘sacrifices’ section read in Shacharit, the morning prayer service, and thus establishes our perspective on spirituality for the entire day. This approach to achieving holiness through the elevation and sanctification of the mundane generates a significantly wider array of possibilities for achieving spirituality than the approach that requires separation from the ordinary in order to become holy.
The requirement that the priests start each day by clearing the ash from the previous day before embarking on their holy service in the Temple, presents an additional insight into the ‘celebrity status’ of the priests. As stated in the Jerusalem Talmud: ‘There is no greatness in the palace of the King’  (Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 10:3). That is to say, relative to the greatness of the Creator, we are all mere mortals, regardless of our social status.
Celebrities in almost every arena are often put on pedestals by other humans. For this reason, we do not think of famous movie stars, rabbis and politicians as engaging in basic everyday errands such as washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. This, in turn, can very easily affect the self-image of those individuals, who begin to believe that they are above being involved in the everyday trivialities of life. This law requiring the priests to sweep up the previous day’s ash, equalizes all humans in relation to God and serves as a reminder of the humanity of the saintly priests despite their elevated status.  That said, the question still stands as to why the priest should begin his day with it. Why does it come before all the other tasks?
Not only do the masses need to understand the humanity of those with elevated status, but also perhaps of greater importance is the need for the spiritual leaders themselves to appreciate their own normality and their place in the material world. It is easy for people with great fame or fortune to let their status and their material riches define who they are to the extent that they think themselves above basic responsibilities. By beginning the day with such a menial task, the priest is forced, on a daily basis, to absorb tremendous humility in view of his own position relative to the King of Kings.

This powerful lesson has long outlived the Temples and, as mentioned, is still positioned right at the start of the daily morning prayers. Perhaps, hidden beneath the surface of this fascinating requirement for the priests to clean up yesterday’s mess before starting their daily Temple service, is a metaphor for us all in the way we are meant to start each day.
Every day, the first prayer we say upon waking up is Modeh Ani, a prayer of thanks to God for restoring our souls to our bodies and offering us the gift of a new day. ‘I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great’ (Rabbi Moshe Ben Machir, Seder Hayom). If God with His ultimate faith in His beings, can restore our souls to us each morning, granting us the gift of a new day, it is incumbent upon us, before even starting our day, to set aside the ‘ashes’ of the previous day, to clear our slate, to set aside grievances and to start each day with a renewed and fresh perspective.


Everyone needs a push 
by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
“Command Aharon and his sons [by] saying, this is the teaching of the olah, it is the olah on its fire on the altar the whole night, and the fire of the altar will burn in it (Vayikra 6:2).”
Rashi explains that the Hebrew word “tzav,” command, implies ziruz — encouragement and urging — for that time and for all generations. Particularly when it comes to situations involving loss of money (because the Kohanim do not receive anything from a burnt offering other than the hide), is there a need to encourage and urge.
Rav Yaakov Weinberg pointed out that the above verse is discussing Aharon Ha’Kohein, one of the greatest Jewish figures of all time; so we see that even he had a need for ziruz, encouragement.
This, explains Rav Weinberg, does not mean that without the ziruz Aharon would not have put forth his full effort. It goes without saying that Aharon would have certainly put forth his utmost effort despite any lack of external ziruz. Rather, what it means is that every person has untapped strengths that are often only manifest as a result of the prodding pressure of ziruz.
“One time”, recounted Rav Weinberg, “I was arranging chevrusos (study partners) at the beginning of the zman (semester), and there was one bachur for whom I just could not manage to work out an appropriate chevrusah. I tried numerous different ideas, but nothing worked. Unfortunately, he began the zman having to learn on his own without a chevrusah.   About two weeks into the zman, I received a desperate phone call from his father. He said, ‘Please! Please find a chevrusah for my son! He is suffering so much from not having a chevrusah!’
So, I tried again and, lo and behold, this time I managed to find a suitable chevrusah for him!  Don’t think that I didn’t try my hardest the first go-around. I can assure you that I truly did. But the desperate urging of the boy’s father extracted a latent energy without which just would not surface.” We all need and can benefit from ziruz, concluded Rav Weinberg, no matter how great we are or how hard we are trying.
What is very interesting to note, is that we see from Rashi’s explanation that in situations where the individual stands to gain some monetary benefit, there is not nearly as much of a need to have other people providing the ziruz. The monetary gain in and of itself provides the lion’s share of the external push that is needed.
Now, obviously, Aharon Ha’Kohein (or any of his sons, or other tzaddikim for that matter) were certainly not carrying out the avodah (service) for the sake of personal monetary gain. To even suggest such a thing would be absolutely preposterous; it is safe to assert that the thought of monetary gain did not enter his conscious thoughts at all, even for one moment. Certainly, his sole motivation for carrying out the avodah was his drive to fulfill the Will of God. Nevertheless, we see that the monetary aspect would play at least a subconscious role of ziruz even for an Aharon Ha’Kohein. And, for people of a much lesser stature, it could very well occupy a place in the conscious thought process. However, it is still just a ziruz, not the main motivating factor.
As an illustration of this idea, imagine an athlete competing for the gold medal. In the midst of the race, he begins to feel tired and weak and his pace begins to slow down a bit. Upon seeing this, his fans start cheering him on to give him a boost. And it works! He surges forward with newfound strength and achieves his goal of winning the medal.
Now, would you say that his primary motivating factor was the momentary cheering that occurred in the middle of the race? Of course not! What was motivating him from beginning to end was the accomplishment itself of winning the gold. So, what function did the cheering fulfill?  Ziruz.
Ziruz is that external push that helps propel us towards our goals without supplanting the actual motivation of our actions.   That is why it is not inappropriate that monetary gain acts as a ziruz in the realm of Torah and mitzvos. One may wonder why there are many monetary incentives involved with various learning programs and endeavors, whether in the Kollel system or otherwise. Based on the above, though, it should become perfectly clear that there is, in fact, nothing negative about this whatsoever. On the contrary, we see that using monetary incentives as a ziruz is actually a positive thing to do. Those that are engaged in serious learning are clearly not doing so for the sake of money, God forbid. They are motivated to learn for the sake of carrying out the loftiest endeavor that Hashem charges us with. The paltry bits and pieces of monetary incentives that they receive here and there are merely a ziruz. And ziruz, as we have learned, is a very positive thing!
So, for others and for oneself, find that positive, encouraging, and urging force of ziruz. As we have seen, ziruz can take the form of cheering someone on, a desperate plea, or a monetary incentive.
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter what particular form the ziruz takes, as long as it will have a beneficial, positive effect given the situation. So, for others and for oneself, find the one that works.

                                                                                                   *   *   *


“The greatest thing in the world is to do someone a favor!” — Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
 *   *   *


Rabbi Yitzchak was walking through the hallways when he came across Rabbi Chaim, a new substitute teacher, standing outside his classroom with his forehead against a locker.
Rabbi Yitzchak heard Rabbi Chaim mutter, “How did you get yourself into this?”
Knowing that he was assigned to a difficult class, Rabbi Yitzchak tried to offer moral support.
“Are you okay?” Rabbi Yitzchak asked. “Can I help?”
Rabbi Chaim lifted his head and replied, “I’ll be fine as soon as I get this kid out of his locker.”

                                                                                          *   *   *


Send a Tribute! A great way to send a greeting and support Aish!  Send a mazel tov, condolence or simply show your appreciation to a relative or friend with an Aish Tribute. It’s easy  — just call the Aish office at 314-862-2474 or email us at Donate any sum (we suggest $18) and we will send a card to your designated recipient and publish it in our newsletter.