Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Come Wash The Night Time Clean (John Barlow & Bob Weir - "Cassidy")

          Typically, at this time of year, we focus on cleaning our house as part of our family’s Pesach preparations. Each child is expected to go through their respective closets and drawers and begin purging, eliminating clothes that don’t fit, any trash that didn’t get into a trash can on the initial attempt, as any crumbs that may have found their way upstairs into their bedrooms. The Pesach/Spring cleaning forces each of us to simplify and lighten our footprint. Lately, we have noticed that our attention upon “cleaning house” has expanded to another house and another resident who has been engaged in house cleaning. While he probably isn’t preparing for Pesach, the President has been "cleaning house" as well. Since Purim, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico resigned, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigned, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohen left the White House because of his disagreement with the President over tariffs, the President’s personal aid John McEntee was fired, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired, and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired.  I know that we haven’t finished cleaning for Pesach. When the President commented that he was close to having the Cabinet that he has always wanted; it seems that he isn’t finished cleaning for Pesach either. Lucky for him, there is still time to for him to clean before Pesach. Yet there is a huge difference between cleaning for Pesach, and “cleaning house”.   
This week’s Parsha is Tzav. It is also Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat that immediately precedes Chag HaPesach, the Passover Holyday. Like last week’s Parsha, Parsha Tzav focuses upon Korbonot (offerings). While last week we read of God’s commanding Moshe to teach the laws of Korbonot (Offerings) to B’nei Yisroel, this week we read of God commanding Moshe to teach the laws of Korbonot (Offerings) to Aaron and his sons. The Parshah concludes with instructions for Aaron and his sons to remain outside of the camp for seven days. These are the seven days required for spiritual and to some degree, physical preparation. The Priests must remain outside of the camp because they are in the process of purifying themselves for this extremely sacred and vital position, Kohen Gadol.
Besides Moshe, the Kohen Gadol was the most vital role within Israelite society. It was the Kohen Gadol that served as a vehicle for the common person to draw closer to God. When the common person or the king needed to atone, they would bring a sacrifice to God. However, it was the Priest that had to check for blemishes. It was the priest that had to slaughter the animal in a very precise way. It was the priest that had to sprinkle the blood.  Later on, it was the priest who became the “spiritual advisor” to the king. Unlike any other position, the priesthood was based upon lineage and was promised by God to Aaron for eternity (or as long as there was a Temple). Yet as important as this was for the welfare of B’nai Yisroel’s relationship to God, the Priest was eternally reminded of the importance of humility within a leader. V’hotzi et a Hadeshen el Michutz La’Machaneh el Makom Tahor-“and he shall bring the ashes to the outside of the camp, to a pure place (Lev 6:4).” The Kohen (the Priest) is, arguably, the most important position within the community, and he has to shlep the ashes out from the Mishkan. What’s even more amazing is what the Talmudic tractate Yoma teaches. The Talmud explains that the priests were so anxious to take out the ashes that a lottery system had to be introduced to pacify all those who wanted this “honor”. Anyone could have been commanded to take out the ashes. Why the Kohanim (the Priests)? Like all other aspects of the sacrificial process, the priests’ sole concern was the Temple and everything about the Temple. No task was below the priest. No aspect of the Temple remained untouched or unaffected by the Priest. The Sefer HaChinuch, a 13th-century work enumerating and explaining all 613 Mitzvot explains that Terumat HaDeshen is a positive commandment. The priest removes these ashes daily, and in doing so, he is enhancing the Mizbeach (the altar) and beautifying it to the best of his ability. Rashi adds that the priest would wear old clothes and nice his daily Priestly Vestments or his Holiday Vestments to do this type of menial work. All agree that the Kohen was never thought to be too important for such a lowly task.
So what can we learn from Parsha Tzav, and the Priest’s most menial of tasks? First, we learn just how vital it is for leadership, of any kind, to roll up its shirtsleeves and do some of the dirty work. After all, if leadership is unwilling to “to get dirty” for a greater purpose, then the purpose must not so great. Also if the leadership is unwilling “to get dirty”, why should anyone else “get dirty”? Effective leadership is not only about convincing others to act; it is about one’s observance of the same rule. No matter how important we think we are, we always should be reminded to take out the ashes. We need humility in order to remind us of where we fit in, and who we are. Possessing this humility gives us credibility when dealing with anyone. Possessing this humility reminds us of how we should treat others as well as how we wish to be treated. By participating in the preparations, by cleaning up and throwing out the garbage; we remind ourselves that Judaism is about the individual fitting into the community. Hopefully, my kids will begin to appreciate the importance of throwing out the garbage.
Peace & Chag Kasher v’ Sameach,
Rav Yitz

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