Parshat Tzav


What’s that old comedian’s name? That Jewish comedian who had a wonderfully brilliant routine of a Jewish mega-CEO who commanded the respect of many within his circles. Many would “yes sir” him and “no sir” him; they would address him “good morning sir”; they would melt in fright if he would just look in their direction for it might imply a mistake that they, G-d forbid, haddone. However, when he arrives home he would be belittled by his wife for forgetting to take out the garbage that morning. “You didn’t forget to put on your pants this morning! How can you forget to take out the garbage?! The house stinks because of you! You’re not entering this house unless the garbage disappears from my eyes. You’re not the idiot! I’m the idiot for marrying you,” the wife continues “because no one else would’ve done it!” We see how this well respected man is suddenly humiliated. Yet for shalom bayit – peace in the house, he doesn’t answer back. What a transformation from a lion at work to a tormented mouse at home!

This week’s Parsha contains the mitzvah of offering the Korban Olah [Burnt Offering]. Aharon and his children were given the tremendous responsibility of the Service of the Temple. The first and foremost task that Aharon and his children are instructed to perform is the mitzvah of Terumat HaDeshen — the removal of the ashes that were consumed by the previous night’s fire on top of the Mizbayach [altar].

A question arises? Did they need to? Why couldn’t others perform that remedial task? It’s similar to cleaning the grill. Why should the chef have to trouble himself? Surely Aharon had better things to do?!

The Chovas Halevovos [Duties of the Heart], written by R. Bachye Ibn Paquda; 11th century Spain, one of the defining works on ethics and mussar – that is self-improvement and refining of character; says that the rationale behind this is that the Torah is particularly careful that people do not let things go to their heads, lest they become ba’alei ga’avah (haughty). It would only be natural for Aharon to consider himself special. He was one of the select few who had the merit of performing the Temple Service! Nevertheless, the Torah instructed him that the first thing that he must do every morning is — remove the ashes! The function of this job, according to the Chovot Halevovot, is to lower the self-image of the Kohanim and remove haughtiness from their hearts.

Interesting! Look how a man thinks, just one little complement, one pat on the back and it can goes long way. Even the most pious can fall prey to feeling haughty. We’re all susceptible to sprouting up like roosters, sucking up every bit of glory and declaring “Look at me; look at what I’ve done; look at my accomplishments.”

Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon

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