Then he is to take off these clothes and put on others, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a place that is ceremonially clean. The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. — Leviticus 6:11–12
The Torah portion for this week is Tzav, which means “command,” from Leviticus 6:1–8:36, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 7:21–8:3; 9:22–23.
If you are like most of us, chances are no two mornings are the same. Some mornings we are eager to jump out of bed, ready to conquer the world. Other times we long for another five minutes – or five hours – under the comforting safety of the blankets on our beds. However, no matter what the weather is outside or how we might be feeling on the inside, every morning is a chance to set the course for the day. Experts offer this advice: No matter how you feel – Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up!
In this week’s Torah reading, we learn more about the daily service of the priests. While today our service takes on different forms, we can still learn from the laws and statutes regarding service during biblical times. For example, how the priests began each day in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, serves as a paradigm for how we should begin every day of our lives in service to God.
Each new day began with a reference to the day before. All night long, the burnt offerings were left burning on the altar. So the first order of service was to clear away the ashes from the previous day, making room for the new day. Similarly, we also need to start each day by removing the remnants from yesterday that no longer serve us. Yesterday may have been a bad day. Maybe we lost our temper, maybe someone else lashed out at us. But, today that is all in the past. Today is a new day with new possibilities, and we need to focus on letting go of the past and moving forward.
Additionally, before the priest removed the ashes from the altar, he would put on fine clothing. By doing so, he gave importance and significance to his task. So, too, we must “dress up” each day. No, not in our finest clothes. Rather, we do so by adopting a positive attitude – one which anticipates the day ahead with purpose and joy, no matter what had transpired the day before.
Finally, after the ashes had been carried away, the priest would add wood to the burning fire. Every day required new wood, new fuel, so that the fire could thrive. Similarly, the Jewish sages teach that “Each day a new light comes down upon those who serve God.” A new light is ready to come into the world and into our lives every day. However, we have to draw it down with prayer and service. Just as the priests added wood to help the fire burn, we provide our prayers to God for His guidance and help and light.
Are you ready for a new day? We can be by removing the “ashes” of the previous day, putting on a positive attitude toward the day ahead, and offering prayers to God to keep His light burning in our lives throughout the day.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President