Taking Out the Garbage Isn’t About You

If my marriage is about me, my status, pride or sense of fulfillment, I’d surely choose to do only the more sophisticated and pleasurable jobs. But marriage shouldn’t be about me. It should be about something greater than me.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier – The Beis Medrash

Yossel tells his boss, “We’re doing some heavy Pesach prep at home tomorrow and my wife needs me to haul stuff from the attic and the garage.”

“Sorry, Yossel. We’re short-handed and I just can’t give you the day off.”

“Thanks, boss, I knew I could count on you!”

The daily avodah in the Beis Hamikdash began with terumas hadeshen, where a kohen removed one scoop of ashes from the top of the mizbe’ach and placed it on the ground near the mizbe’ach’s ramp. This job was considered a great honor and the kohanim drew lots to determine who would receive the privilege.  

Every so often the pile of ashes on the mizbe’ach grew too large and it was necessary to remove more than just one scoop. On these occasions, the same kohen who did terumas hadeshen would then remove his usual priestly garments, dress in less prestigious clothes, and do hotza’as hadeshen—take the ashes out of the Beis Hamikdash to a sacred place.

Why did he need to change his clothes?

Chazal liken the daily removal of ashes to a servant pouring wine for his master. True, his clothes may get a little dirty in the process, but since he’s serving in the presence of his master, it’s only fitting that he dress appropriately. The occasional deep cleaning of the ashes, however, is likened to preparing food in the kitchen. The master is not present, so he wears the simpler, dirtier clothes.

But, if these two services are so different—similar to the roles of the chef and the waiter—shouldn’t they be done by two different kohanim?

From a humanperspective, hotza’as hadeshen may be less prestigious and less fulfilling than terumas hadeshen. But the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash was not about personal feelings or preferences, it was about fulfilling Hashem’s Will. By one kohen doing both jobs he demonstrated that his motive is not honor or personal satisfaction but rather fulfilling the Will of Hashem.[1]

We can consider this when we find ourselves sprawled out on the floor of the car scraping off remnants of applesauce residue, and using toothpicks to pick out the tiny pretzel crumbs which are wedged into every nook and cranny. Deep cleaning may not necessarily be our idea of fulfillment or inspiration, but when we remember that it’s Hashem’s Will, it can change everything. I was chosen to clean Hashem’s chometz!

The same principle applies to our interpersonal relationships. Sometimes a relationship needs a bouquet of flowers and sometimes it calls for chores that are less dignified (i.e., taking out the garbage). If my marriage is about me, my status, pride or sense of fulfillment, I’d surely choose to do only the more sophisticated and pleasurable jobs. But marriage shouldn’t be about me. It should be about something greater than me; it should be about the overall relationship. More accurately, it’s about what Hashem wants this marriage to be.

Ultimately, the goal of a Yid is to become a conduit for something greater than ourselves and allow that to dictate our lives.

This week, thousands of Yidden have made a siyum haRambam, marking the 44th cycle of daily Rambam study. When we study the very last halachah we can see how the lesson from this week’s sedra is a most appropriate accompaniment to the siyum and also to preparing ourselves for what life will be like when Moshiach comes.

“In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be as freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know Hashem.

“Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential, as it states: ‘The world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem as the waters cover the ocean bed.’”

By making Hashem and His Will the focal point of our life today, we make room for a world full of peace and the knowledge of Hashem.

[1] Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 37, pp 1-6.

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