Parshas Tzav: Menial Tasks?

ולבש הכהן מדו בד ומכנסי בד ילבש על בשרו והרים את הדשן אשר תאכל האש את העלה על המזבח ושמו אצל המזבח. ופשט את־בגדיו ולבש בגדים אחרים והוציא את־הדשן אל מחוץ למחנה אל מקום טהור

The kohen shall dress in his fitted linen tunic… he shall separate the ash…and place it next to the alter. He shall remove his garments and don other garments, and he shall remove the ash to the outside of the camp (6:3-4)

  Chazal (Yoma 23b) explain that the Kohen's act of removing his garments was an act of derech eretz, because it is not proper for a servant to pour wine for his master while wearing the same garments that he wore when he was cooking the meal.

The Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Gifter z”l learned a powerful message from Chazal's words. A מלך בשר ודם (human king) has many servants in a multiple positions. Each servant has his own job and is meant to restrict his area of expertise to that role. A cook remains in the kitchen, while the king's waiter is someone whose training, refinement and breeding benefit him as he "serves" the king.

But when it comes to serving the Melech Malchei Hamelochim, the opposite is true. The same Kohen that takes out the ashes, then goes on to remove his clothes, don other clothes and continue with the avodah. Every aspect of avodas Hashem, regardless of how menial it may appear to a regular person, is equally important and praiseworthy. One who has performed a seemingly menial and common task has fulfilled Hashem's will and is thus worthy of praise regardless of the nature of the task. The fulfillment of Hashem's will is the critical factor.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos 2:1 states, והוי זהיר במצוה קלה כבחמורה, שאין אתה יודע מתן שכרן של מצות - Rebbe said, "Be as scrupulous in performing a minor mitzvah as in performing a major one, for you do not know the reward for mitzvos. Rebbe is teaching us that with regard to HaShem’s mitzvos, there is nothing menial or degrading. Each and every mitzvah should be accorded the highest honor and respect and treated with the realization that it is a beautiful gem waiting to be treasured.

One of the parts of the avodah on Yom Kippur was the sending of the goat with the designated person (“ish iti”) who would then push it off a cliff to its death. This was done with great fanfare as the ish iti would be accompanied by the most precious people of Yerushalayim (Yakirei Yerushalayim), pausing along the way from one sukkah to another.

It is interesting that these great people would accompany him on the holy day of Yom Kippur as if they had nothing better to do with their time. Wasn’t this the most exciting day to be a spectator at the Beis Hamikdash? Only once a year could one see the way the Kohen Gadol ran to and fro. He would change from one set of garments to the other and immerse in the mikvah five different times; the gold garments, and the linen ones, the burning of the ketores and offering the korban. This was true glory and excitement happening in front of everyone’s eyes that no one wanted to miss. Think of all the hisorerus/inspiration that one could glean from such a sight! And yet, these people went to accompany the ish iti so that he should not go alone.

The well-known explanation here is that this would demonstrate that the importance of chessed is far greater than even witnessing the avodah on yom Kippur. The sefer K’motzai Shalal Rav points out that it is for this reason that these people were called the “Yakirei Yerushalayim”, because they would put others before ourselves. In the introduction to the sefer Nefesh HaChayim, Rav Chayim Volzhiner’s son writes that his father constantly told him these words: כל האדם לא לעצמו נברא, רק להועיל לאחריני ככל אשר ימצא בכחו לעשות-the creation of man was not for himself, but rather to help another to the utmost of his ability.   

Based on what Rav Gifter z”l pointed out; perhaps we can suggest another limud from here as well:

This person was called the “ish iti” because he was “designated” for this purpose. The Yakirei Yerushalayim went along with him instead of watching the kohein gadol to teach us that any person that truly fulfills their tachlis/mission can be just as great as a kohein gadol on Yom Kippur (respectively).

While it’s true that Reuven may not possess Shimon’s talents, at the same time he must know that it is also not expected of him to accomplish Shimon’s mission. As the famous story of the rebbe Reb Zeesha goes: Reb Zeesha was on his deathbed, surrounded by his talmidim. He was crying and no one could comfort him. One talmid asked him: “Rebbe, Why do you cry? You were almost as wise as Moshe and as kind as Avraham." Reb Zeesha answered, "When I pass from this world and appear before the Beis Din Shel Maalah (Heavenly Tribunal), they won't ask me, 'Zeesha, why weren't you as wise as Moshe or as kind as Avraham,' rather, they will ask me, 'Zeesha, why weren't you Zeesha?' Why didn't I fulfill my potential, why didn't I follow the path that could have been mine? That is why I am crying."


Good Shabbos,     מרדכי אפפעל