Parshas Tzav: No Task Is Menial

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 Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l, learned a powerful message from Chazal's words. A מלך בשר ודם (human king) has many servants in multiple positions. Each servant has his own job and is expected to restrict his duties to remain within that role. The royal cook stays in the kitchen, while the king's waiter exercises his refinement and etiquette while serving 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 proceeds to remove his clothes, don other clothes and continue on with the avodah. Every aspect of avodas Hashem, regardless of how menial it may appear to a regular person, is equally important and praiseworthy in the eyes of Hashem. One who has performed a seemingly basic and common task has fulfilled Hashem's will and is thus worthy of eternal praise. 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 an imperative one, for you do not know the reward for mitzvos. Rebbe is teaching us that with regard to Hashem’s mitzvos, there is nothing that is considered mundane or degrading. Each and every mitzvah should be regarded with 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; the ish iti would be accompanied by the most honorable 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, changing from one set of clothes to the other, immersing himself in the mikvah, offering the ketores and so on. Think of all the hisorerus that one could glean from these sights! 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 chesed 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 themselves. In the introduction to the sefer Nefesh HaChaim, Rav Chaim Volzhiner’s son writes that his father constantly told him these words: כל האדם לא לעצמו נברא, רק להועיל לאחריני ככל אשר ימצא בכחו לעשותThe creation of man was not for himself, but rather to help another to the utmost of his ability.   

Based on what Rav Gifter zt”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 Kohen Gadol in order to teach us that any person that truly fulfills their tachlis (mission) can be just as great as the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur.

Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל