There is an interesting discussion in the beginning of the portion Tzav. It begins, “The Creator spoke to Moses, telling him, ‘Command Aaron and his children, saying this is the law of the burnt offering…’” Here, the Creator is explaining the work that the priests, the kohenim, were to do every morning in the Mishkan. The altar had a fire that was burning all the time, and overnight it had burnt it up all the sacrifices that had been brought. In the morning, the priest would put on special clothing, go to the altar, and take out a certain amount of ashes and then burn them, making them a sacrifice. Clearly, this is not work that was meant to be janitorial; what, therefore, was the meaning of this action, and what are we meant to learn from it?
My father, Rav Berg, often spoke about the fact that everything we see is an illusion. One of the greatest illusions we fall to is an idea of separation. For example, we compare ourselves to great spiritual giants like Rav Shimon bar Yochai and Rav Ashlag, and believe we are separate from them. We do this also in our own lives, as there are times when we feel elevated and connected, and there are times when we feel diminished, and lowered. We believe they are separate. However, all those thoughts of separation and differentiation between where we are today versus where we had been or where we will be, and between where we are versus where other people are, actually diminish the work that we do. All those thoughts are a complete illusion.
In the Tabernacle, there were different levels of sacrifices a person could bring depending on what they could afford. The false understanding of this was that the more a person brought, the more connected they were, and the more Light they could reveal. However, this was an illusion, and is why the Creator told the priest that every morning the first and most important thing to do was take the burnt ashes from the altar and make them a sacrifice. In our eyes, we see ashes as something low, and more expensive sacrifices as more elevated. The Creator is showing us through this elevation of the ashes that the sacrifice of the ashes reveals just as much Light as all the other sacrifices that in our illusionary world seem to be of a better quality. Every single offering reveals as much Light as the other.
This carries over into our lives, because the belief in separation influences us. We diminish our own work when we think, either consciously or subconsciously, that some days we’re less connected or inspired, and so our work won’t reveal that much Light and therefore think we can do it in a lesser manner. But that is not true, and so when the Negative Side tries to creep in and tell us our connection is going to be diminished and the amount of effort we can put in can be less, we need to remember that is an illusion. Just as there are no elevated sacrifices or lower sacrifices, the Light can be revealed at any time, at any moment, from even the lowest place.
The kabbalists often teach, and the Zohar makes clear, that the first thing we do in the morning is the most important action, because it will influence our entire day. And as the portion Tzav shows us, the first thing that the most elevated soul, the priest, would do in the morning was elevate the ashes and bring them as a sacrifice, as a means of demonstrating this understanding that the differences of levels are all illusionary. No matter where we are and what we are doing, in any moment, we can reveal as great an amount of Light as the greatest soul in their greatest elevation. Any time that we’re feeling low, and through that feeling of diminishment want to allow ourselves to reduce or diminish our actions, we need to remember this teaching of the elevation of the ashes.