> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Torah Bytes

Racing Up the Ramp

Tzav (Leviticus 6-8 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

The beginning of Parshat Tzav describes how every morning in the Temple in Jerusalem, one of the Kohanim (priests) would remove the ashes that had built up overnight on the altar.

The Talmud explains that the Kohanim would literally fight for the opportunity to remove the morning ashes. They'd even conduct a foot race up the ramp of the altar to see who'd get to the ashes first!

This illustrates the great desire of the Kohanim to serve God - they were literally fighting to clean up the place! (Now if I could only convince my kids to clean up their room...)

The Talmud goes on to describe how one time, two of the Kohanim were racing up the ramp, when one of them pushed the other, causing him to fall and break his leg. Such incidents became frequent, forcing the court to institute a more peaceful lottery system to decide which Kohen would remove the morning ashes.

On one hand, the Kohanim's enthusiasm is surely commendable. But on the other hand, the way that enthusiasm sometimes expressed itself was a disgrace to God's Holy Temple.

There is a principle in Judaism called Derech Eretz Kadma L'Torah - meaning that "kind behavior comes before the Torah." It is incompatible for someone to be rude to others, while claiming to be a devoted servant of God.

So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, remember: Each human being is created in the image of God, and to respect each other is one of the greatest ways we can show respect for God.

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