Take Out the Trash (Quick Comment on Torah Portion “Tzav”)

The Coasters’ biggest all-time hit, “Yakety Yak (1958)  begins, “Take out the papers and the trash  …” The line and the song reverberate as I ponder this week’s Torah portion, Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36).

But in the Torah it is not a beleaguered teenager who must “take out  … the trash.”  It is the priest himself. “And he shall … carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place (Leviticus 6:4).” It is as though the Eternal one were saying, “You made the mess, now you clean it up!” If we listen, we can hear God speaking to us in this instruction. The leaders of the people did not just bask in the glory of their office. They had to do the dirty work. They had to carry out the ashes of the fire that they created.

We must clean up our mess too

We too create a lot of fires and a lot of ashes. With those we love we have fiery arguments. When the flames die down, we must find a way to rid ourselves of the ashes of anger and resentment that can destroy our relationship if we fail to carry them “outside the camp.”

The Coasters were right

Taking out our ashes means

  • listening to the feelings of those we have hurt
  • apologizing when necessary—perhaps including an “I’m sorry” gift—
  • resolving not to cause such hurt in the future.

It is much easier said than done, but the Coasters were right. Only those who “take out … the trash” will enjoy going “out Saturday night (after Shabbat, of course),” and continuing to build a loving relationship in the future.

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