Before removing the excess ashes from the Mizbeach and taking them outside of the camp, the Torah teaches “he shall remove his garments and put on other garments”. The Kohen would have to change his clothing, to prevent his Priestly robes becoming soiled.
Even though the removal of the ashes was also a necessary part of the Temple service, it could not be compared to the actual Avodah that was performed inside the Beis Hamikdash. To highlight this, a more inferior set of clothing was worn for removing the ashes.
Rashi illustrates this with a parable; the clothing worn by a servant when cooking for their master, should not be worn when pouring the master’s drink.
Cooking the meal is a necessary preparation to be able to serve the meal, but the cooking is merely a means to reach the ultimate objective, to serve the meal and honour one’s master with it. The removal of the ashes was a necessary preparation, to create space to serve Hashem with the new offerings.
In yesterday’s post, we explained that the removal of the ashes represents our inner work to confront and remove our negative issues and baggage. Our sages teach that a person should only start to pray having experienced a sense of contrition.
But this should only be a preparation to make space for a deeper emotional experience. Once we start the Avodah of davening itself, we must push away this sense of contrition and daven from a place of true joy and love.
Like the Kohen removing the ashes, we don’t want our dealing with negative baggage to sully us, so we must ‘put on other garments’. But after we’ve removed our ashes, we divest ourselves of these ‘garments’, pushing away all association with the negative, to honour our Master with the fresh, clean garments of joy and positivity.