One of the commandments in this week’s Torah portion is to remove the ashes from the Altar. Certain parts of the sacrifices were burned and the ashes were removed by the priests every day before sunrise. This was the only part of the Temple service that was done on a “first come, first served” basis. All other elements of the service were apportioned out. But with the ashes, if you wanted a ticket, you had to get there early and wait in line.
One might think that for a minor and even demeaning task of removing the ashes – a janitor’s job, almost – it was hard to find takers. There were many more glamorous jobs in the Temple: lighting the menorah, or burning the incense, for example.
However, the opposite was true. So many priests wanted to remove the ashes on a regular basis that they would race up the ramp of the altar in order to be first. Once, there were so many of them racing that one fell off the ramp and broke his leg.
In this generation, we usually judge a person by how high-flying his/her career is and by how much money he/she makes. It’s a bit of a convoluted value system.
Of course, the true evaluation of a person should not be based on how much he/she makes, or whether people are impressed by what he/she is doing. The true worth of a person is to be found in his/her contribution to family, friends and society.