Is it important to pay attention to things we no longer view as valuable? In a world of planned obsolescence, how do we determine the value of things that are no longer useful to us?
This week's Torah portion, Tzav, describes an interesting action required of the High Priest in the Temple:
"The priest shall dress in linen raiment, with linen breeches next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. He shall then take off his vestments and put on other vestments and carry the ashes outside the camp to a pure place." (Leviticus 6:3-4)
It is not only the sacrificial offering that is holy; even its ashes must be disposed of with dignity in "a pure place." Ashes - something most of us would discard without a second thought - require special handling. But why?
Perhaps the Torah is reminding us that although something may no longer appear valuable, it is still worthy of our respect.
One modern example is cemeteries. Many of us feel a connection to the cemeteries where our families are buried. But when family members are dispersed and those who established and maintained a cemetery have passed on, how should a community address its upkeep?
There are 28 Jewish cemeteries in Greater Hartford in just this situation. At Federation, we believe we have an obligation to treat them with dignity. These are our "pure places" - the permanent resting places of many of the people who built our great community.
The Association of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Hartford, operated by Federation, provides perpetual care for cemeteries that would otherwise be forgotten. And our work doesn't end there. Many of these cemeteries are still active. Working quietly behind the scenes, the Federation arranges Jewish funerals, burials and the erecting of headstones for any indigent Jew who dies in our community.
It is holy work - work no one else will do, and work that must continue. It is our collective obligation to ensure that the remains of those who built our great community are not discarded and lost but respected and cared for. It's a powerful lesson for us and for generations to come.
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford