Dvar Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
“Then (the Kohen/the priest) shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry forth the ashes out of the camp unto a pure place” (Leviticus 6:4).
What lesson do we learn from the ceremonious taking out the ashes from the altar each morning?
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch comments that the taking out of the ashes that remained on the altar from the previous day expresses the thought that with each new day, the Torah mission must be accomplished afresh, as if nothing had yet been accomplished. Every new day calls us to our mission with new devotion and sacrifice. The thought of what has already been accomplished can be the death of that which is still to be accomplished. Woe unto him who with smug self-complacency thinks he can rest on his laurels, on what he has already achieved, and who does not meet the task of every fresh day with full devotion as if it were the first day of his life’s work!
“Carry forth the ashes out of the camp.” Every trace of yesterday’s sacrifice is to be removed from the hearth on the Altar, so that the service of the new day can be started on completely fresh ground. Given these considerations, we can understand the law that prescribes the wearing of worn-out garments when one is occupied with the achievements of the previous day. The past is not to be forgotten. However, it is to be retired to the background, and is not to invest us with pride before the fresh task to which each new day calls us. (Rabbi Hirsch’s commentary)
Rabbi Hirsch lived in the 1800’s. In today’s vernacular, we might say, “Yesterday is a canceled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, today is cash. Spend it wisely!”