I love the movie Wall-e! An adorable little robot, Wall-e is cleaning up after generations of humans who have trashed planet earth until it is uninhabitable. There life begins again with a tiny plant (tree of life?) and a romance with a robot named Eve. Very biblical, very sad and hopeful at the same time. I use a scene of Wall-e in teaching the importance of photosynthesis to my students. That a single seedling could be the symbol of salvation for a planet is powerful, just as the vision of a planet trashed is terrifyingly too close for comfort.
This week, as I’m preparing text from Leviticus I read that the priest of the wilderness Mishkan is commanded (Tzav) in changing his clothes to take out the ashes of the sacrificial fires -to put on special clothes, then change them again when he returns.
Why put on special clothes to take out trash – why the big deal? Perhpas trash is a metaphor for all the old business in our lives, and we should make a clean break (Tornberg) But maybe it’s about the trash! In modern times we are so used to creating so much trash that we take it for granted.That’s new. There really is no such thing as trash, and no such place as “away”
The thing that drew my attention is the text takes care to mention that the cloth is on his body ( where else would it be?) just as the ashes are on the alter, and then next to the camp. there is language connecting the living man with the fire of the alter – including the “consuming” the fire does, which, of course, is the same root as ‘eating” Anyway IT’S COOL that he puts on fine new linen to take out the ashes and respectfully place them out, and then changes his clothes. Animals have been sacrificed on that alter to God in an attempt at Korban, drawing close. Those ashes are not trash. they are sacred.
Just as our ashes, once we leave this world, are not trash, they are sacred.
Any archeologist knows, trash is gold.
The song I’d like to finish these comments with is the late, great troubadour Pete Seeger’s GARBAGE.