One of the world’s best-selling books this year is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Aside from the clever title, it struck a chord in our psyche. We have too much stuff.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
Yet we resist parting with it. We struggle for ways to “tidy up.”
Sadly, reading about this book didn’t help me do so. It did, however, help me understand a difficult part of the Bible.
How the Biblical Priests Tidied Up
The biblical reading comes from the Book of Leviticus and describes in great detail the way the ancient priests cleared the ashes from the sacrificial alter in the Jerusalem Temple (Leviticus 6-8). It tells us what the priests did with the ashes, where they stored them and how often they had to clear them.
Why so much detail? Because the Bible understands “tidying up” as a sacred process.
It is not simply picking and discarding. It is about removing the excess from our souls. It is about taking away the clutter to make room for the sacred.
Spring Cleaning Began with Passover
We read this section of the Bible at the beginning of Spring. Spring cleaning has been a part of Judaism for thousands of years, beginning when families would get rid of all the bread in their homes in preparation for Passover.
Does the Bible’s detailed process for clearing out the ashes give us some insight on how to tidy up in our own lives? Absolutely.
1. We need to be thorough: The priests removed all the ashes from the alter. They then carried them to a fixed place outside the. They started and completed the process.
We need to do so as well. Have you ever started cleaning the kitchen and soon decided you’ll finish later? I thought so.
The Hebrew word Shalom not only means peace. It also means “completion.” The two go together. We feel a sense of peace when we complete our tidying up.
2. We need to be consistent: The priests cleared ashes from the Temple every day. They wisely recognized delay made the task more difficult.
We can follow their practice by tidying up consistently. The more consistent we are, the more routine it will become. Gertrude Stein made this observation when she wrote, “Anything one does every day becomes important and imposing.”
3. We need to go deep: Priests no longer clean out ashes from the Temple. That practice ended more than 2000 years, when the Temple was destroyed.
Yet we still study it, because tidying up is not ultimately about ordering the outside. It is about creating clarity on the inside.
Have you ever noticed how you get more done when you have a clean desk? The same is true with our everyday surroundings. Creating order out there makes us more mindful of what is in here.