As he was passing by a shul in a small village, the Baal Shem Tov heard a chazan practicing for the Yom Kippur services. Appreciating his pleasant voice, he listened closely and heard him intoning the confessional prayers in a joyous, cheerful melody. Curious why he chose such a tone, he sent for him.
The chazan explained with an allegory. A king allocated several tasks among his servants. Some he entrusted with polishing the palace jewelry. Others he charged with preparing a feast. And still others, he ordered to clean the stables. The stable-cleaners were, nevertheless, happy. True, the work was not the most luxurious, but they were serving the king. Nothing could make them happier than that.
When the Baal Shem Tov heard this explanation, he asked the chazan to lead the services for his congregation that year.
This week's Torah reading begins with the command to remove the ashes from the altar. At night, the limbs of the sacrifices would be offered on the altar and in the morning, the priests would take the ashes from the altar and bring them to a special place outside Jerusalem.
There were priests chosen to offer animal sacrifices and others chosen to bring the incense offering. And there were still others who were given the task of cleaning the ashes from the altar.
Our Sages emphasize that this was a lesser service, so much so that it could not be performed while wearing the ordinary priestly garments, but instead required special, less dignified robes. Nevertheless, those priests also performed their jobs eagerly. They were serving G-d in the Temple. It did not matter how they were serving Him. As long as they were serving Him, they were happy.
Outside of the Temple, G-d's presence is not overtly revealed. Thus we do not have the same inspiration to carry out His service. But that is only because we are unaware. From His perspective, our service is cherished whether we are aware of the powerful spiritual effects it produces or not.
And this is so regardless of what service we are asked to perform. R. Sholom Dovber (the Rebbe Rashab) would say: "Even if G-d had commanded us to chop wood - i.e., an activity that appears to have no spiritual content - we would do so happily."
The Baal Shem Tov communicated this concept in his interpretation of the verse in Psalms: "I placed shivisi G-d before me at all times." Shoveh, the root of the word shivisi, also means "equal." When G-d is before me at all times, everything is equal for me. There is no difference which path of service I'm given, whether the most sophisticated or the simplest. Every positive act is a means of connecting to Him. Every positive act brings us one bit closer to the coming of Mashiach.
Similar concepts apply with regard to the Jewish people. There is no Jew who is better than any other. Each person was created by G-d with different potentials and challenges. A person with one set of gifts should not look down on a person with lesser potentials. On the contrary, the fact that the other person is able to continue in his Divine service despite the fact that he has lesser potentials should make him worthy of respect and honor.
G-d desires all these different modes of service. For His intent is that every element of this world - from the top to the bottom of the spectrum - should be elevated. For this reason, at the coming of Mashiach, no Jew will be left behind. Bringing the world to its desired state depends on each person's individual contribution. Each one has a certain dimension that only he can add. Through that contribution, he will elevate that portion of the world that was designated for him. As each individual prepares his personal corner for the Redemption, the larger picture comes into focus. We appreciate how our missions interlock, for the world is greater than any one of us and we begin to understand how the world as a whole is G-d's dwelling.