Life used to be much simpler. You took your garbage, you threw it into a bag, tossed it onto the curb on one of the designated days, and it was gone. Even if you were inclined to meditate upon the spiritual significance of life’s mundane curiosities, it was a simple exercise: I’ve got garbage—psychological, emotional or whatever—and I just have to dump it all into a bag and move on with my life.

But now it seems that things have become more complex. Here in Thornhill, as in many cities, getting rid of your garbage has morphed into a science; you need to read a guidebook to figure our where to put everything. The good old garbage bag has been replaced with a system of green bins, blue boxes, paper bags for yard waste, and, if there’s anything left, the good old garbage bags (but not more than three bags, and only every other week). As if that weren’t complicated enough, there are even rules that change the designation of a piece of trash depending on what it was used for.

And if you mess up and put something in the wrong box or, heaven forfend, on the wrong day of the week, your garbage won’t be taken away and you’ll be left with a reminder that grows more pungent each day. Perhaps the garbage man, in his kindness, will help enlighten you by slapping a glow-in-the-dark neon sticker on your trash, illuminating your mistake for all your neighbors to see and snicker about. On top of that, you might even get hit with a fine, if they think you were intentionally trying to rebel against the system. Big Brother is watching your garbage.

At first I was resentful; I longed for the good old days. But, slowly, I am caving in to reality, especially motivated when the food leftovers that Now getting rid of your garbage has morphed into a science.I surreptitiously placed in the regular garbage hung around for two weeks waiting for the biweekly pickup. I will spare you the details of the swamp that manifested in my garage in those two weeks, a complete ecosystem that challenged my skepticism of evolutionary theory. Let me just say that I have a newfound respect for the garbage men who picked up those bins.

Reflecting on my garbage blues, I began to contemplate whether the partitioning of household waste in an elaborate classification and disposal system has significant implications for our spiritual lives.

It is inevitable that at various points in our lives—whether we are inspired by religious experiences, life-changing events or some internal paradigm shift—we decide that it is time to clean up our act, to get rid of our garbage. And I think that now more then ever before, as we stand at the threshold of the revelation of Moshiach, who will usher in a time of purity, holiness and recognition of a Higher Truth, this holds especially true. So the question is, what is the best way to get rid of our garbage? One method might be to just dump it, all at once, just dispose of it wherever you can, as quickly as you can, without really looking at it. But after years of doing it this way, we realize that when garbage is not disposed of properly, it comes back to haunt us; it starts piling up and overflowing, and we run out of places to hide it. Eventually, it even seeps into our drinking water, and we end up reingesting it.

Perhaps the good men and women in the municipal government are sending us a deeper message, a message that is discussed at length in many Jewish texts, particularly in chassidic teachings: Every piece of garbage needs to be disposed of differently. We cannot continue to run away from garbage, or lump all types of garbage together and bury it mindlessly. Every piece of garbage needs to be disposed of differently. Anger must be dealt with differently than depression; lust must be disposed of differently than laziness. Some of our hangups and neuroses should be recycled and refined, while other shortcomings have no hope and must be destroyed. The only way to figure out which garbage goes where is to have a sophisticated guidebook, one that understands how we tick. Thankfully, the Creator, in His infinite kindness, provided us with the Torah, a guidebook with all the direction and wisdom we need to deal with the complexities of our inner garbage, helping us work towards a garbage-free world.