Two of the most frequently asked questions about Ash Wednesday and Lent are
1) Why do we put ashes on our foreheads? and
2) Why do we give up things for Lent?
More about #2 next week, but a short answer to #1 is that we put ashes on our foreheads because ashes are a sign of mortality and penitence. "Mortality" means, bluntly, that at some point or another, we will die. "Penitence" means taking stock of one's misdoings.
Ash Wednesday, it is said, is a kind of Christian Yom Kippur - and as Rabbi Alexis Roberts says of that day,
"Many say we're practicing to be dead: looking over our values, accomplishments, and failures as though it was all over and now we have to make an accounting."
"Thinking about our mo…