It Smells Great

Vayikra

In concord with all other Mitzvah procedures, there are set manual instructions to follow when bringing a Korban. Every Mitzvah has it’s protocol of how it is to be performed. Besides for acting out the specific motions, there are particular thoughts that are expected to accompany the offering. The Mishna (Zevachim 4:6) delineates a total of six necessary intentions one should bear in mind when slaughtering a sacrifice:

  1. Category of sacrifice (Chatos, Shlomim etc…)
  2. Donor who is offering the Korban
  3. for Hashem
  4. Carcass should fuel the Altar fire
  5. A pleasent aroma should be created
  6. Foster appeasement

Question

Why does it have to be “leshem reiach” for the purpose of making a smell? Isn’t the smell subsidiary to the more integral purpose in sacrificing, i.e. ensuring the animal contributes to the Mizbach fires. One would think that the aroma that comes from burning the meat is quite incidental, nothing more than a by-product of burning flesh.

Answer

Man is a compound between the upper and lower worlds, a combination which is part beast and part angel. This results in opposing forces, on the one hand there are animalistic tendencies which attempt to drag one ever lower. These direct Man to the sensual, by convincing and enticing the need to satisfy basic drives. Simultaneously one’s heavenly soul pushes him in the opposite direction to emulate the Creator. A battle has now been fashioned, the carnal earthling trying to avoid the pull of his Neshamoh, vesus the sublime ethereal soul attempting to rein in the beast.

Prior to gleaning benefit from this world we bless the Creator. The enjoyment from pleasing smells and fragrances is no exception. The Talmud (Berachos 43b) sources blessing on scents from the very last verse in Tehillim (150:6) “Every soul should bless Hashem”. The ‘soul’ benefits from pleasant fragrances, for smell is a delight that does not physically fortify the body, it is truly reserved for the soul, the spirit of Man. 

Korbanos are a far cry from the pagan idea of appeasing and placating Satan. The word Korban is etymologically derived from the word Korav, which in turn means ‘to come close’. This signifies that Sacrifices are a method to draw us closer to Hashem. The primary tool to achieve this closeness is by slaughtering and cremating a domestic creature. There is nothing more physical than an animal; from morning to night it does not cease in gratifying its urges. To offer a Korban, is to take a carnally oriented being, a purely materialistic item, an animal, and use it as an aid to transcend to new lofty and noble heights. By bringing the sacrifice we chart a progressive journey, from the realm of the physical to the spiritual.

Let us return to the original question. Why are korbonos sacrificed leshem reaich? Why is creating a smell critical in bring a sacrifice? The answer is now apparent, generating a savory scent, accentuates the whole purpose of the Korban. Smell as we mentioned earlier is a soulful experience, this syncs with the donor’s efforts in attempting to take the physical and elevate it to the spiritual, moving from the sensual to the mental. As I once heard from Howard Witkin: In essence, one who brings a Korban is taking the animal and turning it into a aroma.

Story

Eliyohu Hanavi, chastised the people for adhering to the idolatry of Baal. Worse still they were sitting on the fence “How long will you waver between the two sides? If Hashem is G-d, then follow Him and if Baal is G-d. than follow him”. He then proceeded to challenge the prophets of Baal to prove the veracity of their religion, by bringing down fire from Heaven.

Two twin bulls were brought, and two lots were prepared. On one was written “for Hashem” and on the other “for Baal”. They then drew the lots.

The bull that was selected for Hashem obediently followed Eliyohu without any coercion. However the other bull was a different story. The Baal prophets were having trouble because their bull would not budge. All 450 Prophets of Baal combined their energies to shift the bull, but to no avail.

Eliyohu prophetically understood the bull’s reservation. He and his twin were pastured on the same fields and lived similar lives; they were for all intents and purposes identical. The bull wondered “why should my brother have the opportunity to bring the people close to Hashem, while I will be sacrificed to an idol – Baal.”

Eliyohu replied, the same Kiddush Hashem that will happen by your brother being sacrificed to Hashem, will be brought about by you being offered to Baal. It is the contrast of fire descending for Hashem’s Korban and none coming down for Baal that is conclusive. The two of you together will jointly bring the people closer to Hashem.

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