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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Pleasing Scent רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ

Updated: Feb 21

In this parsha where the clothing of the high priest is described in great detail, we also learn of the sacrifices made before God. These sacrifices provide a "pleasing scent" to God. וְהִקְטַרְתָּ֤ אֶת־כּל־הָאַ֙יִל֙ הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חָה עֹלָ֥ה ה֖וּא לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ אִשֶּׁ֥ה לַיהֹוָ֖ה הֽוּא׃

Turn all of the ram into smoke upon the altar. It is a burnt offering to יהוה, a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to יהוה.

In Masechet Brachot the rabbis speak about smell as being the sense where our souls reap the benefits. As Rabbi Yehiel Michel Halevi Epstein said in the 19th century,"The nose doesn't tingle, the cheeks do not change color, a rumbling stomach is not quieted; we sense a fragrance deep in our innards. In fact the Hebrew word for smell - reiah - is of the same root as the word ruhani meaning spiritual, for a fragrant smell provides spiritual delight not physical pleasure."*

This entry to Words Have Wings pauses over the sense of smell in our Jewish lives, especially over Shabbat.


 

There is a subtle scent when the Aron Kodesh is opened. A stillness exists in the air of that tiny resting place of Torah, inhabited by velvet, silver and smooth parchment. Concealed deep within the folds of covers, are hints of scores of fingertips. This the scent of stillness.


רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ

A pleasing scent





Rav Zutra bar Toviya said that Rav said: From where is it derived that one recites a blessing over scent? As it is stated: "Let every soul praise the Lord" (Psalms 150:6). He explains this verse: What is it from which the soul derives benefit and the body does not derive benefit from it? You must say: That is scent. Even over items from which only the soul derives benefit, one must recite a blessing and praise God." Berachot 43 B




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Friday afternoon

a tide of aromas greet

fragrant clouds of steaming soup,

yeasty freshness of baking challah

sharpness of onions and garlic

zesty lemon and pungent fish,

the sweet smell of baking chocolate


רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ

A pleasing scent


The transition

The match is struck.

Sulfur rises and enters.

Shabbat has arrived.


רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ


Erev Shabbat

Caress the curls of a child between

roughened hands

Yevarech'cha .....Yishmerech, Shalom

bend forward and inhale

the sweetness of a child's shampooed hair


רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ


Shabbat morning

a cloud of fragrance permeates

the slow cook of Chamin

lazy stillness

the slowness of the day

redolent of aromas

generations past.

The now.


רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ


Havdalah

three stars

Shabbat departs

amid

fresh mint, cloves,

ginger, cinnamon,

basil or oregano

a fragrant farewell.

Inhale between kodesh and chol.

Ha'mavdil.

Sniffing strength for the week ahead.


רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ



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And he approached and kissed him and smelled the scent of his clothes and blessed him. And he said, “See, the scent of my son is like the scent of a field which God has blessed.”

Genesis 27:27

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Rava says that hariḥo teaches that the Messiah will smell [demoraḥ] and then judge on that basis, sensing who is right, as it is written: “And he shall neither judge after the sight of [lemareh] his eyes, nor decide after the hearing of his ears; and with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:3–4).

Sanhedrin 93 B

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“One day, some time after the saintly Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok (formerly of Vitebsk) had settled in Eretz Yisrael, he heard a great tumult in the street. When he asked what it was all about, he was told that a Shofar blast had been heard from the top of a high mountain, and people said that this was the long-awaited Shofar of Mashiach. (In fact, as was later found out, the blast had been the doing of some crazed individual who had climbed to the top of the mountain.) The tzaddik opened his window and said, “No, he hasn’t come; I can’t smell the fragrance of Mashiach.” Chassidim at the time asked one another, “Why did Reb Menachem Mendel have to open the window?” And they answered, “Because his room was always infused with the fragrance of Mashiach.” [2] 


From Exile to Redemption by

Rabbi Alter Eliyahu Friedman


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*https://www.jpost.com/jewish-world/judaism/world-of-the-sages-sweet-scents The Jerusalem Post article on sages and sweet scents.


 


Other posts in Words Have Wings on Parshat Tetzaveh:






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וְהִקְטַרְתָּ֤ אֶת־כּל־הָאַ֙יִל֙ הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חָה עֹלָ֥ה ה֖וּא לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה רֵ֣יחַ נִיח֔וֹחַ אִשֶּׁ֥ה לַיהֹוָ֖ה הֽוּא׃

Turn all of the ram into smoke upon the altar. It is a burnt offering to יהוה, a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to יהוה


Exodus 29:18

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