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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: Pleasant Aromas

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Pleasant Aromas

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The Pasuk says “ וְהִקְטִיר הַכֹּהֵן אֶת הַכֹּל הַמִּזְבֵּחָה עֹלָה אִשֵּׁה רֵיחַ נִיחוֹחַ לה…. - Then, the kohen shall cause to [go up in] smoke all [of the animal] on the altar, as a burnt offering, a fire offering, [with] a pleasing fragrance to the Lord” (1:9)

Rashi explains what a “pleasing fragrance” is

ניחוח: נחת רוח לפני, שאמרתי ונעשה רצוני - pleasing: Heb. נִיחוֹחַ [This word stems from the same root as the expression נַחַת רוּחַ, “contentment.” God says: “This sacrifice] gives Me contentment, for I said [My commandment], and My will was fulfilled!”

This leaves us with three questions on the logic in this Rashi.  Why specifically with the Korbanos (sacrifices) are we told that doing Hashem’s will gives a pleasing fragrance? If the mechanics of pleasing Hashem involve doing His will, then, why don’t all mitzvos give off a ’ רֵיחַ נִיחוֹחַ לה – a pleasing fragrance?

Secondly, the sacrifice we are discussing is actually voluntary! If the pleasing fragrance is achieved by doing what Hashem commanded us, why would a voluntary sacrifice please Him, if He didn’t command us to bring it?

The final question is that when Noah offered sacrifices after the Flood, his offerings were called רֵיחַ נִיחוֹחַ לה,  but he wasn’t commanded to bring sacrifices either!

We can ask another question on the language used – why does the expression change? It should remain consistent – it should say  שרציתי ונעשה רצוני or שאמרתי ונעשה אמרי – I wanted and My will was done or I said and My words were fulfilled. The language should remain constant, so why does it change?

To get the answer, we need to understand what  רצון - “will” – means. Every morning, women recite the blessing “ שעשני כרצונו – who made me according to His will”. This requires explanation, as clearly, everything exists because G-d wants it to. We know that every second, G-d is sustaining existence just by willing it - so each moment existence is being sustained, this is the same as it being re-created, as it would cease to be the moment this ceased to the case. R’ Tzadok Hakohen (biography here) points out that the word for “thing” in Hebrew - דבר or חפץ -  translate as say or desire – the Hebrew reflects it’s essence; things exist because Hashem desires them to and because He says so.

The Taz (biography here) in Orach Chaim explains that this blessing is praising the positive aspects of being a woman. This is perplexing - what specific aspects of being a woman is the blessing referencing as being more "virtuous" than other aspects of being a woman?

R' Moshe Shapiro (biography here) tells us that from the Patriarchs, we have חסד, אמת, וגבורה, but what do we have from their wives, the Matriarchs?  Sarah saw that her son was being negatively influenced by Yishmael, and she insisted that her husband send Yishmael and his mother back to the land she came from. Rivka was weary of Esav, and made sure that he did not receive the blessings from Isaac, as he was unworthy, whereas Yakov was righteous. Rachel and Leah both told Yakov it was time to return to Israel after years in Lavan’s house. There is a consistent theme. We say שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל תיתוש תורת אימך-  listen my son, to the advice of your father, and do not forsake the teachings of your mother. It’s a subtle point, but an inherent quality of women is that they preserve the way things ought to be.

We see this when Hashem created the first woman: וַיֹּאמֶרְ הֹ’ אֱ־לֹהִים לֹא טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ אֶעֱשֶׂה לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ - And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him."

on which Rashi says: עזר כנגדו: זכה עזר, לא זכה כנגדו להלחם - a helpmate opposite him: If he is righteous, she will be a helpmate. If he is not worthy, she will be against him, to fight him (ie to return him to righteousness).

This essentially means that Eve was created to prevent a state of לֹא טוֹב. There is a novel explanation of this. If Adam had no “other” people would say G-d is not the only one, Adam was also only one of a kind! So he needed a mate to show he was fallible, so literally, our wives remind us we are not G-d! The Chiddushei Harim (biography here)writes that the only two you can’t bluff are G-d, and your wife.

But we see that the point of Creation was for the רצון ה , that Hashem wanted people to receive the Torah, and that the woman was created to preserve His רצון, literally, שעשני כרצונו , "I was created to preserve His will”.

Now that we understand what רצון means, we can see why Rashi said ונעשה רצוני. G-d created the world by saying it should (ברוך שאמר והיה העולם) and by doing His will, the world is becoming a מקום עבודת ה – a place for service of Hashem. This means the world is fulfilling it's purpose. This is actually a Rashi in Zevachim (2b). As such, it is clear that only by bringing sacrifices can we say it is a pleasing fragrance to Hashem, as the only thing called עבודה is the Korbanos! This explains why a voluntary sacrifice is also included, and Noah’s too! The Medrash Rabba points out that since no idol worship existed when Noah offered his sacrifices, his was the most pleasant of all.

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