Our view of the Galile

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Getting "Scent"imental- Vayikra 2013

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
 March 14th  2013 -Volume 3, Issue 23 –3rd of Nissan 5773
Parshas Vayikra

Getting "Scent"imental

I'm an animal lover. I love chicken (preferably white meat on a grill), turkey (with cranberry or on club with sour pickles, gulden spicy mustard and a little toothpick with some colorful plastic stuff on the edge), lamb (chops), cow (free-range, no hormones- I have to worry about my health of course, but you can prepare it any way you'd like) and even this thing here in Israel that they call Pargeet , which I think is a baby hen but it tastes much much better. Yes I love my animals. I can eat them here and there. I can eat them everywhere. On  a train, on a plane but preferably not on a box or with a fox. You get my point. That's what happens when you start writing your E-Mail before dinner… as the smell of roasting meat comes through the window on a balmy sunny late afternoon in March?! Summer got here early this year in Israel and I'm thinking BBQ (The word mangal just does not do it justice-that's only for Israeli meat- a good American steak will always be a BBQJ). Yeahhh Bee Bee Que..


But better than eating the actual BBQed animals, is the incredible smell of the roasting meat. (OK that's a bit of an exaggeration-poetic license…). There is nothing that can get my mouth more watering, my heart singing, my soul soaring like that rich, hearty aroma of cow on a sizzling flame. Memories of BBQ's long gone start to surface; the family and children running around on the grass, crickets singing and birds chirping. It's one big song to the universe and I am happy to be part of it. The grill is my altar and His world is my temple. Hello Summer.


Which brings us of course to this week's parsha and the book of Vayikra, in which we begin the Torah's narratives of the Divine BBQ's that would take place in the Tabernacle and ultimately the Temple. Can you imagine the delicious smell that would welcome you as one would get close to the Beit Hamikdash? Cows, lambs, birds, goats, a veritabl méli-mélo of the kosher animal kingdom and their heavenly aroma would be the first thing that would engage your senses as you entered the holiest place on earth. One can in fact even arguably say that the function of all of these sacrifices, which would be offered for sins, gratitude, fulfillment of vows, guilt and just regular daily offerings, were primary for the smell that would emanate even more than the actual meat itself. In fact repeatedly the Torah tells us throughout the portions of sacrifices that they are all meant to be Ishei Rayach Nichoach L'Hashem- fire offerings that are a pleasing aroma for Hashem. Now I know that I love the smell of roasting meat but somehow when we think about the Hashem the Master and Creator of the world and source of all holiness, I think we can agree that there must be something deeper going on than affinity for a nice piece of sirloin.


It is interesting to note that the commandments of the sacrifices begin with the word Adam Ki Yakriv Mkem Korban la'Hashem- Man when he will sacrifice an offering to Hashem. Our sages note that the Torah uses the word Adam rather than the standard word Ish which means a person in order to allude to Adam Ha'Rishon- the first Man. The sacrifices are meant to take us back to the Garden of Eden to bring us back to the level of Adam prior to his sin, when we were one with Hashem. It was just us and the Divine. We lost that closeness when we sinned by disregarding our only commandment and following our senses. Our sages point out that the verses tells us that Man listened to the snake (hearing), He saw the tree that it was good (sight), He touched the tree (touch) and he ate from its fruit (taste). The one sense that we did not sin with and which remained pure, having never lost that connection is the sense of smell. The word in fact for smell Ray'ach is the same root as Ruach- spirit. It is that part of our soul that remains connected from when Hashem first blew His spirit of life through our nostrils. It is for this reason when we leave Shabbat, our weekly sojourn in Eden, that we make a blessing and smell spices in order to ease the pain of that Exile. In that act we are telling our soul that we are not totally disconnected. We still have that smell of Eden. Our Ra'yach is still satisfying before the Almighty.


What is so special about this sense of smell? If you think about it, out of all of the senses it is perhaps the least essential for our day to day functioning. The scent of smell is more like the icing on the cake. It is there tell us of what is to come and to prepare and awaken the palate for the meal that is soon to be enjoyed. As every good wine or scotch connoisseur knows (of which I have undergone great training to become- as my grandfather would say a fein-shmekker), one most first swirl the glass around to open up its flavors (or bouquet as we like to call it) and then engage the olfactory senses with a deep whiff before imbibing. In a similar vein when we bring sacrifices to Hashem it is a statement of our desire to get close to Hashem once again. Cows, sheep, birds are not cheap, neither is the trip up to Jerusalem. But people would regularly bring their sacrifices to Hashem in order to leave that physical, material world behind and tap into that transcendent universe of the Almighty; to reconnect once again with that aroma of Eden and bring the scent of our desire to return that is so pleasing to Him. When Hashem sees that desire, although he cannot yet "taste" our return but there is nothing He has that is more pleasing than that familiar scent of Adam back in the garden again.


As we get closer to Pesach it is interesting to note that the Pesach offering is unique in that we are told that it was brought even when the Temple was not standing. In fact there were many Responsa written on the topic of its reinstitution in the 1800's when it was thought it might even be feasible again. One of the ideas presented was, that unlike other sacrifices which require that Ra'yach Ni'Choach that has been lost without our Temple, the Pesach offering can be brought even without it. The Hagada Emek Bracha suggests that it is for that reason on Pesach we make the blessing on the 2nd cup of wine and ask Hashem to return us once again to eat from the Pesach offering from the altar Bi'ratzon-with desire. Although in general all sacrifices are with desire, the Pesach offering which was brought originally in Egypt and is primarily to break us out of the idolatry we were entrenched in was not a desirous sacrifice. It was one of necessity, out of sin (similarly many of the sin offerings don't mention the Rayach Ni'choach as well). We on the other hand on Pesach ask to be returned to the Temple where we can bring the ultimate Pesach sacrifice- not like those that were brought outside of the Temple, rather ones of desire…one that returns us to your holy abode.


So as you turn to your holy Shabbos table this week and smell that aroma of Shabbos chulent, or when you pick up that second cup by your Pesach seder as the main course is finally about to come, or as you spend the remaining time before the chag- hoping mashiach comes so that you at least don't have to clean the rest of your house… think about the aroma that is before Hashem in your offerings. Think how incredible it would be to just be back where we needed to be…where we were meant to be… where our souls can still detect that faint fragrance from. And may that smell be the hearkening of that great meal to come with our beloved Father once again.


 Have a heavenly Shabbos

Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


                                                                  MATZAH MAN








 (answer below)

The Somekh Junction is name for

 (a) The rabbinic ordination (semicha) conducted by Reb Yehudah ben Bava

(b) It's proximity to Yavne and Shefra'am                                                   

(c) Priestly Ordination (semicha) during the Hasmonean period

(d) Rabbi Ovadia Somekh



Usha- in the southwest portion of the Galil (about a 1/2 hour from our home) there lies a destroyed bedouin village known as Husha. It matches the Talmuds account of where the Sanhedrin sat after the city of Yavneh was destroyed after the Bar Kochva revolt.It was here where Jewish life really started in the North of Israel and where it remained for the next 1700 years primarily. In the 1990's A group of school children, as a school project, have begun digging there over the past few years and have uncovered some remarkable finds such as a mikva with tunnels to hide from the Romans as well as the central pillars of what could very well be the synagogue where the Sanhedrin sat. Not bad for a 6th grade school project! Today one can visit this ancient site and see little statues with quotations from the various sages that were ordained near here by Rabbi Yehudah Ben Bava one of the ten martyrs killed by the Romans




Barbecue Routine


1) The woman buys the food.


2) The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.


3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill - beer in hand.


Here comes the important part:




More routine....


5) The woman goes inside to organise the plates and cutlery.


6) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he deals with the situation.


 Important again:




More routine.....


8) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces and brings them to the table.


9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.


And most important of all:


10) Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts.


11) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed 'her night off.' And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women....



Answer is A- This intersection located in the lower Galile , the intersection of highway 70 and 79 is right near where Rabbi Yehudah Ben Bava in the 2nd century gave semicha to his students. The Talmud tells us that Hadrian had passed a law that anyone who received or passed down ordination then not only would they be killed but the city where they did it would also be destroyed so he went into this valley between the two hills of Usha and Shefra'am and gave semicha to his 5 students- Rebbe Meir, Rebbe Shimon, Rebbe Yehuda, Rebbe Yosi, Rebbe Elazar Ben Shamua and the romans caught him. He told his students to run as he put his body between them and the Romans and they shot him with over 300 spears. He is included as one of the 10 martyrs that are mentioned in our Tishah B'Av and Yom Kippur.

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