"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Friday, February 5, 2010

FNQ - Parsha Thought

The narrative that describes the experience of Klal Yisrael at Har Sinai is replete with mysterious details and nuances that could be studied for a lifetime. It includes witnessing of G-D, death and reincarnation, breathtaking natural phenomena and countless other miracles. The following is one of the many wonders that took place at the revelation.

Rabi Yehoshuah ben Levi taught, “What is the meaning of the pasuk, ‘His cheeks are as a bed of spices’ (Shir HaShirim 5:13)? For each one of the Ten Commandments which came from the mouth of Hashem the world became full of a sweet fragrance. If this was so from the first commandment, that the world had become full of the fragrance, where did the smell from the second commandment go? Hashem took out a wind from his storehouses and would remove the first out first [before the second commandment]…” (Shabbos 88b)

There are multiple examples of the visible and audible wonders at Har Sinai such as that the “sounds which were seen”. This statement of Chazal adds the sense of smell to the maamad Har Sinai. How can we understand the significance of this dimension of the experience? Additionally, why was it so crucial for the smell to come and go for each one of the dibros?

The Rif on the Eyn Yaakov explains the teaching as follows. The Gemara on same page teaches, based on another expounding from a pasuk in Shir HaShirirm, “nafshi yatza bedabro“, that for each one of the Aseres HaDibros the soul of every Jew left him and it was restored using that dew that will be used for the revival of the dead in the future. Based on this, the purpose of the sweet fragrance was needed to bring the Jewish people back into to this world after hearing each commandment from Hashem. Just as we use the besamim on every motzei Shabbos to ease our transition “back to earth”, Hashem filled the world with a sweet smell to comfort the souls of Klal Yisrael as they returned to their bodies.

Perhaps our Gemmara can be understood from another angle. What was this smell? The Iyun Yaakov on the Eyn Yaakov teaches that the Jewish people were likened to a bride under her chuppah at the time of Kabbalas HaTorah (see the Ohr HaChayim Hakadosh who explains the process of 7 weeks prior as the preparation for the wedding). He explains that traditionally a bride puts on perfume in honor of her wedding and this is the smell that filled the world at Har Sinai. It was the sweet aroma of the marriage of the Jewish people to Hashem through the giving of the Torah. What remains puzzling is the need for the removal of the fragrance after each dibbur?

The Kiddushas Levi, on our Parsha, teaches that this fragrance is referred to in the Zohar as “taanug”, pleasure or delight. It refers to the incredible unparalleled pleasure that a Jew has when he is involved in avodas Hashem. This level of spirituality and excitement in our performance of Mitzvos is indicative of a great closeness to Hashem and the real relationship that we have with one another. He says however that this state is not everlasting. Rather, the passion and pleasure will naturally come to a lull. The sweet smell of pure ruchaniyus, the taanug will have periods when it will not be sensed.

This is precisely what happened at Har Sinai. In the midst of teaching us the Torah Hashem showed us periods of great inspiration and passion. We experienced a feeling equal to the awesome love and yearning of the bride and groom to one another on their wedding day. But as all growing and flourishing things in this world, there are ups and downs; times of progress and times of digression. The times of quiet, when things seem to be on the downwards trend, are times for us to rejuvenate and prepare for the following explosion of emotion and fervor in our relationship with The Rebbono Shel Olam.

Rashi says that each time Hashem took out “his wind” to remove the sweet smell he blew it to Gan Eden. The Maharsha adds that Gan Eden was/is able to contain all of the wondrous fragrances from each one of the dibros simultaneously. The greatest reassurance we have is to always remember that no thought, speech, act or emotion of love and closeness with Hashem ever goes to waste. They are taken to Gan Eden and stored away for us. We must always continue to move forward and build complete lives full of taanug and must always know that we are Hashem’s beautiful sweet smelling bride.

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