"A Sweet Savor to HaShem"
Some thousands of years, and two complete books of Torah later, the creation of the universe described in the very first verses of Genesis, is finally completed with the establishment and dedication of the Mishkan - Tabernacle. True, the opening description of the six days of creation is followed by Shabbat, "And G-d completed on the seventh day His work that He did," (Genesis 2:2) but the final piece, the beauty part so desired by G-d, was the Mishkan. Unsurprisingly then, the first day of the Divine service, (Rosh Chodesh Nisan), was the eighth day of the inaugural period of the Tabernacle. So it could be said that original seventh day, the one alluded to in Genesis, marked the beginning of the completion of G-d's creation, and that the eighth day in which the book of Leviticus opens, marks the conclusion of the completion of G-d's work, this time with the help of the children of Israel.
So now that G-d's wondrous creation is completed, now that the final details have all been attended to, what is it that He wants? What is G-d's pleasure?
"And its innards and its legs, he shall wash with water. 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 sweet savor to the HaShem." (Leviticus 1:9)
Ahh... the sweet savor, the pleasing fragrance, of course! But what is the sweet savor? Certainly the purpose of creation and of our part in the universe is not simply to provide an open air barbecue for the pleasure of G-d? The great Torah commentator Rashi, in his inimitable terse and straightforward fashion, explains just what this sweet savor is, and by doing so, reveals to us the secret of all creation, nothing less:<
"[G-d says]: nachat ruach - a deep sense of satisfaction and gratification, (related to reyach nicho-ach - sweet savor), is before me. [Why?] Because I have said so, and it has been done!
G-d said, "bring Me an offering, (korban)," and we did so! His will was our will! Just as in those primordial days of creation, when G-d spoke and reality came into being, at last a perfect intimacy and alignment of desire and action, the human and the Divine, has occurred. Look no further: This is what G-d wants. This is why He created and this is why He placed man at the front and the center of His creation. That His will be done!
This is all well and good, but where does it leave us, the mass of people who don't quite get what it is about a korban, (offering), which is actually mekarev, (draws us close, from the same Hebrew word root as korban), to G-d? By answering one mystery, Rashi has plunged us deep into another: How do we begin to understand the power of the korban offering in the Holy Temple? Modern man especially, has great difficulty with the concept of the korbanot (offerings), being immersed in a culture with many notions concerning man and nature, the physical and the Divine, even life and death itself, that are anathema to the Torah perception of man's place in creation and before G-d. And certainly, living our lives bereft of the Divine service of the Holy Temple we are sorely missing the experience of korban, and Torah demands experience and action as necessary components of our intellectual and spiritual perception and well-being.
Yes, G-d created the pure animals not merely to provide man with flesh for food, and skins for cover and protection, and furs for warmth and beauty. Animals, too, have a spiritual purpose and destiny in G-d's world. And yes, the animals designated by Torah as being fit for the Temple service, have a substantive and sublimely meaningful part to play in the service of the korban. It is the spiritual integrity of the offering, (not its flesh), that is the catalyst that enables man to draw nearer, (lehikarev), to G-d. Just as G-d placed Adam in the garden of Eden, man is neither distant from G-d nor aloof from nature. But rather, man is the link that binds all creation together with G-d, and nowhere does he perform this sacred task more directly, more simply, or more profoundly that in the korban offering upon the altar of stone that stands before the Kodesh sanctuary of the Holy Temple.
The ruling catechism of modern society states that our world is a physical world, and nothing more, and that man's greatest aspirations are to fulfill and gratify his own physical nature. Rather than being at the top, front and center, between G-d and the natural world, modern man finds himself at the bottom. How different will our world look, when, having rebuilt the Holy Temple and reestablished the Divine service, man will find himself once again front and center, exactly where the Creator intended him to be, raising up and drawing both nature and himself nearer to G-d.
Tune in to this week's special live two hour TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven celebrated the First Annual International Temple Mount Awareness Day with old friends and new who called to identify with the sanctity of the Temple Mount and to demand unequivocally freedom of worship for all on Mount.
And what a day it was, with the American administration still in a big hissy-fit over the audacity of the government of Israel to continue to build homes for Jews, of all people, (they are people, aren't they?), in Jerusalem, the holy, eternal capital of Israel. Taking their cue from Joe, Hillary and Barack, local Arabs welcomed Temple Mount Awareness Day, and the reeducation of the Churva Synagogue, (twice destroyed by the Arabs), by rioting violently throughout the day. Meanwhile, Temple Mount Awareness Day went off without a hitch, despite the fact that the police closed the Mount, as anticipated, to all non-Moslems. In fact, it seems that the only people with their feet on the ground and with a true desire for peace in their hearts, are the thousands of people worldwide who took the opportunity to express their solidarity for the place where G-d chose for His presence to dwell.