The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Nissan 8, 5769/April 2, 2009

"A pleasing fragrance to the L-rd."
(Leviticus 1:9)

"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, a pleasing fragrance to the L-rd." (ibid)

We all share a reflexive response to outside stimulation. Concerning the above quoted verse, the carnivore within us says, "but of course G-d likewise enjoys the overwhelming scent of a good barbecue!" And the more sober, cerebral being that dwells within us says, "What a primitive concept the ancients had, that G-d demanded and desired the preparation of roasted meat to gratify His sense of omnipotence! Such a thought is offensive to our modern, refined sensibilities!" Caught in an intellectual struggle to strike a balance between our loyalty to the word of Torah, and our loyalty to our own self-styled moral compass, many of us draw the conclusion that, "Well, it used to go like that, but when the third Holy Temple is rebuilt and the Divine service renewed, surely the part with the offerings will be cancelled. After all, WE DON'T NEED THAT ANY MORE!"

It would indeed be nice to flatter ourselves with the notion that we are, when all is said and done, modern, enlightened human beings of the twenty first century, and our ethical, (or is it merely aesthetic?), discomfort with the offerings of the Temple service reflects a great leap forward in the spiritual condition of man. However, the great Biblical explicator, Rashi, anticipated this "modern" dilemma nearly 1000 years ago!

In commenting upon the above quoted verse, Rashi made the connection between the expression, "rey-ach nicho-ach," translated as "pleasing fragrance," or "sweet savor," and the more commonly used expression, "nachat ruach," which can be defined as satisfaction, contentment, gratification, fulfillment, enjoyment, wholeness. Having thus explained the enigmatic "rey-ach nicho-ach," Rashi goes on to explain the source of G-d's contentment: "Because I said so, and you performed My will."

How pure a thought! How simple an answer! All the while we thought it was about us, we thought that the act of bringing a korban - an offering - was an act that somehow required our seal of approval, our certification of moral or aesthetic correctness. Yet, in truth the act of bringing a korban, (from the word lekarev - to bring close), is a moral act, an aesthetic act, and a desirable act, because it is the will of G-d. This is what He wants!

When G-d tells Avraham to offer up his son Yitzchak on Mount Moriah, the moral dilemma is clear to us, and so is the depth of Avraham's commitment to G-d, as seen in his ability to overcome his own compassion, and so submit his will to G-d's will. Perhaps what Rashi is telling us is that the Temple offerings are not about the physical or sensual pleasures of eating meat or of inhaling the scent of the meat as it is being cooked. They certainly aren't about "appeasing" G-d, pacifying or placating His anger, or providing Him with a bite to eat. All these misconceptions expose within our own selves a great distance from G-d, and the very need to draw nearer, (lekarev), to His will via the offering of korbanot.

"Then, the kohen shall cause to go up in smoke all of the animal on the altar, as a burnt offering, a fire offering, a pleasing fragrance to the L-rd." "Rey-ach nicho-ach" - the "pleasing fragrance," G-d's supernal contentment with man, His most beloved creation, when man, dropping all pretenses, fulfills the simple instructions that are His will!

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Richman and Yitzchak Reuven ponder the implications of the korbanot, the Temple offerings, that most difficult and challenging area of Torah, the one that threatens everyone's comfort zone. Excitement is in the air as world Jewry prepares to observe a unique religious ritual that is available only once every 28 years: The blessing for the sun, which falls out this year on 14 Nissan, none other than Passover eve. Our hosts explore the history and concept of this observance in the context of Temple consciousness, and that other ritual that is supposed to be observed every year on this very same day, with no excuses... the Passover offering!

Part 1
Part 2