Sunday, March 21, 2010

VaYikra: Reyach Nichoach (A pleasing scent)

In our non-anthropomorphic conception of the divine, it is difficult to conceive of a G-d that can smell. Yet, as the many sacrifices and their minute details are enumerated in this and the upcoming parshiot, we are forced to confront a (at least textual) reality that our sacrifices of flesh or grain create a pleasing odor or reyach nichoach for Ha--Shem.

I had always been troubled by this idea until studying one particular Rashi this week. Rashi explains that the odor is pleasing to Ha--Shem because "as he spoke, so the sacrifice was performed." In other words it was not the sacrifice itself that pleased G-d but that it was performed in accordance with divine will. This is a more pleasing explanation for me and sheds light on much of mitzvot observance.

Still, why these particular smells? Why these specific sacrifices? Why not the smells that I or many associate with pleasure, namely: flowers, burning leaves, the scent of a woman's shampoo, etc.

This poem tries to illustrate the vast difference between divine and human taste and volition. I hope you enjoy.

Shabbat Shalom!
What scent doth seize the snout of All?

What scent doth seize the snout of All?
Not lavender wafting wild in July,
Not leaves burning auroral the bitter sky,
Nor the stale spice of some lady's shawl

Nor simply the first fruit, hatched
above bark.

But this scent--



fat and flesh--

Slays celestial lament
with smoky searing
that blinds mortal eyes
in victuals

and death

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