Rabbi Nachman of Breslav points out various sources in which the Moshiach is associated with the sense of smell. Yirmiyahu refers to the Moshiach as the “breath of our noses” (Eichah 4:24). And the word “Moshiach” itself means literally “anointed”, referring to the fragrant oil used to anoint the kings of Israel. So one sign of the true Moshiach is that he will be able to “smell and judge” – to determine the guilt and innocence of defendants by directly sensing their inner nature (Sanhedrin 93b).
Moshiach is above what is seen and what is heard. So often we may judge a person by there personal appearance or what family there from. Perhaps were easily swayed by rumors or what is heard. Ru’ach [spirit] and rei’ach [scent] have amazing similarities. There is a mysterious interplay between the two. Moshiach can scent the spirit of an individual. Each person has a unique scent to their being. A dog can tell it’s master just by the scent. Just as each one has a different scent so also a different spirit. Moshiach has G-d given senses that are above Halacha and our ability to understand.
The term Yericho (Jericho) derives from the word rei’ach (smell), and alludes to Moshiach of whom it is said “veharicho b’yiras Hashem – in the fear of G-d..” (Isaiah 11:3): that is, Moshiach is called “mari’ach veda’in – he is able to judge a person by merely “smelling” him.” (Sanhedrin 93b).
Soon we will be able to greet the Moshiach, who will instantly and perfectly perceive the spiritual aspect of everything, and transmit his knowledge to mankind. This is one reason why we make a special point of blessing on spices as Shabbat goes out (Havdallah ceremony). Then we have a heightened expectation of greeting Eliyahu who will herald the arrival of Moshiach (Likutei Halakhot, Laws of blessings on Smell).
The verse “All the soul shall praise God” (Tehillim 150:6) teaches us that there is a praise of G-d which belongs to the soul alone. The Talmud asks, “What is it that provides enjoyment for the soul, but not for the body? Fragrance” (Berakhot 43b).
At the simplest level, the statement that smell benefits the soul and not the body means that smell does not fulfill any bodily need and does not become part of the body – unlike food and drink. For this reason, we could think that it is not a real or substantial enjoyment, and does not require a blessing. That is why a Biblical source (or hint) for the obligation is required.
This means that the sense of smell has the ability to create a certain response in our brain prior to our logical consideration. Often this response comes in the form of a memory, or a strong emotional response to a certain aroma. Hashem made use of His beautiful design to engage klal Yisroel in Tefilla and worship through the sense of smell.
We must also understand that we must care for our bodies. “It is meritorious to anoint our bodies for healing because our bodies are a miniature image of the Holy Temple”. If we do not take care of our body’s Temple then we have a hint in Lev 26:31 “And I will… bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.”
Hashem commands Moshe to use a blend of essential oils to make what would be called “Holy Anointing Oil.” This blend of oils was used to anoint almost every holy vessel in the Tabernacle, and it was used to anoint priests. Hashem was very specific that it was not to be used on any person, other than a priest; and, it was not to be used for common purposes. But that does not mean we cannot use the plant essences of G-d’s creation to anoint our bodies to be healed so that we may live a life to fill the world with His Torah and perform His Mitzvos. . Sages writings have reference to The Messiah’s Robes as being fragranced with cassia, aloes, and myrrh.
Every time Klal Yisroel gathered to worship. the aroma of Holy Ketoret and the Holy anointing oil would fill the people gathering. Hashem had a very specific purpose in doing this. He was teaching the nation of Israel that this aroma was the aroma or worship. This concept is a difficult one for us to grasp. But, the sense of smell has a very powerful effect on the brain. Of the five senses, the sense of smell is the only one that is processed through the emotional part of the brain before it goes through the logical part of the brain.
This Holy aroma, as much as sacrifices, laws, and rituals, was a part of Jewish Temple corporate worship. It was the part of our worship that engaged the sense of smell. Because the scent passed through the emotional seat of the brain, the activities of worship were reinforced! The ability to experience the sense of smell is an amazing blessing from G-d. The fact that He can use our sense of smell to draw us nearer to Him is yet another example of His amazing love poured out on us like oil of sweet Myrrh and Frankincense.
- Likutei Halakhot, Laws of blessings on Smell.
- Sanhedrin 93b
- Eichah 4:24. (Lamentations)
- Tehillim 150:6 (Psalms)
- Berakhot 43b
- Yishyahu 11:3 (Isaiah)
- Leviticus 26:31
- Rabbi Asher Meir is the author of the book Meaning in Mitzvot, distributed by Feldheim. The book provides insights into the inner meaning of our daily practices, following the order of the 221 chapters of the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh.