“to draw in the Shechinah an incense offering is required”
for the Divine Presence does not completely manifest herself within the realm of mortals without the aroma of incense”, continues the Midrash Tanchuma for Tetzaveh, 15. the ketoret (incense offered on the golden altar in the Temple only’) that stops plagues, the ketoret that has qualities of flame and cloud….fiery pillar and cloudy pillar leading the People through the wilderness as they moved from freedom from direct physical slavery through the 40 years of wandering out of their spiritual slavery to become worthy of entering and living Torah in the Land.
perhaps her “mate”, the masculine haKadosh Baruch Hu enjoys also the reaich nichoach (‘sweet savor’) of the korban (‘nearness’ the core of sacrifice) going up in smoke….since this year the Shavuot holy day that comes immediately after Shabbat coincides with the american memorial day, thinking of barbecue might be just the ticket to making that scent real. there will probably be something remotely like burnt offerings going on all over the USA come this sunday…..
but what the ketoret and the reiach nichoach share is fragrance and a smoky, cloudy rising heavenward. ketoret’s fragrance is compounded of 11 spices and the korban’s fragrance is that of the barbecue with the addition of burning bread and olive oil for the grain offerings. hmm. perhaps it is no wonder that the Sages teach that the ketoret offering is more highly prized than all the korbanot together….
but the offered reason is that ketoret is not offered for the atonement of any offense, but rather (as in Proverbs 27):
“ketoret gladdens the heart”
and not just of us, but of G’d as well. we learn in Zohar that ketoret wipes away heavenly anger (slow to get there, but not absent, after all) and is entirely offered to sanctify G’d. due to this, the burning of ketoret is said, again in Zohar, to send the forces of the Other Side (the dark side, if you will) packing…..like roaches fleeing the scent of insecticide. in fact, the ketoret is offered up on a special altar, which is called the golden “mizbeach” (‘altar’) just as the other mizbeach for offering slaughtered animals (the hebrew root zayin bet chet is associated with slaughtering) only because the forces of the Other Side are slain upon it via the offering of the incense itself. no animal was ever offered up on the golden mizbeach.
so the Shechinah, the Earthly-Indwelling Presence of G’d is drawn by the the scent of what gladdens the heart of G’d. She comes in the presence of joy. malchut is in joy.
sovereignty never smells so sweet as that brought on by the Divine Presence. but let’s think again about that fragrant smokiness/cloudiness that rises up. is that not like the spirit? concealed by nothing more than diaphanous smoke/cloud, that, like the soul, constantly in motion, and generally moving from earth up. it is not permanent, nor steady, nor solid, yet it is redolent always….often our olfactory memories are stronger than the visual or the tactical or even the aural. smell abides…indeed, when it is bad, it is very hard to be rid of…..our sensory receptors for smell are designed to create permanent memory connections…not temporary ones like those of light and sound. permanent connections are connections that bind….so remember that the root of ketoret, kuf tet resh means to bind. ketoret binds a human soul to the upper worlds as it burns…..
malchut in malchut is a tightly bound interinclusion…and absolute kingdom of female Divine Presence with the power of the collected flow through the rest of the sefirot…the opening out and way into the way of the G’d.
and a fragrance can pull us out of anything we are doing….that is why incense has been used in many, many religious rites world- and time-wide. from pheromones to flowers, scent is the call to Creation at its root. ketoret is higher than prayer, for it draws the Shechina to the soul that brings it. the answer to the offering is joy and Presence of the Divine therein…. we are taught (Ta’amei haMitzvot, Mitzvat Aseh 41):
“the soul takes no physical pleasure except through the sense of smell”
bring flowers for the Shechinah this Shavuot…fragrant flowers to scent the synagogue for the Holy Day of Divine Presence.
mussar for malchut she b’malchut
with another….bein adam l’chaveiro if each of us has a realm in which we hold sovereignty for doing good, we each much respect the sovereignty of everyone else. that means being aware of their deep mineral rights and also their rights to sovereign airspace. be careful that you recognize the physical rights and the spiritual rights of your neighbors. they have responsibilities to fulfill in those arenas.
with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo it is taught that Moshiach will be fragrant. that will be among the markers of the Divine Presence’s Presence with the agent of redemption. the Chofetz Chaim had a special coat that hung on the back of his door for easy grabbing….it was intended to be worn when he went out to meet the Moshiach….he perfumed it. what will you wear? how will you smell when Moshiach comes?
kabbalah for malchut she b’malchut
in assiyah….the world of doing/completion you may now have been working on your spirit traits for 48 consecutive days. what are you doing about it in the world on the 49th day, today? bring something now that you couldn’t have brought before to every interaction you have with the Creation.
in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation light some incense (after Shabbat and Yom Tov!) in recognition of your soul’s ability to take a small bit of pleasure in it. remember the wanderings of the Sefirat haOmer this year. do you feel that your soul is more liberated? better able to walk the humble walk with G’d?
in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation you have had the chance to visit all 48 ways of acquiring Torah in the past 48 days. if you have taken even some to heart, you have prepared a fragrant field in which to study better from this point on. choose good study partners with which to share your new Torah gains during the Tikkun Leil Shavuot.
in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition you have been climbing and wandering through, around and beside yourself for 7 full weeks (counting today). you will now rest in Shabbat. dwell in the menuchah (‘contentment’) that comes of having worked hard and having come…finally…to that 7 time, Shabbat, when G’d G’dself rested. be content.
kinyan 49 of 48 ways to acquire Torah?
say what? we have completed the 48. the traditional way on day 49 is to review the lot of 48. so i’m going to suggest a kinyan related to that review: miktar hakinyanim….connect/burn the acquisitions. when you review the kinyanim, look for the correspondences (kabbalah) between them that will bind them (katur) in new ways. always approach Torah study with the desire to find the correspondences that will bind…and burn them in passionate study and understanding as you would any other offering….
“may my prayer be as ketoret before You”