Temple consciousness met me in my kitchen yesterday. I was earning my “Best Mom in the World" badge as I made my kids’ favorite after school snack, cinnamon rolls.
Any time I use vanilla in a recipe, I have to take an extra sniff. “Umm,” I thought as I inhaled, “That is the best smell in the world.” That’s when Temple consciousness decided to jump in the conversation. “No, it’s not. It’s not even close. The best smell in the world is the incense offering at the Temple.”
I’m squeezing these thoughts in during the last days of Cheshvan. The sense connected to Cheshvan is the sense of smell. As most of you know, the sense of smell is the most spiritual of all senses. The Hebrew word for "smell" (רֵיחַ) is related to the word for "spirit" (רוּחַ). Out of the five senses, the sense of smell is the only sense that didn't participate, and thereby was not blemished in the primordial sin in the Garden of Eden. You probably know too, that the sense of smell is related to Moshiach. "And he shall smell with the awe of God" - "he shall judge by smell" (rather than by sight or hearing, Isaiah 11:3; Sanhedrin 93b).
I don’t pretend or presume to know why Hashem instated the incense offering, much less anything else related to the Temple. But yesterday in my kitchen, Temple consciousness made me start wondering about the incense offering. The sense of smell is strongly connected to memory. So via the incense offering, what is Hashem beckoning us to remember?
Perhaps all the Divine Service of the Temple is a visual and “hands-on” reminder of where our mind is supposed to be; connected to Hashem. A tzadik is one who has connected to the “upper limits” of consciousness. He has negated self-focus by transcending his ego and has reached the “simple,” profound knowing that the only true existence is G-d’s existence. The tzadik knows with every ounce of his being that G-d is One; that nothing exists besides The One. In essence, the tzadik reminds us how silly it is for us to be concerned about our ego, when in reality, it doesn’t even exist. It will be at the Temple, unlike any other place on earth, that G-d’s Oneness will be revealed to all. Translation on our level: Leave your ego at the Temple door.
The Moshiach will have dealt with his ego, to say the least. He will be so connected to Hashem, that his consciousness will be at the highest level. Everything the Moshiach does will stem from knowing that Hashem is One. He will not rely on his own sight or hearing to judge man. To me, the fact that his judgments will be based on his sense of smell is describing that he has arrived back to his pristine existence; completely in Hashem’s Oneness.
“Okay, really, you got all of this from smelling vanilla?” you might be asking. But that’s what Temple consciousness does. It invades. It reminds us to elevate every moment in the world. Yet, at the same time it reminds us that every moment is so incomplete because the Temple is missing.
Long ago in Israel there was a great tumult in the streets after a shofar blast was heard from the top of a high mountain. People wondered if it was the long-awaited Shofar of Moshiach. People went to Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok to ask if he thought Moshiach had come. The tzadik opened his window and said, "No, he hasn't come; I can't smell the fragrance of Moshiach." Chassidim at the time asked one another, "Why did Reb Menachem Mendel have to open the window?" And they answered, "Because his room was always infused with the fragrance of Moshiach."
May we long to smell the fragrance of Moshiach, the fragrance of the incense offering. And may that longing spur us to the action of rebuilding the Temple.