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Shabbat Parashat Tzav 5778

Ein Ayah: The Good Smell that Comes from the Burning of Good Wood

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:40)

Gemara: The trees of Yerushalayim were of cinnamon. When people would burn their wood, it would give off an aroma throughout the Land of Israel.


Ein Ayah: Practical life, with all its passion in the individual’s heart and the framework of the community, is full of power and “heat.” This status is not uniform. At times, life progresses in tranquility. At other times, certain events will shake life up and cause the heat to increase. One part of the group can light a fire that will start to consume another part until there is a general situation of fire throughout.

Usually, when the “level of heat” spikes in society, it releases all the filth within people’s potential: murder, promiscuity, drunkenness, and all their related abuses. This causes disappearance of the “good odor” of the divinely given spirit, which smells like the pleasant aroma of divine origin, emanating from wisdom and justice. It is replaced by a stench of coarse desires without elevated light or a life of truth. The greater the nation is in quantity, the greater the polluted powers will be, as more people will cause “fire” that will release bad odors that dry up that which ennobles the pure spirit within man. This is because the powers that bring the members of the society together are negative ones. The masses are motivated by wild desires and only a small minority, who stand above the group, raise themselves to the level of “pleasant aromas” that fit their godly spirits. When matters in the society heat up to the point that it begins to “burn,” then a stench of animalistic tendencies develops, which chokes the special people in their periphery and limits their ability to function.

The above is true of groups who do not enjoy the life of a true nation that contains the internal light of life emanating from Hashem. In contrast, Israel has internal light that finds expression specifically when people join together, as their focus on centrality uncovers the most beautiful and pure divine light. In this regard, then, the more animated they become and the more their “heat” will increase, the greater the good aroma with a scent of Gan Eden they give off in the world.

The “heat” and awakening of the spirit will come from something that stores an inner substance. We can refer to the bark of a tree (from which cinnamon comes), which preserves moisture and freshness, although the aroma is one of the “field that Hashem blessed” (see Bereishit 27:27).

Indeed, the trees of Yerushalayim were trees that contained cinnamon. When they were burnt, i.e., when the flame of communal life emerges, when it is appropriate for its pure element to be agitated to a “level of heat” at which its inside is freed into the air, the entire Land was elevated as a result. The origins of these elevated matters are the source of beauty and divine pleasure that dwells in the flesh, senses, and spirit of the members of the nation. They are capable of performing actions that give off the most gentle and pure light. When they would burn the cinnamon wood in the most central place of Judaism, where all the spirits join together and are inspired together, the wonderful impact spread throughout the Land. This is like nutrition for the body that spreads from the heart to the various limbs, bringing along with it, purity and intense sanctity that emanates from the center of the community. “In the congregations bless Hashem; do so from the source of Israel” (Tehillim 68:27).   

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