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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5780

Ein Ayah: A Good Smell Makes Purgatory Unnecessary for Some

(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 12:48-49)

Gemara: [We continue with lessons learned from pairs of letters, in regard to entrance into gehinom (purgatory).] Mar zan shet” – Gehinom said: “Master of the Universe, feed me from the seed of Seth (son of Adam).” “El bam gan das”– “To where shall I take them? To the garden of myrtle.”


Ein Ayah: Seth came to repair the world in place of Hevel, who was killed by Kayin. Therefore, the foundation of the world, which came from the offspring of Adam, came about in a way that the original foundation was destroyed and was embellished by the birth of a new offspring who would rebuild it. This is along the lines of the manner in which gehinom destroys and causes the cessation of souls in their original form. This power of destruction causes former forms to be changed, until a “new face” is created. This is what happened when Hevel died and a new form developed with Seth. The Torah testifies about him, in the words of Chava: “For Hashem has placed for me a new seed in place of Hevel, whom Kayin killed” (Bereishit 4:25). This approach of fixing after destruction is the desire of gehinom, and that is the character of its hunger [to consume all], to the point that it says, “Master of the Universe, feed me from the seed of Seth.”

Hashem’s answer about the demand that all of the sons of Seth should go to gehinom is that there is an alternative – send them to the garden of myrtles. This serves to do the necessary fixing in the souls of Israel, because the fundamental root of their holy form remains intact. They do not require to be “scrubbed” in a destructive manner through the fire of gehinom. It is true that there are times when they have weakness in their spiritual power, which is a sort of spiritual fainting due to the pressure of the connection between the material world and the pure spirit. However, the remedy is just to add a good, delicate fragrance. This returns the strength that is hidden in their midst with its pure character.

Thus, the Garden of Eden itself in its spiritual form, which provides a “pleasant fragrance,” which the soul enjoys, is itself the means by which the person’s shortcomings are made up for. That is why Hashem says to the officer of gehinom that he will take them to the garden of myrtle, instead of gehinom. The improvements made due to the fragrance will precede the time at which they will come before the light of the Divine Presence, which is the main goal of eternal life. The latter is, so to speak, the feast in which the souls “eat the fruit” of the Garden of Eden. It is the level of smelling that prepares the souls for the higher level, along the lines of “They will go from strength to strength” (Tehillim 84:8) and from rectification to rectification. All of this will be without needing to be purified by the destructive power of the fire of gehinom. But the alternative of doing it all in the Garden of Eden is what Hashem chose for Israel.  


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