Shabbat Pesach| 5764
The Spiritual Fragrance of Milah Harav Moshe Ehrenreich
In some communities, there is a custom to make a beracha on smelling hadasim when a child is brought into the brit of Avraham Avinu. We can find a possible source and reason for this custom, based on a pasuk recited both at a brit milah and during the seder of Pesach.
“I passed over you and saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said to you: ‘in your blood, you shall live’; and I said to you: ‘in your blood, you shall live’”(Yechezkel 16:6). Chazal tell us that this double mention of living by blood refers to the blood of brit milah and korban pesach. The Midrash (Shemot Rabba 19:5) gives the following account. Hashem was looking for merits to enable Bnei Yisrael’s redemption. He had Moshe command them to do brit milah but many refused. Hashem told Moshe to make a korban pesach and had a wind from Gan Eden blow so that all of Bnei Yisrael smelled it. Enticed by the smell, they came to Moshe and asked to partake, but he told them that they first needed to be circumcised, as halacha requires for one to partake in korban pesach. They did the milah,and its blood mingled with that of the korban. Hashem took each one of them, kissed him and blessed him, as hinted in the aforementioned pasuk. We need to consider what connection exists between the smell of the korban and the mitzva of the milah.
The sin of eitz hada’at, caused a deterioration in mankind’s physical powers. Speech was blemished when Chava added to Hashem’s command, saying that she could not even touch the tree (Bereishit 3:3). Hearing was affected by her listening to the snake. Sight was harmed by seeing that “the tree was good for eating…” (ibid.:6). Ability to act was harmed when Chava ate the fruit and gave to Adam. Only smell, with its special quality, was spared and maintained its spiritual level.
Rav Charlop (on the Haggada) explains that when Hashem wanted to liberate Bnei Yisrael from the darkness of Egypt, He used the unblemished sense of smell to return the nation to its spiritual level. Smell was appropriate to bring them to desire the korban pesach, agree to the brit, and reach the level of attachment to Hashem that prompted Him to kiss each one. We can now understand the custom of smelling at a brit. It reminds us how smell was instrumental in Bnei Yisrael’s embrace of the mitzva at that crucial stage in the nation’s emergence.
The special spiritual quality of smell may help explain why there is no beracha after partaking in it. Physical enjoyment comes to a clear end, and requires a beracha at that point. But spiritual enrichment lingers on and never comes to an end.
“In Nisan they were liberated and are destined to be liberated.” We hope that Mashiach, whose special attribute is to sense matters as if by smell (Yeshaya 11:30- see Ibn Ezra), will soon appear.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is
This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld