Parshas Tezaveh – The Mizbeach HaKoteres and the Aroma of Purim

The order of the last half of Sefer Shemos is very diffcult to understand. This is both on the macro level of the divivsion of Matan Torah in various Parshos; and the micro level of specific issues being discussed in seemingly a random order. I would like to deal with one very specific in this week’s Parsha. In general the parts of the Mishkan are in Terumah, and the clothes of the Kohen are in Tezaveh. But there are two exceptions. The Kiyor is in Ki Tisa, and the Mizbach HaZahav or as it also known the Mizbach HaKetores is at the end of Tezaveh. We will try to deal with this week’s issue.

The Mefarshim in Chumash do not ignore this seeming problem in various ways. The Ramban explains the function of this Mizbeach is only relevant after the construction and dedication of the entire Mishkon. The previous Pesukim discuss the tremendous connection that exists as a result of the Shechina being brought into Klal Yisroel. But this comes with a caveat. Once HaShem dwells amongst us, the Midas HaDin – the attribute of strict justice of HaShem – also dwells amongst us. Till there is a Mishkon, our relationship is based on mercy and Chesed. But now the Midas HaDin is how HaShem relates to us. The Ketores is to counteract the Midas HaDin. That is why it is the gift that the Satan gives Moshe at Matan Torah. When there is a revelation of Midas HaDin, bring Ketores and it will counteract it.

This can be explained in the following way. Din is so to speak the “anger” of HaShem. In the Torah is usually described as Charon Af. That literally means the heat of the nostrils. When a human gets angry it is evident in the way they breath and flare their nostrils. Since we are a Tzelem Elokim, that is what we can understand about the anger of HaShem. The opposite of Charon Af, is Erech Af- the lengthening of the nostrils. That means that the anger remains within and does not come out. The Ketores is a beautiful smell that counteracts the Charon Af. Therefore it forestalls the Midas HaDin.

The Gemarra at the end of Chulin finds hints to many aspects of the Megilah in the Torah. Mordechai is found in the names of one of the spices that make up the Ketores. There was no greater time of Din, than that of the time of Haman. There was a decree that was agreed to by HaShem to destroy Klal Yisroel. What can we do to forestall that? We need the power of the Ketores, which is Mordechai.

In addition, Adar is the month which in the Sefer Yetzirah is the power of smell. We find that in the clothes Yakov took from Eisav was the smell of Gan Eden, eternal life. Eisav tried to have that, but he could not. It is only found by Yakov.

The Ibn Ezra is bothered by the words “Miktar Ketores”. He says it is similar to Mishloach Manos in the Dikduk. It is the name of the action. It seems that it is not enough to do the action, but you need to give the action a name. The connection of the Ketores to protect us from the Din, is when it is defined as a connection to HaShem. So too Mishloach Manos is not just the action of giving, but defining it as such. Then it serves to bind Klal Yisroel together as unit, and then the Din cannot take effect.

May we be Zoche this Purim to all the Dinim being turned to the sweet smell of Ketores.

[Sorry about the brevity, a very long week.]

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