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    It’s all very sweet

    incense fume smoke smell fragranceSukkot and Pesach are the fragrant festivals.

    The scent of the sukkah is only paralleled by that of the Seder. On both occasions you can smell that it’s yom-tov.

    Sukkot is even superior to Pesach, because day and night for seven days it is possible to enjoy the aroma of the sukkah whilst the Seder, for all its magnificence, is only two nights a year.

    Both, however, help to make Judaism a religion that not only inspires the heart and stretches the mind but gladdens the body.

    As sources of fragrance they are joined by additional aspects of Judaism.

    The Temple in ancient Jerusalem had its incense and other means of producing a sweet smell. Every Shabbat and festival the Jewish home is redolent of culinary delights. At the end of Shabbat the Havdalah provides a last opportunity until next week to savour the sweetness of the day of rest.

    (On a more mundane level, it is said that a yeshiva class in London was once studying the laws of the b’rachot when one student asked the teacher, “What blessing do I say if I smell a rat?” and the class was summarily dismissed.)

    Mount Moriah is so called, according to one view, because it was the mountain of mor – the spice myrrh (see Rashi on Gen. 22:2). The Psalmist prays that his prayer may be set before God as sweet-smelling incense (Psalm 141:2). The Midrash says that at each word that God spoke on Sinai, spices filled the world.

    The question was asked, “Why is Shabbat food so delicious?” and the answer was given, “Because of a spice called Shabbat”. Every good deed creates extra fragrance in the world.

    All this displays the Jewish value system. What really matters are prayer, Torah learning, Shabbat and good deeds ­ not only because they are commanded, because they are good in themselves, because they are marks of Jewish identity, but because they make the world a more pleasant place.

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