The Parsha Discussion: Tetzaveh — Smells Good!

Posted by Alex Israel on February 22, 2018
Topics: The Parsha Discussion, Tetzaveh

Do our Jewish institutions need beautiful buildings? Do aesthetics matter in Judaism?

Our parsha opens with the lighting of the menorah in the Temple “to raise a candle continually”. Why does the Temple need to have candles lit at all times?

This is to enhance the Temple, impressing grandeur and honor in the minds of people who see it. Such is the way of people – to illuminate their homes with candles. And the grandeur of the Temple is to instil dread and humility in those who visit it. (Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzva #98)

Likewise, when the Torah mandates the practice of incense in the Temple:

It is impossible to raise something in people’s minds unless the object is experienced in a dignified and noble manner as well as evoking a pleasurable and enjoyable aesthetic. It is well known that an attractive smell acts as a source of contentment to the soul, generating a sense of desire and activating a person’s inner world. (Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzva #101)

In other words, engineering an environment that conveys greatness, dignity, aesthetic pleasure, creates a portal to higher spiritual and experiential engagement with God.

Click here to read more from Rabbi Alex Israel in this week’s Parsha Discussion: Tetzaveh: Smells Good!

Please note that if you are printing The Parsha Discussion on US paper, please select the option “fit to print”.

About Alex Israel

Alex teaches Bible at Pardes and is the Director of the Community Education Program and the Summer Program. Alex was born and raised in London. He holds degrees from London School of Economics, the Institute of Education London and Bar-Ilan University. Alex studied at Yeshivat Har Etzion under Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav Yehudah Amital, and gained Rabbinic ordination from the Israeli Rabbinate. Click here to read more.

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