The Medrash Tanchuma uses an obscure posuk in Mishlei to explain the apparently haphazard structure of this week’s Parsha. It starts off talking about the shemen, the oil that will be used in the Beis Hamikdosh. And then we have the kohanim and their begodim, their vestments, their special clothes that they wear when they did the avodah. And then we ended off with the mizbeach haktores, the golden mizbeach, which was used for the incense.

And the medrash brings a posuk in Mishlei: “Shemen u’ktores yesamach lev” – “oil and incense gladden the heart”. Now the oil gladdening the heart, is relatively straightforward. When there is light, whether it is meant to be literal or as a metaphor, there is clarity, I can see, there is no obscurity, I understand who I am and where I’m going and that, I can understand, brings simcha.

The ketores, however, says the medrash, the ketores becomes a byword for simcha. Indeed the whole purpose of ketores, says the medrash, is to bring simcha, because it is that, the cloud of ketores, that emanated on Yom Hakipurim, that heralded the fact that Hashem had forgiven us. Says the Vilna Gaon, think about it: You have on the one hand the faculty of sight, when things are clear, and that’s shemen. And then you have when I don’t see, when things are not so clear.

You know the gas companies add an odour to the gas that is pumped through our houses and the reason is simple: because the gas itself is odourless and we could potentially have a leak and be in danger and not know it. We couldn’t, we wouldn’t be able to see anything and therefore they put the smell in, to alert us to danger. To be able to see and understand beyond that which hits the eyes, we use the sense of smell. We use besomim on motsei Shabbos when we’ve lost a component of our soul. Mordechai Hatzadik himself, the allusion for him is found in the Torah in one of the components of the ketores, “mor dror”- “mora dachya”. He lived in a time when things weren’t clear and klal Yisroel, they appeared to be rudderless and they didn’t know where to turn or what to do and when and only when they listened to him, he helped them find their way out.

But there’s another component and that is the Kohen. The Kohen draws these elements together. The Kohen was the one that was able to go into the kodesh hakedoshim and confess our sins. “How could he do this?” asks the Vilna Gaon. How can another person declare and confess to the Ribono shel Olam my sins, our sins? There’s only one way that we can possibly understand that and that is because he was the Kohen, somebody who cared for klal Yisroel, who gave them advice, who taught them Torah, who supported them. And therefore, the Kohen is the bit in the middle that brings together the light on the one hand, the clarity. And therefore, he is able to be misvade, to confess our aveiros as well and then bring ultimately the ketores and together they gladden us.

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