The following is partially based on the teachings of Rav Moshe Wolfson. You can feel free to print this out and read it on Shabbos, just preferably not to be read during prayers.
I apologize for the extra length – it’s Adar. I couldn’t help myself.
In last weeks Parsha we learn about the building of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) and all of the vessels that were used inside of it. This week, the topic shifts to the man running the show on the inside – The Kohen Gadol. We learn about what he wears, who his staff is (the rest of the Kohanim, Preists) and their inauguration.
This begs the famous question: If last week was about Vessels and this week is about Priests, then what happens at the end of the Parsha? After an entire Parsha dealing with the Kohanim, all of a sudden, in the last eight verses the subject switches back to dealing with vessels, specifically the Mizbeach HaKetores - the Altar used for the burning of the incense. What about the Mizbeach HaKetores necessitates that it be taught to us only now?
And if we zone in on the very last verse, we come away with a very interesting anomaly in the language of the Passuk. The Torah says that no one other than the Kohen Gadol will be involved with the Mizbeach HaKetores, nothing other than the specific Ketores will be brought on it. But the Kohen Gadol will sprinkle blood on its corners to atone for the Jewish people. The verse says in regards to Yom Kippur, “V’Chiper Aharon Al Karnosav Achas BaShana MiDam Chatas HaKipurim, Achas BaShana Yichaper Alav L’Doroseichem, Kodesh Kodashim Hu LaHashem.” – ‘Aharon the Kohen Gadol will bring atonement upon its horns once a year, from the blood of the sin-offering of the atonements, once a year, shall he bring atonement upon it for your generations; it is Holy of Holies to Hashem.’
We walk away from this verse learning that some ritual is performed on this altar once a year. We even told some details of how this is performed. We are told it’s very important - Kodesh Kodashim. But if we read carefully, we see that we are told twice that this event happens only once a year. What, we couldn’t get it the first time?
A completely unrelated question: We all have heard the famous line that the Holiest day of the year, the tenth day of Tishrei, Yom Kippur is really Yom HaKippurim, Ki-Purim - Like Purim, but Purim itself is even greater. If the comparison is made, what’s the connection between the two, and what puts Purim on a higher level?
If we take a few moments to set ourselves up clearly, everything will come together beautifully.
Our journey begins with a deep teaching of the Bnei Yissacahr. We know from our youth that we have five senses. Touch, sight, taste, hearing and smell. In accordance with the Kabbalistic tradition, these five senses line up with the four letters that make up Hashem’s Shem Havaya, (ie: A Yud, a Hay, a Vav and a final Hay) So the obvious question is, there are five senses and four letters, how does that line up? The sources explain that the letter Yud has a tip on the very top called the Kotzo Shel Yud, the thorn of the Yud. All of the energy, all of the spirit contained in Shem Havaya is contained in and spreads out from this point of the Kotz. This upmost point is so high, so spiritual, so lofty that is maintains a partial identify unto itself – its holiness is so intangible that it’s part of Hashem’s name even though it’s not even a letter. Therefore there are really five parts to Shem Havaya.
If the Kotzo Shel Yud is so lofty it would reason that only the most spiritual sense is connected to this level. In order to figure this out, we need to look back to the first time in the Torah where senses are used, and that is back in the Garden of Eden when Chava is convinced to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. She sees the tree. She listens to the snake. She feels the fruit and takes it. And finally she eats from the fruit. Which one is missing? Smell. Therefore, what arises is that all senses with the exception of the sense of smell have been tarnished by the sin of the Tree of Knowledge.
This purist of routes, the nose, is specifically where God gives life to a person, as we see when He fashioned Adam HaRishon, VaYipach B’Apav Nishmas Chayim, and Hashem blew into man’s nose a soul of life. It’s the most direct line to the soul, as we will explain right now.
These two sets of five, with the Kotzo Shel Yud lining up with the sense of smell, together line up with another set of five. That set of five is the five parts of the Jewish soul. Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and the Yechida. This highest level, the Yechida is of the same nature as we have already explained. It cannot be contaminated. No matter how far a Jew goes, no matter how much sin is done, the Yechida remains totally uncontaminated. And therefore this purist level corresponds to the uncontaminated sense of smell and the Kotzo Shel Yud.
This power comes down in Adar. The Arizal teaches us that the different parts of the human head correspond to the months of the year, and Adar corresponds to none other than the nose.
This is why the two main characters in the Purim story are named after types of incense. Ester is also called Hadasa, which is a type of fragrant leaf, and Mordechai’s name comes from the language of Mor Dechi which is an Aramaic term for incense.
This is also why we could only overcome Haman in Adar. Haman wielded a tremendous amount of evil and impure force. He served as a major spiritual prosecutor against the Jewish people. So much so is this the case that it’s brought down that in the Court of Heaven he won, and a death sentence was set out against the entire Jewish people.
So how did we get out? Through this power of Adar, the month of the sense of smell, the month of Kotzo Shel Yud, the month of Yechida, the month of Hadasa andMor Dechi - the month that reveals the highest levels of purity. So no matter how intense the claim is against us, there is a certain point which supersedes any negative counterforce, and these powers are wrapped up in the essence of Adar.
And while this is true of Adar and Purim, it’s also true of Yom Kippur. It’s brought down that the Satan and all the forces which try to oppose Am Yisrael are given the day off on Yom Kippur, it is a day which is totally soul - the theme of Yechida.
And this is the Ketores. The Zohar brings down that the Ketores is the most beloved of all of the offerings and that the Kelipos, the negative spiritual forces simply run away when it’s energy enters into the world.
And this is the Kohen Gadol. He is the soul of the Jewish people. The main representative of us to God. The spiritual epicenter and the main charachter of the Mishkan.
And this is the Kodesh Kodashim, a place where the only thing that exists is relationship with God, based on top of the Even Shesiya, the Foundation Stone, the place from where all of creation started, the Kotzo Shel Yud of the universe.
And to bring it all together, it now makes perfect sense, that (this is a loaded sentence)… When the Kohen Gadol enters into Kodesh Kodashim on Yom Kippur he brings in with him only one thing – the Ketores.
And the amazing thing is that we received of these energies wrapped up in one, we received the light of Purim - in the exile. There was no redemption. The Purim story ends and we are still under Achashverosh’s rule. Because Purim teaches us that we can access the Yechida even not in the most ideal situation.
This explains why the Mizbeach HaKetores is not inside the Kodesh HaKodashim, even though logic dictates that it should. We now understand that there is always an energy of Kotzo Shel Yud that will reach outside of Kodesh Kodashim, the way the light of Purim (and everything that comes with it) reaches us in the exile. For that reason the Mizbeach HaKetores is on the outside, showing us that the experience of Kodesh HaKodashim is available even outside the Kodesh HaKodashim.
This revelation of Yechida is hidden in the name Megilas Ester. The term Megilas Ester can mean to be Migaleh that which is B’Hester, to reveal that which is hidden. This level of Kodesh Kodashim is usually under wraps, but the force of Purim draws it out for all to see, like the Mizbeach HaKetores - Yechida, comes into the public eye.
And now we understand how the Mizbeach HaKetores is taught to us out of place. It’s taught to us out of place, because its whole role is to draw holiness into places where it normally wouldn’t be found. So therefore and the very end of the Parsha away from all of the other vessels, there is the Mizbeach HaKetores bringing us back to Kodesh HaKodashim - the Holy of Holies. And as we saw in the verse, Kodesh Kodashim is the very name of the Mizbeach HaKetores.
And now we can also understand why Achas BaShana - ‘Once a year’ is written twice in the verse about Yom HaKippurim. ‘The Kohen Gadol will bring atonement upon it once a year, from the blood of the sin-offering of the atonements, once a year, shall he bring atonement upon it for your generations; it is Holy of Holies to Hashem.’ It appears twice because this experience of Kodesh Kodashim is a once-a-year deal that really happens twice. Once on Yom HaKippurim, the day which is like Purim, and once it’s brought all the way out into the open on Purim itself.
But at the end of the day what does it mean to be in touch with this part of myself? What difference does it make if I’m connected to my Yechida. The answer is that it makes all the difference in the world. If I know that in my truest essence, in the most real part of me I’m completely and wholly pure, then there is no stopping me. If I know that the real me is not even a little bit connected to impurity then I can never feel like can’t do it. Whatever that ‘it’ is, the fact that I’m rooted in such a pure, spiritual, sublime, lofty, clean place means that I’m linked up directly to the Big Man and such a power can carry me through any struggle, help me overcome any difficult time and help me achieve any impossible task. And Adar is the time to reach it.
HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Bracha to be able to live by this. If we can maximize the potential being given to us right now, then there is no doubt that we will be able to do everything that we need to do to bring Moshiach.
Who, by the way, is called Ruach Apeinu Moshiach Hashem - Moshiach, the Spirit of our Noses. Go figure.