Parshat Vayikra By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס”ד
Discover the Holy Presence in the Holy Land
An Offering unto Hashem
One of the more solidly based spiritual “treatments” of plagues/epidemics mentioned in our sources is saying the “pitum haktoret” [with proper intent] – “the offering of incense [in the Beit Hamikdash]” found in the “korbanot” section of Shacharit in the siddur [many siddurim have this at Mincha as well]. There are also longer kabbalistic renderings of this “pitum haktoret,” some of which are formulated specially to be said at a time of plague/epidemic [attached here is also a file which such a rendering]. This spiritual “treatment” of course does not negate or come instead of practical and medical caution and treatment at the time of epidemic, may Hashem save us. According to the Zohar, saying this section was and is very important in stopping an epidemic. In addition, the Zohar adds that it is also very important at this time to make effort to repent, for while saying the “incense section” is an initial spiritual way to prevent and stop a plague, nevertheless, repentance touches the deeper sources/”reasons” of the plague from taking hold.
The Zohar says that the most “praised”/”important” offering in the Beit Hamikdash was the incense offering. We can see this teaching echoed in the simple meaning of a verse mentioned in regard to the offerings, which says that they are a “sweet fragrance unto Hashem.” Our Sages also add that, halachically, when giving an offering in the Beit Hamikdash one is also supposed to have the intent that the offering should be a “fragrance unto Hashem.” Obviously the incense is the offering most directly related to fragrance, which yet again shows that the incense is the most “praised” internal/”soul” aspect of all the offerings in the Beit Hamikdash. In general, it should be noted that the eleven ingredients of the incense run parallel and negate the eleven curses mentioned in Parshat Ki Tavo.
Since a study of all eleven ingredients of the incense is outside the scope of this piece we will study one of these ingredients which, according to the kabbalists, corresponds to the kabbalistic sephira of “keter,” which means a crown, i.e the meaning of “corona.” [It may be also noted also that the main outbreak of corona in the Land of Israel, Land of Divine Providence, occurred on the week the portion speaking of the ingredients of this incense is read in the Torah – Parshat Ki Tisa (in China the outbreak began the week “Tzori” is mentioned for the first time in the Torah – Miketz)] This ingredient is called “Tzori,” which is identified by many to be Balsam coming from a tree known scientifically as Balsamum Judaicum. According to the Talmud and the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch (Orach Haim 216, 4) one is to recite a special blessing, not said on any other fragrance in the world, on smelling the oil of this Balsam tree – “haboreh shemen arev” – “blessed, etc. Who creates a sweet [smelling] fragrance.” This blessing was especially instituted for this oil, since at the time of the Talmud this Balsam was considered unique to the Holy Land. From Yirmiyahu 8, 22 it is also clear that medical/curative abilities are also attached to this Balsam. This Balsam is also mentioned in the context of Yakov’s command to his sons to bring Balsam, among other things, to Yosef when descending to Egypt. The verse describing this is also mentioned in the longer, special kabbalistic versions of “pitum haktoret” said to cease epidemics. Simply, Balsam was sent to Yosef [then not known by Yakov and the brothers to be Yosef, but rather seemed to be a cruel Egyptian ruler] to appease him and sway him away from anger. More deeply, we may say that this Balsam, which is also specifically attached to the Holy Land – Land of the Holy Presence, as mentioned above, in general is beneficial towards “swaying the anger” and judgment of plague, God forbid. Here we should add that Balsam, “Tzori,” when vowelled differently can be “Tzarai” which means “my foes.” According to the kabbalists, one is to have the intent that the word “Tzori” has the numerical value of God’s Name Elohim spelled out with a yod [i.e aleph lamed peh lamed mem dalet hey yod yod vav dalet mem mem = 300]. The Name of Elohim represents Hashem’s attribute of “might.” Indeed, it seems that this Balsam acts like a weapon of “might” against the foes of Israel. More specifically, the term “tzarai” is used in Tehilim 27, 2 which talks about having faith and trust in Hashem, a matter which is also very important at this time.
According to the Zohar the verse said by Yitzhak about Yakov “the fragrance of my son is like that of the field Hashem has blessed” applies to the Field of Machpela in Hebron. The name Hebron too, which means to “connect” [hibur] also indicates the inherent “connection” to the Divine hidden in the “ketoret” – incense – since in Aramaic “ketor” means to be tied or connected.
Miracles from the Holy Land:. The Battle for Katamon:
During the Independence War, Israeli forces reentered Katamon which was a key strategic position in Jerusalem that Israel had failed to retake from the Arab forces controlling it, just two days earlier. This time, the Israeli troops quickly captured the monastery that was being used as the Arab forces’ base of operations and that was the end of the fighting, or so they thought… After a few quiet hours, a fierce counter-attack began. Although they managed to hold off the Arabs, the Palmach began to run low on supplies. Additionally, they suffered countless injuries including Platoon Commander Raful Eitan who was shot in the head. They needed to retreat, but no soldier could be left behind for torture and mutilation. It was decided that those wounded who could not make it out would be put in a room rigged with explosives. Two soldiers would stay behind and detonate the explosives when the Iraqi forces reached the monastery. In the meantime, the enemy forces had also suffered many casualties and were out of Ammo. Their surrender was near, but the Israeli Forces in the monastery had no way of knowing this. The Israeli soldiers were on their way out the door, when suddenly the words “don’t retreat” echoed from a radio that was thought to be broken. The Arabs retreated. The Israelis stayed and reinforcements arrived to treat the wounded. Raful, the platoon commander, survived what should have been a fatal bullet wound to the head and was back in action, half an hour later! This, along with the battle being won, was nothing short of miraculous.
May the merit of learning this piece be beneficial towards the cure of those sick and salvation from the Coronavirus pandemic, amen.