Hashem commanded the Bnai Yisrael to offer up communal Korban Mussaf sacrifices on the special days of the calendar year, namely every Shabbos, each Rosh Chodesh & the Yamim Tovim. The Mefarshim are bothered by why it is that with every single one of these korbanos the Torah tells us that these sacrifices were a “rayach nichoach” – “pleasing aroma” – to Hashem, except by one: the Shabbos korban. There is no mention whatsoever of the olfactory satisfaction that this korban provides to the Creator. Perhaps we can offer an explanation.
What does it mean when the Torah tells us that a korban is a rayach nicho’ach? Regarding sacrifices brought by an individual, Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg in his commentary Hakesav V’Hakaballah (Vayikra) offers the following insight: You walk down the street on a pleasant summer’s eve when all of a sudden your nostrils are pleasantly attacked with the wonderful smell of barbecued meat. You may well look around and try and locate the source of this aroma. But invariably you will be unable to determine the back yard from which this magnificent mouth-watering aroma is emanating. That, says the Hakesav V’Hakaballah is the definition of a smell. It is not the actual object with which one is coming in contact, rather it a siman – a sign- that there is someone or something else at a distance from your present location. A smell is thus a mere announcement of something happening elsewhere. When an individual offers a korban to Hashem he is in the process of spiritually travelling somewhere. The Chattas -sin offering- is brought by one who is embarking on a trip to turn over a new leaf and become a better person. A Todah is offered by one who recognizes the role his Creator has played in his life and wishes to pay homage to that interaction, hopefully further strengthening his relationship with Hashem. And so on. The korban, however, is not the end game. It is not the back-yard where the main event is taking place. It is just a siman that further down the road there will be a changed and a better person than the one bringing the korban today. And right now no-one can see this person. You can merely smell his potential. Hence, rayach nicho’ach laShem – it is merely a pleasing aroma and announcement to Hashem of ones projected future spiritual persona.
With this we can explain why with all the unique days in the year the Mussaf korbanos are labeled a rayach nicho’ach but not so the Shabbos offerings. You see Shabbos is fundamentally different in its motif than the other banner days on the calendar. On Shabbos, a day fixed by Hashem, the Sfas Emes tells us we leave our domains down on earth and are guests in Hashem’s “Bais Genazov”-his Treasure House”. And it is there where the ultimate spiritual barbecue is taking place. It’s not just the rayach nicho’ach of which we partake, but the actual parabolic fall-off-the-bone ribs and finger licking steaks that have been marinated for six days in that special spice called Shabbos (see Shabbos 119a). On the other days, the Yamim Tovim, the special days of the year that are defined by man’s calendar, yes, Hashem does fire up His grill once again and allows us to join, but this time it is from wherever we may be. Some of us are on the highway (stuck in spiritual traffic jams), some down the street, and a few mere mortals are even neighbors with Hashem’s back-yard. It is a time of rayach nicho’ach, and depending on our proximity will be the intensity of the smell of the BBQ. But nothing more, no actual ribs, burgers, or corn from the ultimate Chef. Just the mouth-watering smell of what is going on on the other side of the fence. Yes, this causes us to salivate and prompts us to fire up our own spiritual grills, to be sure memorable parties will be had, and our souls’ stomachs will be filled, but still not the same as Shabbos.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.