Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

The Aroma of Purim

The Talmud tells us that the name Mordechai means: pleasant smell. Queen Esther had a second name: Hadass-ah (Esther 2:7). Hadass is Hebrew for myrtle, famous for its nice scent. Esther is related to lehastir – to hide – in the Book of Esther G-d’s hand is hidden. (The Talmud, Chullin 139b, relates that G-d is hidden here as Source of the Salvation, based on Deuteronomy 31:18, that however uses the same concealment to say that Punishment comes when G-d’s Presence seems hidden to us.)

Even the seemingly lowest of the righteous in the Book of Esther has smell in his name: Harbonah (Esther 7:9) – the same letters as Reiach Boneh – the scent of building [of the gallows]. The Midrash (Esther Rabbah 10:9) says that he was the Prophet Elijah.

Why would the names of the main Jewish players in the Purim story be connected to great smell?

The above mentioned myrtle is a symbol for the righteous (Talmud, Megilla 13a based on Zechariah 1:8). (Just seeing them makes you want to be like them.)

Sinning may involve all the senses but smelling. Smell is this untouched pure place from where we connect with the world around us and from where repentance may be build (daily prayers, Yom Kippur). It’s the least material sense, the most esoteric, but the supernatural of it is still hidden – the story of Purim.

G-d likes the odor of our sacrifices and there is even one (the incense) that is all about smell, but human olfaction is hardly mentioned in the Torah or the whole of the Hebrew Bible.

Eve saw that the forbidden tree was tasty (Genesis 3:6). Most of our taste is given by our nose (that’s why we don’t taste much when our nose is stuffed), so this “seeing” was referring to smelling. (The Torah did not want to openly connect something so holy to sinning. We should guard our eyes more than our nose.)

In Tenach, smelling was mostly popular around the first Jews. Isaac smelled the difference between his two sons. Or, so he thought (Genesis 27:27). Jacob always had his nose in a book (Genesis 25:27), but he became a worthy leader by stepping into the world, waking up and smelling the coffee. His greatest love was for a woman named Rachel (Genesis 29:18), a contraction for: G-dly smell (Reiach Ei’l). (Of course he did not kiss her at first sight (Genesis 29:11); he kissed her scent!) The leader of his twelve sons, her firstborn son Joseph, went down to sort out Egypt in a spice caravan (Genesis 37:25). The Egyptians were disgusted with Jewish food (Genesis 43:32). That’s most of it by far.

I don’t want to bloody anyone’s nose, but wicked people seem jealous of Jews’ propensity for virtue (we put their noses out of joint), and so depict us with big noses, trying to make fun of our great predilection for righteousness.

When people have drunk a bit too much alcohol, they are called in Hebrew mevusam: intoxicated, quite similar (Samech – Seen) to the Hebrew letters in word bosem, parfume.

In short: Follow your nose and have a Happy Purim!

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. To see other blog posts by him, a second blog - under construction - can be found by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture.
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