Wednesday, January 02, 2008

An Aroma for God

by Simon Chang (with thanks to his wife)

For my grain offering I used fine flour, extra virgin olive oil, and sesame oil because we don't have frankincense to burn and thought that the sesame oil might be an acceptable substitute (there I go, making an imperfect sacrifice). I also have my small pan that I normally use to cook Raman noodles. Since I am not able to duplicate fully the ceremony anyway, I might as well use something convenient.

So I mixed up the ingredients together in the pan and got the electric stove going. Initially the aroma from the sesame oil came off wonderfully and I just stood there sniffing at it while saying "Ahhhhhhhh!". But in a matter of minutes as the mixture browned steadily, the scent changed and smelled like overcooked popcorn and burning old newspaper. The mixture also started to give out A LOT of smoke, so that by the beginning of the fourth video clip Lori had to open the windows so that our smoke detectors won't report me as a closet Jew. By this time there was a growing haze inside our apartment and we decided that we couldn't risk igniting the mass and losing our lease over an experiment involving ancient rituals, so we removed the pan while the charred remnants smoldered. There was smoke everywhere. After over an hour of using ceiling fans and open windows to air out our home, there was still considerable aroma lingering in the air when I left for the airport.

During all this time I had Lori videotape the proceedings and I made an observation that, as imperfect as this experiment was (missing ingredient, un-kosher container, no priestly chants), it nevertheless gave some indications as to what the scene at the temple must have been like back when the LORD ordained Leviticus. Hundreds and thousands of sacrifices took place everyday, the fire going practically non-stop, in order to accommodate the sacrificial system. The smoke and the scent from the burning offerings, together with incense and the smell of blood drained from livestock, must have been overwhelming. There is something very communal about all this, however, in that the system identified everyone who belonged to the LORD.

There was another thing I noticed: On the way to the airport I kept smelling that particular scent. At first I thought that my olfactory bulb was just working overtime, but then it dawned on me that my coat and my hat were near the kitchen during the entire offering, and somehow they picked up the scent. It seems that the mere act of giving this offering has left me smelling a particular way, and I wonder what I would say if someone at the airport (say, a TSA agent) were to ask me, "What is that smell, and why do you smell like that?"

At that point, it would have been entirely fitting for me to smile broadly and say, "God Is Great!!!"

No comments: