Scent possesses special qualities to awaken & soothe.
Scent can bring us back to the time & emotional place most strongly associated with a particular smell (for better or for worse).
If you're a spouse, making sure you smell good (especially wives) stands out as a high priority.
In fact, scent is so influential that the same halachah that encourages wives to wear perfume (or whatever scent-producer the couple enjoys) for their husbands also forbids women to wear perfume when non-husbands can smell & feel influenced by it.
The Beit HaMikdash, with its precious Ketoret mixture, smelled Divine—literally.
We associate clean, fresh scents with cleanliness & good hygiene, while repugnant scents accompany filth & poor hygiene.
Well-made fresh food often smells good. Scorched or spoiled food often smells bad.
But there is a more spiritual dimension to smell.
Making the World a Smellier Place
The smell of wild animals & slaughter is not a pleasant one. And though Rome enjoyed the best technological advances of its time, plumbing & general cleanliness weren't what they are now. Most of the people and the stadium itself didn't smell so great.
The sounds of pain (from either the people or the animals), the crunch of breaking bones or skulls, the gory sights...
Yet people attended these repugnant competitions in droves.
Likewise, Rav Miller notes the similarity of today's boxing matches.
A boxing arena reeks of beer, cigarettes, cheap cologne, and sweat. People cheer when one boxer lands a particularly crushing punch on his competitor. Some champion boxers gained a reputation for irrational behavior and poor middot resulting from damage to their brain from years of blows to the head.
Yet people attend these matches in droves.
Those are just 2 examples. Rav Miller notes the glorification of shootings, movie stars, pop stars, and athletes in his time.
It's worse now with people filming truly evil acts, like how they torment a helpless mentally challenged person or meaningless inanity, like how they eat from a bath of milk & fruity cereal.
And along with all the people who find these things repellant, these same cruel or inane videos go viral. Even the then-president of the United States decided to honor the milk-&-fruit-loops chick with an interview.
A Tzaddik's Spiritual Sense of Smell
Yet when they drove through Times Square (during Times Square's most depraved phase), the tzaddik suddenly made a disgusted face and asked what the disgusting smell was.
There wasn't a physical smell that Rabbi Wein could perceive.
But Rabbi Wein marveled at the tzaddik's heightened senses, that upon entering a place of depravity, the rabbi could smell its repugnance without seeing or knowing anything about the place.
Society Works Up a Stench about Orthodox Jews
a bad smell, to stink.
Rav Miller notes that the world generally tries to make Orthodox Jews "smell" bad.
Here are modern examples of this:
- They portray Israel's "hilltop youth" as maladjusted junkies & provocateurs.
- Jews living in the "politically incorrect" areas of Judea & Shomron are viewed as violent dangerous radicals.
- The Religious Zionists are considered nationalist religious extremists.
- The charedi/yeshivish/ultra-Orthodox are considered the absolute worst: primitive, fanatic, ignorant, repressed, blah, blah, blah...
- The modern Orthodox are considered the best of the crowd, but still problematic with their adherence to out-of-date laws like the 10 Commandments, and so on. The mainstream hopes the modern Orthodox will finally come around one day and join their rapidly disappearing Reform co-religionists.
In fact, after hearing the stereotype of the literally smelly chassidic Jew, I was surprised to experience a lack of bad smells when going through the chassidic crowds on the street or the buses.
And even those times when a crowded bus doesn't smell like a field of freshly mown lawn, it's not a lack of hygiene or cleanliness or deodorant.
It's simply a hot day of clean people wearing a couple of layers of clothes crowded onto a not-well-air-conditioned bus.
Very sorry to disappoint all the haters. (Actually, I'm not sorry at all. That sentence was sarcasm.)
Replace the Stench with Your Own Unique Brand of Perfume!
Here's Rav Miller on page 8:
The sweetest smelling people are the luftishe Yeshiva men.
They’re young. They have no money. They have no power.
But they are devoted to learning the Toras Hashem. People who sit all day long in the Beis Hashem, those are the ones who smell the best.
The wives too!
Here you have a young idealistic girl and she marries a kollel man and he tells her beforehand, “I have nothing so we’ll have to live in a basement in Boro Park – at the edge of Boro Park in a Spanish neighborhood. And it won’t be so clean either; it’s infested in those buildings. But the rent there is the cheapest I could get and I want to sit and learn.”
And she says, “I’m all in – that’s what I want!”
And so they move into this little den; that’s all it is, a den! It’s not easy for them.
Now today, some people would disparage that.
If the father-in-law can buy you a nice car and pay for a nice apartment, OK, why not be a kollel man on your father-in-law’s shoulders?
But to live with such simplicity?! Many people aren’t impressed by that.
But that’s a mistake. It should be our pride that our young couples forgo the pleasures of this world to live idealistic Torah lives!
For weddings (page 10):
Let’s say you're going someplace, you’re going to a chasuna or some family gathering, so make a plan beforehand.
“I’m going to use the opportunity to propagandize for the honor of avodas Hashem. I’ll speak about the beautiful yeshiva I passed by yesterday or about a new sefer I saw that’s full of wonderful Torah ideas.”
Every time a different thing.
When you're home alone with your wife, say something that will praise the mitzvos.
Tell her you’ve been thinking about how great a certain mitzvah is.
“This mitzvah is really something!” you say.
Praise davening! Did you ever think about that?
You’re going to the synagogue every day to talk to the Creator of the world!
Isn’t that something!
“Ahh,” you can tell her when you come back from maariv, “the pleasure of talking with Hashem – there’s nothing like it!
A father in his home should be thinking at all times what he can say to his family.
Whenever you have an opportunity, say a good word about the chesed Hashem in this world, about Torah and mitzvos.
Always try to say something that will make your family admire lomdei Torah; choose words that will make them admire mitzvos.
You don't have to be a big lamdan to talk about the mitzvos and make them impressed with the importance of serving Hashem – all you need is to understand your role of being a propagandist for Hashem and then your conversation in the home becomes a part of your program.
Don’t think they’re not listening – it goes in, it absolutely goes in. It will enter their minds forever and ever.
“We’re the only nation in the history of the world that Hashem spoke to!”
Tell your family that again and again.
From time to time speak about the glory of avodas Hashem; the glory of tznius and of loving our fellow frum Jews.
Speak about the glory of shemiras halashon and about the importance of being a lamdan and obeying the word of Hashem in every area of our existence.
That’s the table-talk of a loyal Jewish home.
That’s a home where they’re still burning the ketores every day in front of the kodesh kodoshim.
Even when you're talking business in the office, sometimes put in a good word.
Agav urcha [casually, "by the way"] you should mention, “I was in the yeshiva yesterday to pick up my son and it was so nice to see those fine boys. It's a pleasure to see how they behave.”
Or when you see frum girls on the street, praise them to whomever you’re with. Don’t be bashful about it.
When the Beis Yaakov girls pass by, or the Beis Rochel girls or Beis Rivka girls; make it your business to be maktir ketores: “Ah! Boruch Hashem! Frum, tzniusdige girls!”
We’re proud of those girls; they are our glory and we shouldn’t disdain the opportunity to praise them up to the sky.
Look for excuses to talk.
You’re walking down the avenue with your wife, or your children; even your friends.
Say, “How beautiful it is to see a big truck – it’s half a block long – going down the street and on the side of the truck in big letters Chalav Yisroel!”
Tell the people around you that it’s beautiful.
I remember not long ago you couldn't get chalav Yisroel in America. When I came back from Europe, a farmer came once a month, a Jewish farmer, and brought us milk from his cow. It was never fresh, and it was always whole milk.
And now, Mehadrin – Chalav Yisroel in big letters on the truck. Tell your children that you’re excited about it.
Ooh, and right behind it, here comes Kemach, a big truck, the Kemach truck; all yashan, all kosher provisions.
The fact that the Jews came to Williamsburg now and began to manufacture kosher food products and advertise them everywhere in the world, that's a tremendous kiddush Hashem.
Don't think it's a small thing. They did it for their business but it’s our business to propagandize and make it great.
Meaning, if you go around pointing out the virtues of fellow religious Jews & authentic Torah Judaism, then you receive phenomenal reward from the highest places.