This Shabbos we read Parshas Toldos. In the Parsha the Torah teaches us the dramatic episode of Isaac’s blessings that were given to Jacob. As Isaac suspected that his life was drawing to its end, he wanted to bless Esau, his oldest son. Isaac at this point could not really see well, and did not realize how wicked Esau in fact really was. Rebecca, who knew exactly how bad Esau was, insisted that Jacob disguise himself as Esau, and in that way he would receive the blessings from Isaac instead of Esau. Jacob listened to his mother’s instructions, and dressed up as Esau. When Jacob entered the room where Isaac was, the Torah tells us that Isaac smelled the garments that Jacob had, and he said “See the smell of my son is that of a field that G-d has blessed!” (Genesis 27:27). Our Sages explain that Isaac smelled the scent of Gan Eden, the scent of the Garden of Eden.
The Sages relate a story of Elijah the prophet who was once walking with a person and they saw a rotting carcass of an animal. The person held his nostrils closed to avoid the stench, and told Elijah, “How disgusting is this carcass!!!” Elijah responded, “How white are its teeth”!!! Afterwards, they passed by a person who was a great sinner. This time it was Elijah who held his nostrils to keep away the stench he felt from the sins of this person.
The lesson we are taught from this story is that spiritual status of something is a reality. Just as we appreciate that in the physical world there things that give a good smell and things that give a bad smell, so too there is a spiritual reality to this world. Mitzvohs, good deeds, give a sweet smell and fragrance. Sins, bad deeds, give a bad smell and fragrance. A person who is on an elevated level can sense and feel this.
Isaac was on a very great spiritual level. The great deeds of mitzvohs that came in when Jacob entered were very noticeable to him. We all appreciate the difference between walking into a perfume shop and walking into a garbage facility. The odor in each one is a clear indication as to the content of the place. We have to learn to appreciate the importance of each and every one of our deeds. Not only are we doing one specific deed. Our actions are causing influence on the all our surroundings. If we do sins in our home, we cause a stench and odor to permeate our home that would turn us away if we realized what it really was. On the other hand, when we do mitzvohs and good deeds, we bring holiness and beauty into our homes, enveloping them in an aroma that is so pleasant that it resembles the scent of the very Garden of Eden.