The Nose & Smells

I've always found something quite spiritual about my sense of smell. And having read that the highlight of the Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple was bringing incense into the Holy of Holies, I can't help but wonder about the deeper significance of the olfactory sense. Can you explain?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Torah (Genesis 2:7) states that "God breathed life into the form of Man." The Hebrew word for "breath" -- nesheema -- is the same as the word for "soul" -- neshama. One's spiritual life force comes, metaphorically, by way of air and respiration.

The senses of taste, touch and sight are used to perceive physical matter. Even "hearing" involves the perception of sound waves. But breathing, and its associated sense of smell, is the most spiritual of senses, with the least physical matter involved. As the Talmud says: "Smell is that which the soul benefits from, and the body does not."

I think there's truth to common expressions like, "He has a good nose for business," and "Something doesn't smell right." Smell is intangible, yet very intuitive. It represents one's internal compass. The Talmud says that when the Messiah comes, he will "smell and judge" -- that is, he will use his spiritual sensitivity to determine complex truths.

Indeed, the nose knows!

More Questions

Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. For genealogy questions try Note also that this is not a homework service!

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Receive the Daily Features Email

Sign up to our Daily Email Newsletter.

Our privacy policy