The big Jewish nose has been a typical Jewish stereotype for almost a thousand years. But does it actually have a Jewish source?
Judge by Smell
What is the most outstanding Jewish feature? How would you describe a Jew? In every caricature, Jews have long noses. Is this accurate or merely some anti-Semitic propaganda? Perhaps there is some truth to it.
Today we read in the Haftorah about Moshiach. The verse says, “The spirit of G-d will rest upon him . . . He will be permeated with the spirit of fear of G-d, not with the sight of his eyes will he judge, nor by the hearing of his ears will he bring to justice.” The Gemara comments on the words “He will be permeated by the spirit” and says, “he will judge by smell.” Moshiach will not judge according to what he sees fit, or by what he hears even from reliable witnesses, rather, by his power of smell!
Does this mean that Moshiach will literally be able to judge simply by who smells more righteous?
What this really means is that Moshiach will judge by the inspiration of the G-dly spirit which engulfs him. He’ll feel the justice in his bones. As a result, many of his decisions may seem completely unexplainable.
This can be compared to a good mother whose son is away from home. Sometimes, the mother will suddenly, for no reason, get a strong feeling that something is amiss with her son. Contacting her son she will find that indeed something did happen to him. A talented businessman, devoted to his work, may suddenly get a sensation toward a certain seemingly unreasonable decision in his business and in the end it’ll prove extremely worthwhile.
Tzaddikim who are devoted to G-d are inspired by G-d with instinctive inclinations to truth and righteousness. Thus, there is no need for human understanding in the matter, for the decision comes straight from G-d Himself.
Use Your Jewish Intuition
Now, why does the Torah tell us that Moshiach will judge by his intuition? If I am not Moshiach, why do I need to know this?
The Rebbe explains that the same is expected from every one of us, sooner or later. Not that we’re expected to be able to sense exactly who is right or wrong due to inspirations directly from G-d, but there are times when a person comes across a situation not outlined specifically in Torah or in the rule books, we’re expected to use our “sense of smell,” to follow our conscience, to do what feels like the right thing to do.
For example, today is one of the few days a year on which Yizkor is recited. This is one of the most sought-after prayers in all of Judaism. Jews from all walks of life are insistent on making it to shul at least for Yizkor, if not for the entire service on these days.
Initially, one might ask, if Yizkor is not even a mitzvah, why would there be such a pull for it, by all Jews alike? But it’s just the Jewish intuition that naturally makes the Yizkor so immensely desired. This itself is the best proof that Yizkor is indeed an important asset to Judaism. If a Jew earnestly feels that this is the best way to connect with his parents in the world to come, there’s no arguing with him. Jewish intuition doesn’t lie.
Similarly, we see in the recent past that there’s become a big interest in Kabbalah; everyone wants to learn it. Not Chumash, not Talmud, not Halachah, only Kabbalah. A guarantee for a big crowd at a class is to advertise it as a “Kabbalah class.” They’ll come in droves. Yes, it may be entertaining, it may be fun, but if there’s such a demand for it by Jews worldwide, there obviously is something to it. It’s something coming from on high.
Get To Know G-d
So what is it about Kabbalah that just about everything else lacks? The answer is in today’s Haftara: “And the people of the world will know G-d.”
What’s the meaning of the word “know”?
Once a man met the Previous Rebbe called out, “Rebbe! I knew your father!” The Rebbe turned to him and replied, “You knew my father? You saw my father!” In a lifetime, a person will see a thousands of people but to know people, he’ll really know very few. So, too, is with us. Nowadays we hear very much about G-d, and we might even periodically see Him – His mighty hand – through miracles or the like. So we know of Him, but to know Him, to have proper awareness of G-d, will come about only in the times of Moshiach.
When a Jew learns Kabbalah he comes to know more about understanding G-d; he receives a deeper and clearer awareness of G-d.
Since we are now standing on the threshold of the final redemption, the instinctive Jewish intuition is the urge to gain this knowledge – not necessarily for the knowledge itself, rather to satisfy, somewhat, the yearning for Geulah. That is why people rush so much for Kabbalah, even if they themselves cannot explain it. It’s that “Jewish intuition” that pulls them.
Judaism always requires that Jews must do things, not because we understand why to do it, but just because of that gut feeling that tells us – it’s the right thing to do.
And this may be the reason why, in Judaism, religion is passed on according to the maternal side, because although the mind might be inherited from the father, the warm and alert Jewish heart is most definitely inherited from the mother. This conscious Jewish intuition is something only a mother could give.
It is therefore always important to follow this intuition, and to serve G-d with that, because after all – your mother always knows best.
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