THE PERFUME OF PARADISE
When Jacob came before his father to receive the blessing, he brought the goat meat that his mother had specially prepared to resemble venison. He also brought some wine. He dressed in the special clothes that Esau always wore when he waited on his father. Following his mother’s instructions, he also wrapped goat hide around his arms and neck so that the texture would make him more similar to his hairy brother.
He announced himself to his father, inviting him to partake of the food.
Isaac asks to feel him first, commenting that:
“The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau.”
The blind Isaac eats the meat and drinks the wine. He then asks him to come close so that he may embrace him. Jacob does so and the Torah tells us that Isaac smelled Jacob’s clothes and exclaimed:
“Behold, my son’s fragrance is like the fragrance of a field blessed by G-d!”
Rashi, quoting the Sages, remarks that as well as wearing Esau’s special clothes, Jacob is wearing animal skins which normally have a foul odour. Yet, at that moment, a fragrance of the Garden of Eden entered with him. To this explanation given by Rashi the Zohar adds that the clothes worn by Jacob had previously belonged to Nimrod, the hunter, but Esau had taken them from him. But the clothes had an even more significant history. They were the original garments of Adam and Eve, which were passed down to Noah, who preserved them during the flood. Subsequently, they were looked after by Shem and Eiver. Nimrod appropriated them and then Esau took possession of them. However, by this time, they had lost their original celestial fragrance. Yet, when Jacob donned them, they regained their original scent.
How did Isaac recognize this fragrance as a perfume of Paradise? Smells can be very evocative and can suddenly take us to another place. Rabbi Elie Munk (basing himself on mystical sources) explains that Isaac sensed the same sublime fragrance that had enveloped him when he was bound as a sacrifice on the altar on Mount Moriah. [The word Moriah is related to the Hebrew word, mor, or myrrh.] It was the same fragrance that he had experienced when he used to pray at his mother’s grave at the Cave of Machpelah. Isaac recognized the perfume he had not sensed for many years and immediately realized that the person before him was a holy person, worthy of his blessing.