Of the five senses, which sense to do you think is the most spiritual? The five senses are as follows: 1) Sight 2) Hearing 3) Smell 4) Taste and 5) Touch. So which would you choose? And is there a right or wrong answer to such a question? The answer is astonishing.

Growing up, my father taught me a saying, “Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see.” The prophet Isaiah, speaking of the King Messiah, actually says something similar:

“A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the L-RD will rest on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight (וַהֲרִיחֹו) will be in the fear of the L-RD. He will not judge by the sight of his eyes, neither decide by the hearing of his ears…”
Isaiah 11:1-3

If the Messiah will not judge by His eyes nor ears, how will He judge?


Around the year 132CE, The Talmud recounts a story of the sage Rabbi Akiva and a military leader named Shimon Bar Koziba. After the initial success of Bar Koziba, Rabbi Akiva proclaimed him the Messiah, renaming him “Bar Kochva”, the “son of the star” based on Numbers 24:17,

“I see him, but not now. I see him, but not near.  A star כֹּוכָב will come out of Jacob. A scepter will rise out of Israel…”
Numbers 24:17

The Rabbis, however, rejected the Messiahship of Bar Koziba as the Jerusalem Talmud states,

‘“R. Simeon b. Yohai taught, “Aqiba, my master, would interpret the following verse: ‘A star (kokhab) shall come forth out of Jacob’ (Num. 24:17) ― ‘A disappointment (Kozeba) shall come forth out of Jacob.’” R. Aqiba: When he saw Bar Kozeba, he said, “This is the King Messiah.” Said to him R. Yohanan ben Toreta, “Aqiba! Grass will grow on your cheeks, and the Messiah will not yet have come!”
Jerusalem Talmud, Ta’anit 4:5, edited by Jacob Neusner, Hendrickson Publishers

In the story of Bar Koziba, the Babylonian Talmud records an interesting detail regarding the Messiah,

“(Bar Koziba reigned two and a half years, and then said to the Rabbis, “I am the Messiah.” They answered, “Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges: let us see whether he [Bar Koziba] can do so.” When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent, they slew him.)”
Sanhedrin 93b, Soncino Press Edition

To the untrained eye, this idea of the Messiah judging by smell seems humorous. If the Messiah will not judge by His eyes, nor His ears, He’ll judge by . . . his nose?!


Let’s look at the source for this belief again:

וַהֲרִיחֹו בְּיִרְאַת יי

 “His delight will be in the fear of the L-RD. He will not judge by the sight of his eyes, neither decide by the hearing of his ears…”
Isaiah 11:1-3

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg explains,

“The word for “delight” (v’haricho) has the same root as the word “smell,” (rayach). The Sages interpreted this to mean that the Mashiach will be able to judge through the sense of smell. According to tradition, the four senses of sight, hearing, taste and touch were all blemished due to their participation in the sin of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden. Only the sense of smell does not appear in the verses describing the sin, thus retaining its original pristine state. The common expressions “something doesn’t smell right,” and “this stinks” used to illustrate situations that feel intuitively wrong, allude to the association between smell and judgment. Smell is connected to intuition and inspiration, both of which emanate from a superconscious level above logic and reason.
Inner.org, Mashiach and Jewish Leadership


The Ketoret, or Incense, was a powerful aromatic aspect of the Temple service. It must have had an wonderful scent, as there is an explicit command in the Torah not to use it for perfume.

“The incense which you shall make, according to its composition you shall not make for yourselves: it shall be to you holy for the L-RD. Whoever shall make any like that, to smell of it, he shall be cut off from his people.”
Exodus 30:37-38

Consisting of eleven ingredients, its scent was extremely powerful according to ancient accounts,

“The goats in Jericho used to sneeze because of the odour of the incense. The women in Jericho did not have to perfume themselves, because of the odour of the incense. The bride in Jerusalem did not have to perfume herself because of the odour of the incense.”
Yoma 39b, Soncino Press Edition

According to Josephus, Jericho was 150 Roman stadioi (about 18 miles) away. The incense quite possibly had a repellent effect to insects also. All of Jerusalem was a fragrant aroma to HaShem affecting the entire atmosphere. Amazingly, the Torah compares the incense to prayer,

“Let my prayer be set before you like incense, the lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice.”
Psalms 141:2

The Book of Revelation reveals a glimpse of this ketoret of the Heavenly Temple,

“Now when he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.”
Revelation 5:8


וַיִּיצֶר יי אֱלֹקִים אֶת־הָֽאָדָם עָפָר מִן־הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַֽיְהִי הָֽאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃

“HaShem Elokim formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Genesis 2:7

Where does the Breath of Life enter? Into the nostrils! In Lamentations, it reveals the secret of the Breath of Life:

רוּחַ אַפֵּינוּ מְשִׁיחַ יי

“The breath of our nostrils, the Messiah of the L-RD, was taken in their pits; Of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the nations.”
Lamentations 4:20

The breath of our nostrils is the Messiah! The Mashiach is the one who resurrects the dead. Chaim Kramer, of the Breslov Research Institute writes,

“Mashiach is represented by the “nose,” our source of life and breath. . . As long as we breathe the breath of hope – the breath of prayer and reliance upon God – there is hope that Mashiach will come and fully purify our lives. The verse states (Lamentations 4:2), “The breath of our nostrils [is] the Mashiach of God.”
Mashiach, Who, What Why, How Where, When, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 71

Amazingly, the breath breathed into Adam occurred on Rosh HaShanah, the day of Resurrection:

“Man becomes a living, sentient being when God breathes His breath into him, transforming him from physical matter into a living hybrid of the physical and spiritual. When we blow the shofar on the day of Man’s creation, it serves as a memorial to that first breath, the divine breath of life blown at the dawn of Creation, on Rosh Hashana.”
Aish.com, M’oray HaAish, R. Ari Kahn: The Sound of the Shofar

Chaim Kramer then makes an astonishing statement:

“…just as breathing sustains each person, whether one is conscious of it or not, so too, Mashiach, the world’s ultimate rectification, has sustained the world from its inception, whether we are conscious of it or not.”
Mashiach, Who, What Why, How Where, When, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 44

Just as prayer links to the incense, Kramer notes,

“Mashiach will “breathe the fear of God,” since his soul is rooted in the place of breathing, the nose. And this “nose,” the source of life of the Mashiach, alludes to prayer. Rebbe Nachman thus taught: Mashiach’s main weapon is prayer…” Thus prayer is represented by the nose. And the nose is breathing, life itself.”
Mashiach, Who, What Why, How Where, When, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 42

He continues,

“…[Mashiach’s] “breathing” will have a very positive effect upon mankind.  . . The breath that Mashiach will breathe will emanate from the Torah and its 613 mitzvot. This is “The spirit of God [that] hovered over the waters.” The spirit is Mashiach and the waters are the Torah. Mashiach’s spirit is embedded in the Torah and he will draw his breath, the awe of God, from it. With this spirit, he will be able to “breathe into others” filing them with an awe and respect for God.”
Mashiach, Who, What, Why, How, Where, When, Chaim Kramer, Breslov Research Institute, pg.63

This links incredibly to the Book of John,

“Yeshua therefore said to them again, “Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit!”
John 20:21-22



At the end of Shabbat, there is a service called הַבְדָּלָה Havdalah, which means “separation”. It sets the Shabbat apart from the ordinary days of the week. When at least three stars shine in the sky, three elements below are brought out for the special occasion. A braided Candle, a Kiddush Cup, and a box of Spices, called besamim in Hebrew. I remember standing at the Kotel, or Western Wall, when spices were passed around to smell. It was an incredible experience.

Torah.net’s Glossary makes an interesting observation about Havdalah, noting that, “All the senses are used in blessing the wine, the light of a special candle and smelling spices.”

As we see the Light,
Feel the heat,
Taste the wine,
And smell the spices,
We hear the blessing…

ברוך אתה יי אלוקינו מלך העולם בורא מיני בשמים

“Barukh ata HaShem Elokeinu melekh ha‑olam, borei minei b’samim.”

“Blessed are you, HaShem our G-d, King of the Universe,
who creates the species of fragrances.”



Further Reading:

  1. Jewish Leadership
  2. Jerusalem to Jericho
  3. Cinnamon and Ketoret
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