There are certain scents that will evoke vivid memories. When we lived on a kibbutz many years ago we hosted a visiting rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Borenstein, who was an expert on the kitoret (the incense offering used in the Beit HaMikdash). He brought with him the 11 different ingredients that formulated the kitoret. Each component had a unique scent – some sweet, some pungent, some with no odor at all and one that was quite malodorous – but together the combination produced an aroma that permeated our home for many weeks long after the rabbi’s visit.
To me the scent produced by the kitoret is symbolic of Am Yisrael. There is an expression – Kol Yisrael areivim zeh ba zeh, which can be translated as “all of Israel is responsible for each other” or “when all Jews are united, one with another, there is a beautiful sweetness.” Just as each element of the kitoret retained its own identity, yet when joined together produced the most unforgettably sweet fragrance, so too, we disparate Jews can and should join together. May kol Am Yisrael be reunited so that we may once again offer the kitoret in the Beit HaMikdash.