“This is the regular daily burnt offering, like the one performed at Mount Sinai; an appeasing fragrance, a fire-offering to God.” (Num. 28:6)
Even before the Torah’s revelation, the Jewish people merited an extraordinary closeness to God. The Sages taught that Abraham kept the entire Torah, even before it was revealed at Mount Sinai. And his descendants learned from him, continuing his legacy of holy living.
If the Jewish people already adhered to the Torah’s precepts, what did the Torah’s revelation at Mount Sinai accomplish?
The sanctity of Israel before Sinai was not on a permanent basis. The Midrash uses an unusual term to describe the mitzvot performed by the Forefathers. It refers to their service as reichanit — fragrant. What does this mean?
Their holiness contained elements of nobility and beauty, a spiritual richness and individual greatness. But their spiritual path was not firmly grounded in the world of actions. It was of a transient nature, like a passing aromatic fragrance.
At Mount Sinai, the sacred fire was etched in our souls on a practical, tangible level. We accepted the commitment to keep the Torah in action and deed: “We will do and we will obey.” For this reason, the Torah emphasizes that the Tamid offering was performed at Mount Sinai. The daily offering epitomizes the constant, concrete sanctity that was engraved in the very essence of Israel at Sinai.
The two characterizations of the Tamid offering — as an “appeasing fragrance” and as a “fire-offering” — indicate that it combines both of these paths of holiness.
The daily offering retains the abstract beauty of the Forefathers’ individual spirituality. It still exudes an “appeasing fragrance” recalling the fragrant service of the Avot.
But the Tamid also corresponds to the day-to-day, concrete sanctity of Sinai. It was a “fire-offering.” Like fire, it acted upon and ignited the physical world, introducing light and holiness into the realm of action and deed.
(Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, pp. 131-132)