“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 descendents learned from him, continuing his legacy of holy living.
If the Jewish people already adhered to the Torah’s precepts, what did the Revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai accomplish?
The sanctity of Israel before Sinai was not on a constant, permanent basis. The Midrash uses an unusual term to describe the mitzvot performed by the Avot. It refers to the service of the forefathers as reichaniot — fragrant. What does this mean? Their holiness contained elements of nobility and beauty, an inner spiritual richness and individual greatness. But this 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. This daily offering epitomizes the constant, concrete sanctity that was engraved in the very essence of Israel at Sinai.
The two images of the Tamid offering — an appeasing-fragrance and a fire-offering — teach that it combines both of these paths of holiness.
The daily offering retains the abstract beauty of the Patriarch’s individual spirituality. It still exudes an appeasing-fragrance, recalling the fragrant service of the Avot. But it also reflects 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)