Wisdom and Truth- an idea still in progress!
I recently attended an absolutely fascinating session learning about the scents of the Tanakh from an expert perfumier (organized by Rabbi Jeff Berger). We were given the opportunity to smell the essence of the Temple incense offerings and biblical plants, and to explore some of their deeper meanings.
Smelling essence of olives and olive oil we were met by what was a surprisingly mellow and sweet scent, nothing like I would have expected.
As we celebrate the Festival of Lights and the miracle of the olive oil of the Temple Menorah (among other things!) the olive tree itself traditionally has been a symbol of light - as its silver leaves shimmer and almost glow. Light is furthermore a symbol of wisdom, (enlightenment), which suddenly struck me as fascinating when we started smelling and discussing Almonds...
The almond is a symbol of truth enclosed in innocence, truth which we have to work in order to see more clearly. This reminded me of the Almond blossom, the shape that forms part of the structure of the menorah, the lamp that needed to be relit when the Temple was rededicated.
At Chanukah we put our chanukiyot into the window to publicly declare the miracle, to increase light in the world, to witness our faith. But with these gentle scents it occurred to me that one of the many Chanukah messages might be much more subtle. Truth is something that can be hard to get to the core of -
It can be entrapped in hard casings, but not entirely impermeable ones. The truth of the almond is the structure that supports the glowing light of wisdom, which can grow, but can also be diminished, which may burn bright for short periods, but doesn't last (except with some serious miraculous/spiritual intervention). Perhaps it also suggests that Truth is the foundational support of wisdom, but they are not the same thing. Yet our human endeavor asks us to repeatedly return to try to break through the hard shell, and bring out wisdom once again. The truth may be elusive, and wisdom may take many different forms, but we should keep coming back to it, and joining with others to share its warmth and light.