The service comes to its conclusion as the aroma of the offering rises up in smoke to Hashem. This pleases Hashem because, as Chazal (Sifra, cited by Rashi) explain, “I have spoken, and My will has been carried out.” Hashem certainly is not into aroma, nor does He require offerings. We do not understand the esoteric rationale behind korbanos, offerings. We do understand, however, that when Hashem commands – we respond by executing to His will. What could be more pleasing than having one’s will carried out to perfection. Indeed, the Talmud (Menachos 110a) teaches: “The term ishei reiach nichoach is written concerning the burnt-offering of an animal (cattle), the burnt-offering of a fowl and the meal-offering made of flour and oil. This is to teach that, regardless what one brings as an offering, be it expensive (cattle) or little (such as the offering of a poor man, a Korban Minchah, meal-offering), offerings are all the same before Hashem, as long as the donor is mechavein, directs his heart, focuses his intention, toward Heaven/Hashem.”
In order to give the reader an understanding and appreciation of the meaning of yechavein libo laShomayim, “directs his heart Heavenward,” Horav Reuven Karlinstein, zl, relates a vignette concerning the saintly Bobover Rebbe, zl, Horav Shlomo, zl. When Rav Karlinstein was in America to receive treatment for an illness, a Bobover chassid who was himself very close to the Rebbe attended to Rav Karlinstein’s needs, which included traveling to various medical centers across the country. This chassid related that the Rebbe had an interesting daily custom. Almost like clockwork, every day, between the hours of four and five o’clock, the gabbai, aide, would bring in a plate with egg kichel, light cookies, of which the Rebbe would partake, make a B’racha Achronah, Al Ha’michyah, and continue with his day. The Rebbe insisted specifically on cookies – no fruit substitute. Indeed, one day, the gabbai said he had always wondered what it was about cookies that “excited” the Rebbe.
Shortly prior to the Rebbe’s passing, a close confidant of the Rebbe gathered up the courage to question the Rebbe concerning his insistence on cookies for his daily afternoon repast. The Rebbe was not into food. He ate very little, and he was not finicky concerning his menu, except when it concerned his afternoon cookies. “Why?” he asked. “What is so unique about these cookies that they mean so much to the Rebbe?”
The Bobover explained, “The Bracha Achronah, After Blessing, recited for mezonos, cookies and other such snack-oriented foodstuffs, is U’nevarechcha alehah bikedushah u’vtaharah; “and we will bless You in holiness and purity.” It is the only brachah of its kind; the only one in which we petition Hashem to allow us to bless Him in sanctity and purity. I cannot allow a day to pass during which I do not beseech Hashem to allow me to be worthy of this opportunity.” [In an addendum to this story, my brother-in-law, Reb Moshe Brunner, a staunch Bobover chassid, was, for all intents and purposes, a ben bayis, frequent guest/visitor at the Rebbe’s home. He observed the Rebbe many an afternoon, and eating cookies at 4:00 p.m. was not his usual daily tidbit. In fact, he remembers being with the Rebbe at 10:00 p.m. as the Rebbetzin came in to insist that he have dinner. The Rebbe responded that there were chassidim still waiting to be seen. He would have his egg kichel instead. He had not yet blessed Hashem b’kedushah u’be’taharah.
Rav Karlinstein bemoans the fact that Al Ha’michyah is one of the most neglected b’rachos. We attend a Kiddush after davening; someone has yahrzeit; we grab a danish, eat and run – no Al Ha’michyah. We make Havdalah, and something comes up which requires our attention. The result is that we neglect to say Al Ha’gefen. When we stop to think about the implications of this brachah and the opportunity it affords us to offer a “satisfying aroma to Hashem,” we will think twice before neglecting this important brachah.