"…He [Isaac] smelled the fragrance of his [Isaac's] garments and blessed him. He said, 'See, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which G‑d has blessed.'" (Gen. 27:27)

The aging and blind Isaac had told his son Esau to hunt game and prepare him a meal, after which he would bless him. Esau's mother, Rebecca, overheard their conversation. Alarmed, knowing that the blessings did not belong to the evil Esau, she waited until he went hunting. Then she called her other son, Jacob, and instructed him to disguise himself as Esau and, while wearing Esau's clothes, go to Isaac for the blessing. Jacob did so, and he brought Isaac food that Rebecca had prepared. Isaac sensed that something was amiss and tried to ascertain the true identity of the person before him. Among other things, Isaac told his son to come close and kiss him. Jacob drew close and kissed Isaac, who smelled the fragrance of his garments…

Rabbi Shimon explained: "He smelled the fragrance of his garments" implies that those garments emitted a pleasing scent that afterwards left them.

In other words, only when Jacob wore them did they emit a pleasing scent, but not afterwards. (Damesek Eliezer)

Now we need to examine these verses closely. First it is written, "…the fragrance of his garments," and then it is written, "…the fragrance of my son," not the fragrance of the garments. Elsewhere we learn that when Jacob entered Isaac's tent, the scent of the Garden of Eden1 went in with him. (Bereishit Rabba 65:22)

Where did this scent come from?

Adam and Eve took those garments with them when they had to leave the Garden of Eden….

Some teach that those garments belonged to Adam (see Pesachim 54b; Rashi), as it is written, "And G‑d made for Adam and his wife special garments [in Hebrew, 'katnot or'], and He clothed them" (Gen. 3:21)"Katnot or" should be translated as "special garments", as in the Aramaic translation [and not as is usually translated, "garments of skin"]. Adam and Eve took those garments with them when they had to leave the Garden of Eden [and they eventually came into the possession of Esau]. So the garments exuded the scent of the Garden of Eden [and not Jacob].

Now if one would argue that it is written, "they sewed together a fig leaf [and made themselves skirts]" (Gen. 3:7), and these are one and the same as ["katnot or" - "garments of skin" and were so called since they were soft as rabbit skin, or as hardy as leather (Matok MiDevash),] why then is it written "and G‑d made them [garments]," [implying that they were something new, not the garments that Adam and Eve had made themselves? Furthermore,] why are they described as "katnot or [leather], if they were indeed fig leaves? Accordingly, we must understand it as in the Aramaic translation: "katnot or" means "special garments" ["levushin diy'kar"] and they exuded the scent of Eden…[However, this view is problematic, as will be clarified below.]

In those garments they mirrored the higher spiritual worlds….

Some say that these garments came into the possession of the wicked Esau who had stolen them from Nimrod. (Bereishit Rabba 65:16) But this explanation is difficult because the verse states, "And G‑d made for Adam and his wife [special garments"] - garments for Adam and garments for Eve. What happened to Eve's garments? Furthermore, what were Adam and Eve buried in? Do you think that they would have abandoned and discarded the supernal radiance [of those garments] that the Holy One blessed be He gave them? But those garments that Adam and his wife were dressed in were never worn by any other person, and in those garments they mirrored the higher spiritual worlds.2

Furthermore, if you think that these were the garments in which they clothed themselves, note that it states, "and He clothed them" - G‑d dressed them in those garments, happy is their lot….

But how then do we understand the verse, "Rebecca then took her older son Esau's costly garments which were with her in the house [and clothed Jacob her young son]" (Gen. 27:15)? These were "costly garments" - royal garments of silk and gold, which are normally carefully stored in spices and perfumes in their honor.

The Garden of Eden entered with Jacob….

Now look at the verses: First, it states, "He smelled the fragrance of his garments," but then Isaac sensed something else and said, "see, the fragrance of my son," for he became aware that the scent was because of Jacob, [not merely the scent of spices clinging to his clothes. Then Isaac declared, "the fragrance of my son] is like the fragrance of a field which G‑d has blessed," [referring to the scent the Garden of Eden.] Now how was Isaac familiar with "the fragrance of a field that G‑d had blessed" [the scent of the Garden of Eden?]

However, there are two things being spoken about here, and in essence they are one: It is written, "Isaac went out to pray in the field towards evening" (Gen. 24:63). Didn't he have a home in which to pray, or some other place? But this was the field adjacent to the cave that Abraham had bought [from Efron] (see Gen. 25). When Isaac prayed in that field, he perceived the Shechina and the lofty spiritual scents that were emitted. It was for that reason that he established that field as his place of worship.

Why didn't Abraham pray there? Because he had established an alternative spot as his place of worship, prior to his acquisition of the field; this was due to the scent he discovered at Mount Moriah. Why was it called 'Moriah'? Because of the [scent of] myrrh [related to the word "Moriah"] present there. [This was the place where the Temple would later be erected, and where the Shechina would be revealed.]

[Now we can explain] everything: the Garden of Eden entered with Jacob, and because of this, Isaac did not attribute the scent to his clothes, but rather to Jacob himself, for he sensed that the fragrance of the Garden of Eden was because of Jacob, and therefore he was worthy of the blessings. Because of his worthiness, the Garden of Eden [the Shechina] entered with him, and so, when Esau became angry [that Jacob had earned the blessings], Isaac told him, "He will indeed be blessed" (Gen. 27:33).

[Translation and commentary by Moshe Miller.]