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Tamid chapter 3 says (in my own free translation):

One could smell from Y'richo the scent of the blend[1] of the k'tores. Rabbi Eliezer b. Diglay said, "Father's house had goats on Mt. Michvar that would sneeze from the scent of the blend[1] of the k'tores."

[1] or maybe "blending"

How do we understand the statement of Rabbi Eliezer b. Diglay?

Mishnayos use exaggeration. We see that earlier in the same chapter of Tamid, where it says "they watered [the sheep for] the tamid with a golden cup", which some interpret as being an exaggeration. So perhaps the first statement about the k'tores can be understod as an exaggeration — or, indeed, perhaps it is true literally. After all, Y'richo is only some fourteen miles from Y'rushalayim: perhaps a good breeze can carry a strong smell that far. I don't know.

But the statement of Rabbi Eliezer b. Diglay is a personal anecdote about goats his own family raised. I don't see how we can understand a personal anecdote as an exaggeration. On the other hand, it seems unlikely to be true literally: Michvar, the Rishon L'tziyon says, is Ya'zer, in Gad, across the river. While Ya'zer's whereabouts are not known for certain (AFAIK), it's listed as being on the boundary of Gad, and Wikipedia, at least, claims that it's on the eastern boundary. (Any better source for that claim?) And he's not saying merely that there was some remnant of scent left there, but rather that it was strong enough to make goats sneeze.

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Couldn't this be a description of a miracle? –  Isaac Moses Nov 16 '11 at 3:59
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@Isaac, it could be (though that's not how I've understood it), and if you know of a source that says it is then I'd love to learn of it. –  msh210 Nov 16 '11 at 19:46
    
My family would catch fish so large, Yonah and all the people of Ninveh could fit inside. Why is so unheard of for someone to be exaggerating with personal stories? –  avi Nov 16 '11 at 19:59
    
@avi, possible. But it strikes me as unlikely in this case. If his statement is an exaggeration, then what does it add that the tana kama hasn't already said? –  msh210 Nov 16 '11 at 20:02
    
Not only could one smell it, but even the goats would be agitated and sneeze from it. –  avi Nov 16 '11 at 20:03

1 Answer 1

It seems that others identify Michvar as Machaerus, site of a Hasmonean and later Herodian fortress, mentioned by Josephus, whose remnants are still extant. That's a lot closer to Jerusalem - about 28 miles as the crow flies. Granted, that's still twice as far as Jericho, but since about a third of that distance is over the Dead Sea, maybe indeed that would allow the smell to carry further.

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who are the others? –  Menachem Nov 16 '11 at 16:33
    
@Menachem: whoever wrote the Wikipedia article, for starters. :) But it's also in an article by A.M. Luncz (here, page קצה). –  Alex Nov 16 '11 at 17:44

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