Incense - Ketoret - קטרת

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


The Significance Of The Amounts. 4

Eleven Spices. 5

The Number Eleven. 13

The Death Penalty. 15

Ketoret Symbolizes Unity. 17

Ketoret - קטרת as a protection. 20

Ketoret for Simcha (Joy) 22

In The Temple. 22

Ketoret Symbolizes Prayer. 23

The House of Abtinus. 23

Lashon HaRa. 24

From The Septennial Cycle. 25

In the Targum.. 26

Holy Deodorizer. 27

The Avodah. 28

Mizbayach HaKetoret (Incense Altar). 29

The Holy of Holies. 30

The Discovery. 30

 

 

Ketoret is the transliteration of the Hebrew word קטרת, which is translated, in English, as incense. The word ketoret means bonding. This bonding, as we shall see, is necessary to build the unity of the body of Mashiach. Ketoret is a substance which is associated with joy, prayer, and protection. Clearly, ketoret is a most unusual substance!

 

In this study I would like to take an in-depth look at a substance which is so powerfull that it can halt a plague. Because it can halt a plague, those who compound it incorrectly will incur the death penalty. Lets start this study by examining what the Torah teaches us about ketoret, by examing the first use of ketoret:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 25:1 And HaShem spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. 3 And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, 4 And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, 5 And rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, 6 Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, 7 Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell in them.

 

From this first verse we see that incense is an offering which is associated with HaShem dwelling in us.

 

The Ketoret, offered up twice a day, symbolized Israel’s desire to serve HaShem in a pleasing way. This offering was brought twice daily, once as part of the Shacharit (morning) service and once as part of the Mincha / Musaf (afternoon) service. This happened seven days a week, every day of the year, including Shabbat and Yom HaKippurim. Five pounds of ketoret was burnt daily, half in the morning and half in the afternoon.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 30:7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. 8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before HaShem throughout your generations.

 

In our morning prayers we read about the specifics of the ketoret:

 

It is You, HaShem, our God, before Whom our forefathers burned the ketoret (incense­ spices) in the time when the Holy Temple stood, as You commanded them through Moshe Your prophet, as is written in Your Torah:

 

Exodus 30:34-36, 7-8 HaShem said to Moses: Take yourself spices — balsam, onycha, and galbanum — spices and pure frankincense; they are all to be of equal weight. You are to make it into Ketoret (incense), a spice-compound, the handiwork of an expert spice-compounder, thoroughly mixed, pure and holy. You are to grind some of it finely and place some of it before the Testimony in the Tent of Appointment, where I shall designate a time to meet you; it shall be a holy of holies for you.

 

It is also written: Aaron shall burn upon it the incense-spices every morning; when he cleans the lamps he is to burn it. And when Aaron ignites the lamps in the afternoon, he is to burn it, as continual incense before HaShem throughout your generations.

 

The Hakhamim taught: How is the incense mixture formulated? Three hundred sixty-eight maneh were in it: three hundred sixty-five corresponding to the days of the solar year — a maneh for each day, half in the morning and half in the afternoon; and three extra maneh, from which the Kohen Gadol would bring both his handfuls [into the Holy of Holies] on Yom HaKippurim. He would return them to the mortar on the day before Yom HaKippurim, and grind them very thoroughly so that it would be exceptionally fine. Eleven kinds of spices were in it, as follows:

 

(1) balsam,

(2) onycha,

(3) galbanum [chelbena],

(4) frankincense — each weighing seventy maneh[1];

(5) myrrh,

(6) cassia,

(7) spikenard,

(8) saffron — each weighing sixteen maneh;

(9) costus — twelve maneh;

(10) aromatic bark — three; and

(11) cinnamon — nine.

 

[Additionally] Carshina lye, nine kav[2]; Cyprus wine, three se’ah[3] and three kav, if he has no Cyprus wine, he brings old white wine; Sodom salt, a quarter[-kav]; and a minute amount of a smoke-raising herb. Rabbi Nassan the Babylonian says: Also a minute amount of Jordan amber. If he placed fruit-honey into it, he invalidated it. But if he left out any of its spices, he is liable to the death penalty.

 

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: The balsam is simply the sap that drips from balsam trees. Why is Carshina lye used? To bleach the onycha, to make it pleasing. Why is Cyprus wine used? So that the onycha could be soaked in it, to make it pungent. Even though urine is more suitable for that, nevertheless they do not bring urine into the Temple out of respect.

 

It is taught, Rabbi Nassan says: As one would grind [the incense] another would say:

 

 ‘Grind thoroughly, thoroughly grind,’

 

because the sound is beneficial for the spices. If one mixed it in half-quantities, it was fit for use, but as to a third or a quarter — we have not heard the law. Rabbi Yehudah said: This is the general rule — In its proper proportion, it is fit for use in half the full amount; but if he left out any one of its spices, he is liable to the death penalty.

 

It is taught, Bar Kappara says: Once every sixty or seventy years, the accumulated leftovers reached half the yearly quantity. Bar Kappara taught further: Had one put a kortov of fruit-honey into it, no person could have resisted its scent. Why did they not mix fruit-honey into it? — because the Torah says: ‘For any leaven or any fruit-honey, you are not to burn from them a fire-offering to HaShem.”

(End of the morning prayers that speak about ketoret.)

 

The Torah does not give the exact recipe for the ketoret that was burned daily in the Temple. Only in the Oral Law do we find a list of all eleven ingredients. Our Hakhamim taught:

 

The ketoret contained eleven spices. There were seventy maneh each of

(1) balsam,

(2) onycha,

(3) galbanum, and

(4) frankincense.

 

There were sixteen maneh each of

(5) myrrh,

(6) cassia,

(7) spikenard, and

(8) saffron.

 

There were twelve maneh of

(9) costus,

three measures of

(10) aromatic bark,

and nine measures of

(11) cinnamon.

 

Each maneh weighed five pounds. The total weight was 368 maneh - one measure for each day, plus 3 extra for Yom Kippur, or 1,840 pounds (836.36 kg).

 

The Midrash now shows us how we can derive that there are eleven spices from just the information in the Torah:[4]

 

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs I:62. R. Johanan applied the verse to the incense of the House of Abtinus. THE BAG OF MYRRH: this is one of the eleven spices which composed it. R. Huna explained [why there were eleven]. It says And the Lord said unto Moses: Take unto thee sweet spices (Ex.XXX, 34)-this is two: balsam, and onycha and galbanam--this makes five; sweet spices--if you say this means only two more, we have already had this; [therefore take it in conjunction with the next words], of each shall there be a like weight; add five to the previous five, making ten. With pure frankincense --this makes eleven. On the basis of this verse the Sages investigated and found that nothing is better for the incense than just these eleven spices.[5]

 

The Acharit Shalom observes that whereas the eleven above-mentioned ingredients are listed in Hebrew, the remaining ingredients are listed in Aramaic. He presumes that Chazal did this deliberately in order to differentiate between the actual spices and the remaining ingredients that are merely (to enhance the quality of the main ingredients).

 

The incense was compounded from eleven ingredients: balsam, onycha, galbanum, frankincense (in quantities of seventy manehs each in weight), myrrh, cassia, spikenard, saffron (sixteen manehs each), costus (twelve manehs), aromatic bark (three manehs), and cinnamon (nine manehs), altogether 368 manehs, one for each day of the year, half offered in the morning, and half in the evening, and three extra manehs for the Day of Atonement. But in an ordinary lunar year there were eleven manehs over (the lunar year being 354 days); and though these eleven manehs were necessary for supplementing the incense in intercalary years, they had to be bought from the new donations given on the first of Nisan. Some method had to be devised, therefore, of making the remainder of the old incense valid for the new year.

 

The lye obtained from a species of leek and the Cyprus wine which are mentioned in connection with the incense, were nor actual ingredients, but were used simply for whitening the onycha, and also for making its odour more pungent, as we shall see.

 

Rabbi Moshe Sofer[6] explains the symbolic meaning of the names of the four main incense spices, as well as the Karshina lye and Cyprus wine:

 

The four spices that are written explicitly in the Torah are tzori-balsam, tziporen-onycha, chelbenah-galbanum, and levonah zakah-pure frankincense.

 

Tzori alludes to the Torah which is a tzori-balsam and healing for the entire body.

 

Levonah zakah alludes to God’s love for His people through which He me’laven-whitens and bleaches their sins. Between these two are placed the tziporen and chelbenah.

 

As known, chelbenah alludes to complete sinners.

 

The tziporen, on the other hand, alludes to the majority of the Jewish people. Like a tziporen-fingernail, they are smooth and unblemished on the inside, and only darkened on the outside... It is for this reason that we are required to rub the tziporen with Karshina lye, to beautify it and remove its external blackness. This alludes to teshuvah-repentance and good deeds... Soaking the tziporen in Cyprus wine to make it azah [pungent or strong] alludes to the wine [secret teachings] of the Torah which imbues Israel with the ability to remain firm and unyielding in their faith when they walk among the nations.

 

The Significance Of The Amounts

 

COUNT

NAME

WEIGHT

1

balsam

70 maneh

2

onycha

70 maneh

3

galbanum

70 maneh

4

frankincense

70 maneh

5

myrrh

16 maneh

6

cassia

16 maneh

7

spikenard

16 maneh

8

saffron

16 maneh

9

costus

12 maneh

10

aromatic bark

3 maneh

11

cinnamon

9 maneh

 

 

368 maneh

 

What is the significance of the various amounts of each fragrance?

 

Each of the major four fragrances explicitly mentioned in the Torah contributed seventy maneh. The number seven represents the natural universe, created in seven days. Seven corresponds to the framework of the physical universe, especially the boundaries of time with its seven-day week.

 

Seventy is the number seven in tens. The number ten represents both plurality and unity, so seventy conveys the idea of unifying the multitude of forces in the natural world. This is the underlying message of the ketoret. These holy fragrances illuminate and uplift the plurality of natural forces.

 

After the first level of four fragrances sanctified the dimension of time, the second tier of four fragrances sanctified the dimension of space. The number six corresponds to space, as any location is made up of six vectors (the four directions, up and down). It can also be visualized as a cube, representing all physical objects, which has six faces.

 

Time is a less physical aspect, and more receptive to spiritual elevation. Thus, for the first four fragrances representing the dimension of time, the number seven was multiplied by ten. Space, on the other hand, is only influenced by its closeness to holiness. Therefore, the unifying quality of ten is only added to the six, so that sixteen maneh were used of each of these fragrances.

 

The final amounts of twelve, nine, and three represent the limitations of the divided physical realm. Three is the first number to demonstrate multitude, and nine is the last number, before the multitude is once again combined into a unit of ten.[7]

 

Eleven Spices

 

Rashi, in Shemot 30:34, explains that the Ketoret was comprised of eleven ingredients. Often, we find that the number ten is used to represent a spiritual full set. Eleven refers to the conveyance of the Divine light which transcends the limits of the world within the limits of the world.

 

Pirke Avot 5:1 The world was created with ten utterances.

 

Eleven, thus, refers to a level above the limits of the set of ten. Nevertheless, since it is also a number which follows in sequence to ten, we can understand that it refers to the fusion between the transcendent Divine light and the framework of limited worldly existence.

 

There were ten fragrant spices in the ketoret, the incense, and one foul smelling spice (Chelbena -galbanum). There were ten tzaddiks in the synagogue yet no prayers on a fast day were heard without a sinner’s prayer.

 

Keritot 6b Every communal fast that does not include sinners of Israel is not a fast.” This is derived from the fact that the incense included Chelbenah-galbanum. Just as the Chelbenah was necessary to give the other spices exactly the right fragrance, a congregation is not complete without someone who has also fallen and who must reelevate himself through repentance. In particular, when a difficult punishment has been decreed against Israel because of some evil deed, this very evil must be taken and elevated. Thus, the idea of transforming evil by elevating it back to its source in holiness is intimated in the incense. It is for this reason also that a communal fast must include “the sinners of Israel”.

 

Now lets see what we can learn from the Ramban[8] regarding each of the four spices, mentioned by name, in the Torah:

 

(1) Myrrh,

23. 'MOR DROR' (FLOWING MYRRH) FIVE HUNDRED SHEKELS. The commentators[9] - including Harav Rabbi Moshe [ben Maimon][10] - have agreed that mor is that perfume which is called musk [an animal perfume].[11] But Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra objected to this interpretation, since [musk] is not a spice [as are the sweet cinnamon and the sweet calamus mentioned here in the same verse], even though it has a pleasing odor. Perhaps this is why Scripture separated it from the spices." And then [Ibn Ezra] asked: "But is it not written, I have gathered 'mori' (my myrrh),[12] which shows that mor is something gathered [like spices], while those who bring musk say that it is a substance gathered in a glandular sac under the skin of the neck of the deer?[13] Moreover, the verse states, and my hands dropped with myrrh,[14] [and musk does not drop]. But perhaps it does do so, due to its moistness." [Thus far are Ibn Ezra's words].

 

It is possible that we say that Scripture states I have gathered 'mori'[15] because mor is the blood gathered up in the abdomen of an animal of the hind species known in the land of India; when it walks between the shrubs on very hot days it scratches against the sac and the blood comes out in thickened mass, which is then gathered from the reed-grass. It states and my hands dropped 'mor,' [16] because Scripture imagines its odor to be such that one's hands drop globules of water because of it.

 

Others[17] have argued: how could there be included in the incense[18] and the sacred oil the blood of an unclean animal? This too is no question, for that moisture gathered up in the animal because of its abundant blood, which drops from [the animal] whilst still alive, is not susceptible to uncleanness, nor is it repulsive.

 

The word dror they[19] have explained to be of the expression, and you will proclaim 'dror' (liberty),[20] here meaning that it should be free from any imitation or adulteration. Perhaps we might say that Scripture requires it to be gathered when free, meaning that it should be taken from that deer whilst it is free, wandering between the beds of spices and enjoying itself at will, because once it is captured and held in the possession of man, it produces but little mor (musk) and it does not have such a pleasant odor. This is clear. Yet despite all this [that we have written to justify the opinion of Rabbenu Saadia Gaon and Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, that mor mentioned here is musk], it appears to me from the words of our Rabbis that mor is not musk, for they have said in Midrash Chazita:[21] "Mor [22] means inmirinon" [an unguent scented with Arabian myrtle], while musk is so called even in the language of the Sages, just as it is said in Tractate Berachoth:[23] ["Over all spices put on coals one recites the Benediction: 'Blessed... Who creates diverse kinds of spices'], except over musk, because it is derived from an animal." In the Yerushalmi there[24] they likewise say, [with respect to this Benediction]: "excepting muskin," and the author of the Aruch[25] wrote that it is also so called in Greek. In Midrash Chazita it furthermore says:[26] "My beloved is unto me a bag of 'hamor' [27] - this refers to Abraham. Just as the mor is the chief of all kinds of spices,[28]  so was Abraham the chief of all righteous/generous people. Just as this mor exudes only through the fire, so Abraham's deeds were not known until he was thrown in the fiery furnace.[29] And just as with this mor [we see that] whoever gathers it with his hands develops bad sores, so did Abraham cause himself to be distressed and afflicted with suffering" [for the sake of his love of G-d.] Now the musk exudes its  odor  The word dror they  have explained to be of the expression, and you will proclaim 'dror' (liberty),  here meaning that it should be free from any imitation or adulteration. Perhaps we might say that Scripture requires it to be gathered when free, meaning that it should be taken from that deer whilst it is free, wandering between the beds of spices and enjoying itself at will, because once it is captured and held in the possession of man, it produces but little mor (musk) and it does not have such a pleasant odor. This is clear. Yet despite all this [that we have written to justify the opinion of Rabbenu Saadia Gaon and Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, that mor mentioned here is musk], it appears to me from the words of our Rabbis that mor is not musk, for they have said in Midrash Chazita:  "Mor   means inmirinon" [an unguent scented with Arabian myrtle], while musk is so called even in the language of the Sages, just as it is said in Tractate Berachoth:  ["Over all spices put on coals one recites the Benediction: 'Blessed... Who creates diverse kinds of spices'], except over musk, because it is derived from an animal." In the Yerushalmi there  they likewise say, [with respect to this Benediction]: "excepting muskin," and the author of the Aruch  wrote that it is also so called in Greek. In Midrash Chazita it furthermore says:  "My beloved is unto me a bag of 'hamor'   - this refers to Abraham. Just as the mor is the chief of all kinds of spices,   so was Abraham the chief of all righteous/generous people. Just as this mor exudes only through the fire, so Abraham's deeds were not known until he was thrown in the fiery furnace.  And just as with this mor [we see that] whoever gathers it with his hands develops bad sores, so did Abraham cause himself to be distressed and afflicted with suffering" [for the sake of his love of G-d.] Now the musk exudes its  odor  [spontaneously], without being put upon the flame! Moreover, we have been taught [in  a Mishnah]:  "These interpose in vessels:  pitch and mor etc. on a packsaddle. Rabban  Shimon ben Gamaliel says: [They interpose only] if they are as big as an Italian issar [a Roman coin]." And it further teaches there:  "This is the general principle: Anything about which a person is particular, interposes [and invalidates the immersion]; anything about which he is not particular that does not interpose." Now musk is not something which sticks [to a vessel or to a garment] so that it should interpose [and invalidate the immersion, and so, if mor is musk, why does the Mishnah state that it does interpose]? And even if perhaps they fix it in such a way that it does attach to vessels, a person is not particular about it, so that it should interpose even on a packsaddle! Moreover, the verse 'mor va'aholoth k'tzioth' are all your garments   [Yonathan ben Uziel] translated: 'mura,' aloe-wood and cassia. [Thus it is clear that mor is not musk, for mura is myrrh.]

 

It is likely that mor is so called in Arabic as there are diverse kinds of it — mur achmar ve'abitz. It is used for incense, and when burned produces a sweet odor. Thus all languages — Hebrew, Aramaic, and also Arabic — are alike in the usage of this term. And in the language of the Agadah [quoted above][30] — be it Persian or Greek[31] — it is a similar expression: inmirinon. In Latin as well it is called   myrrha.   The consensus of the languages on this term would thus indicate that [the mor of the Torah] is indeed that substance [called myrrh or its equivalent in the above-mentioned languages — and not the musk mentioned by Saadia Gaon], and it is counted among the spices.

 

And as to that which the Rabbis said above,[32] that "the mor is the chief of all kinds of spices," they mean that [in the verse before us where the spices are listed] the Torah mentioned it first, or it may mean that for aromatic purposes it is the best of all spices. Possibly amongst its diverse kinds there may be a still more aromatic one, and that is called dror, and the one who gathers it [as the Midrash quoted above said], develops bad sores on his hands, because it is bitter as wormwood. And the Rabbis have taught in the Sifra:[33] "Things which cannot be recognized, such as a mixture of water into wine, or of gum in myrrh," for this is how they falsify the myrrh, by putting into it a certain gum which resembles it, called tzemeg in Arabic. This is why He said mor dror, meaning that it be clear of any of these usual adulterations. It is possible that the term dror always indicates "clean" (or "pure"). Similarly, and you will proclaim 'dror' throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,[34] means that all people of the land be "clean" from servitude, and from all subjection attaching to their persons or lands, similar to the expression, and the owner of the ox will be quit.[35] And as to that which Scripture says, And my hands dropped with 'mor', and my fingers with flowing 'mor,' [36] it is possible that the meaning is as follows: "and my hands dropped with oil of myrrh," for it is customary to apply it also to the hands in order to make them gentle and soft, as it is written, six months with oil of myrrh,[37] which our Rabbis have explained to be: "the oil of olives that have not reached a third of their growth, because that makes the hair fall out and improves the complexion." And the purport thereof is that that oil was prepared with myrrh and therefore it was so called ["oil of myrrh"]. This then is the meaning of 'natphu' (dropped with) 'mor',[38] [the dropping being not from the myrrh but from the oil put in it]. I hold this to be the inmirinon mentioned in the Midrash [quoted above,[39] namely that it is identical with the oil of myrrh mentioned in the Scroll of Esther], for similarly the Rabbis in the Yerushalmi[40] call "oil of v'rad" (roses): vardinun [and in the same way they called "the oil of mor"inmirinon]. Such is the customary usage for names of oils in the various languages of the nations. [Finally,] it is also possible that they extract oil from the myrrh, as is done with gum mastic and other kinds of gums. Thus it is correct to call it "myrrh," and "oil of myrrh."

 

(2) Cinnamon

 

'V'KINMON BESEM' (AND OF CINNAMON SPICE) HALF SO MUCH. "Since cinnamon is the bark of a tree [and it is of two kinds], one which has a good taste and fragrance, whilst the other is just like [any other] wood, therefore Scripture had to say: kinmon besemof the good kind." This is Rashi's language. And Harav Rabbi Moshe [ben Maimon] said[41] that it is "kesher salichah." [42]  Other scholars[43] hold that it is that precious tree called itib. But none of these interpretations is correct, for the Rabbis have said in Beresheeth Rabbah[44] and   in Midrash Chazita:[45] 'kinmon' grew in the Land of Israel, and goat and deer ate of it." Thus it is like the grass of the field from which the sheep pasture. In my opinion kinmon besem is the aromatic grass called in Arabic adbar, and in Latin ascinant,[46] which is an important spice, called in the vernacular, saika domika, and where it grows it is used as fodder for camels. Our Rabbi [Yitzchak Alfasi] wrote in [his Halachoth on Tractate] Pesachim,[47] [in connection with the spices put into charoseth in memory of the straw from which the Israelites in Egypt made the bricks]: "such as kinmon and sanbal, which are similar to straw." Kidah[48] is known from the Aramaic language, [as Onkelos rendered it] k'tziah (cassia). It is also so in Arabic.

 

(3) Spices

34. TAKE UNTO YOURSELF 'SAMIM' (AROMATICS), STACTE, AND ONYCHA, AND GALBANUM; 'SAMIM' (AROMATICS) WITH PURE FRANKINCENSE. Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra commented that by way of the plain meaning of Scripture the interpretation of the verse is: "take unto you the aromatics which are stacte, onycha and galbanum; these spices [you are to take], and pure frankincense with them." But it is not correct that Scripture should just repeat the word samim [in such a short verse], for it is not the normal way of Scripture to repeat words unless there is some lengthy interpolation  or in order to indicate that it is a continuing thing.  The truth is as our Rabbis have said,  that the second word samim refers to other aromatics.

 

Now Rashi wrote: " 'Samim' — the least number of aromatics implied by the plural form of this word is two. Stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, make together five. 'Samim' adds a similar number to those already prescribed, thus making ten. With frankincense, makes eleven [altogether]."

 

But one wonders! Why did Scripture not mention them explicitly? Perhaps Scripture is saying: "Take unto yourself aromatics, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, many aromatics with pure frankincense," thus insisting only on these four spices, for they were the ones that caused the cloud of the smoke of the incense   to ascend; but He commanded that they add to them many other aromatic spices in order that the pillars of smoke [of the incense] should be fragrant. This is why He did not explain [in the case of the incense] the weight of each component [as He did in the case of the Oil of Anointment], nor how much of it should be burnt [daily], since He insisted only that these four [spices mentioned] should be alike [in weight], and that he should add to them other good spices for the burning. The reason for this is that just as He had said with reference to the Oil of Anointment that they make it in accordance with the art of the perfumer, and did not specify how it was to be made but relied upon it [that they knew how to make it], so He said in respect of this incense that he take an equal weight of these four [mentioned] aromatics, and add to them other aromatics and make out of all the components one incense, done after the art of the perfumer,  [which implies by] using spices known to blend well with these [four] and by preparing them through the process by which they are usually prepared. It is of this incense that he had to put before the Testimony,  so that its pillar of smoke should go up, as was the custom to put spices on coals before kings. In the same way He shortened the account of how to make the incense, and did not mention it when He referred to all the other spices. In a similar vein the Rabbis have said in the Gemara:  "Resh Lakish said: What is the meaning of the word k'toreth? It is something which circles and rises."   Thus the Torah only commanded in connection with the incense to use those spices the smoke of which circles and rises, in a way similar to the art of the perfumers. Perhaps it was explained to Moses on Sinai by word of mouth which spices are best for that purpose, as well as the whole process of making the incense, for the process of making the Oil of Anointment was likewise explained to him in this manner, even though Scripture made it dependent upon the art of the perfumers. Or it may be that He insisted only on those [four spices] expressly mentioned in the verse, commanding that he perfume them with other spices after the art of the perfumers. And so the Rabbis have said in Midrash Chazit:  "The Sages investigated and found no more fitting components for the incense than those eleven spices."

 

It is also possible that samim (aromatics) and b'samim (spices) denote the same thing, as I have mentioned,[49] and these three components[50] which He specified are not spices, ior'nataph'and 'chel'bnah' are saps, and shcheileth is the onycha which comes from the ocean.[51] And Scripture states: "Take unto you the mentioned samim [i.e., all components mentioned above[52] in the preparation of the Oil of Anointment — namely, the flowing myrrh, the cinnamon, the calamus, and the cassia — as all these b'samim also went into the incense, as will be explained], and the nataph, and shcheileth and the chel'bnah, and other samim [in addition, as will be explained] , with pure frankincense, and make of them a perfumed incense, after the art of the perfumer." For the samim mentioned above in connection with the Oil [of Anointment] — flowing myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia — also went into the incense. And the knei bosem [mentioned among the components of the oil][53] is in my opinion the kiluphah mentioned by the Sages,[54] called dratzini in Arabic, and so also in the language of the Gemara,[55] which is a cane [of sweet spices] resembling reeds. And the samim which He commanded to add [to all those mentioned above] are: spikenard and saffron and the costus, in accordance with that which the Sages have taught.[56] Perhaps Scripture only insisted on these nine[57] which He mentioned, but was not particular as to [the nature of] those included by means of the repetition of the word samim, except inasmuch as they are to be sweet, so that they may make a perfumed incense. Thus He shortened the account of the making thereof, as well as of the weights of the other components [except for the four mentioned in the making of the oil, where the weights are prescribed] , because He commanded that they make it after the art of the perfumer.

 

It appears to me that the Sages chose three spices [spikenard, saffron, and costus]  because they are mentioned in the Song of Songs: Spikenard and saffron... and 'oholoth,'   which is the costus. Its name is in the plural from [oholoth] because there are two kinds of it, the sweet and the bitter. Now Scripture mentioned there, calamus and cinnamon... frankincense, and myrrh  together with these three [spikenard, saffron, and costus], and then said, with 'all' the chief spices, so as to include cassia. Thus you have there all  the components of the incense. Now before that Scripture mentioned there: 'k'pharim im n'radim' (henna with spikenard plants).  This is to include nataph ushcheileth v'chel'bnah [mentioned here in the verse] which are saps, for k'pharim is of the root 'v'chapharta othah' (and you will pitch it),  it being an adhesive sap. And the Targum Yerushalmi rendered: myrrh and 'oholoth'   — [pure myrrh and] aksi lalu'an,   which is that precious tree called in Latin linga lubin as aksi means "tree" in Aramaic, and lalu'an is the name of the tree. In Greek it is actually so called: aksiluin,  and so it is called in Arabic — al urtib. But Onkelos rendered: 'ka'aholim' planted of the Eternal  — k'busmaya (as spices), without specifying a particular name [for oholim, as did the Targum Yerushalmi mentioned above].

 

(4) balsam

'NATAPH' — is tzori (balsam). Now in Rashi's commentary it is written: "The balm itself is called triga,  but because it is merely the sap which 'drips' from the wood of the balsam it is called nataph (dripping)." But I do not know whether this is the scribe's mistake, or the one who so told Rashi misinformed him. For theriac [the triga mentioned by Rashi] is not one ingredient but is a compound of many ingredients, containing leaven and honey, the flesh of forbidden animals and reptiles, for the powder of dried scorpions and the flesh of the viper go into it, this being the reason why it is so called [theriac], for "poison" in Greek is called theriac. So also in the language of the Talmud:  "Torkai (stung by) a serpent." Similarly this compound is mentioned in the language [of the Rabbis]:  "as theriac is good for the whole body." And Heaven forbid that there should be in the incense the flesh of forbidden animals and reptiles, leaven and honey, for it is written, for you will make no leaven, nor any honey, smoke as an offering made by fire unto the Eternal.  Rather, the tzori is the oily sap which drips from the balsam tree, called in the language of the   Sages  k'taph.   It  is this which  we have been  taught:  "Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: The tzori [required for the incense] was the sap which exuded from the k'taph (balsam) tree." Perhaps it is called k'taph (plucking off) because they break off its branches on days in the hot season, and the balm runs down from the place where it is broken. In the Gemara of Chapter Bameh Madlikin   it is stated: "Rabbi Shimon ben Eleazar says: We do not light [the Sabbath lamp] with tzori, and so did Rabbi Shimon ben Eleazar  say: The tzori [required for the incense] was the sap exuding from the balsam tree." And there in the Gemara  the Sages explained the reason [why that balm is not used for the Sabbath lamp], because its fragrance spreads and he may come to use it as food [and taking off oil from a burning lamp is considered the same as extinguishing it]. Thus it is clear that the tzori mentioned [for the incense] is that good oil mentioned [in the above Gemara].

 

And I wonder! For Onkelos translated: 'n'choth' (spicery) 'u'tzri' (and balm) and labdanum [58]sh'aph u'ktaph. Similarly he rendered: a little 'tzori' (balm)[59]k'taph. But nataph [here in this verse] he translated n'tupha, and did not translate it as he did in the case of the word tzori! [60] And Yonathan [ben Uziel] translated everywhere tzori as sh'aph, which is a term for an anointing oil in the language of the Talmud, such as in their saying:[61] "[for him whose eyes hurt] they make shipha (an ointment of various components) in a vessel," the word shipha being short of the letter ayin, which would make it she'ipha. A similar example is:[62] "D'sha'yeiph (he anoints) him with the same kind he gave him" to eat. Here too, the word d'sha'yeiph is like d'sha'iph [with the letter ayin].

 

It appears from their opinions[63] that both the balsam tree and its fruit are called tzori in the Sacred Language, just like t'einah (fig), rimon (pomegranate), ethrog, and many other names like them. The term n'choth[64] is thus, according to them, [Onkelos and Yonathan], a generic name for all notable and fragrant oils. That is why Scripture states, and he [Hezekiah] showed them all the house 'n'chothoh' (of his treasure),[65] because the treasure-house where the precious oil is stored is called by that name, seeing that it is the choicest of all treasure, and there in fact it is also written, and the precious oil.[66] Therefore Onkelos said in the case of the present that Jacob sent to Joseph, that they brought him sh'aph [which is the Aramaic translation for the Hebrew n'chot],[67] which is the term for that notable oil. And they further brought [in the present for Joseph] from the branches of the teon'-tree called k'taph.[68] In other places where Scripture  mentions tzori alone, speaking of it  as a beneficial medicine — such as in the verse[69] Is there no 'tzori' in Gilead?Yonathan translates it as referring to the oil called sh'aph. Onkelos translated [here] nataph as netupha, which is an oil called by that name because it "drips" from the broken branches. There is no justification here to translate nataph as sh'aph, for the incense did not contain any ointment.

 

Now I have seen that Harav Rabbi Moshe [ben Maimon]  included in the incense the bark of a tree called in Arabic od balsan. From this it would appear that he was of the opinion that Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel who said:  "The tzori [required for the incense] was the sap which exuded from the k'taph-tree" thereby intended to differ with the Sages [who counted the tzori among the eleven components of the incense], and to say instead that tzori was not one of the ingredients of the incense, since tzori is nothing but a sap, and it was not the sap [of the k'taph] that was put into the incense, but the [bark of the] k'taph itself.

 

Now lets see what we can learn from Rashi regarding each of the four spices, mentioned by name, in the Torah:[70]

 

(1) balsam,

34 balsam sap Hebrew נָטָף . This is balm (צֳרִי) , but since it is only the sap that drips (נוֹטֵף) from the balsam trees, it is called נָטָף,[71] and in French, gomme, gum resin. The balm itself, however, is called triaca [in Old Provencal], theriac.

 

(2) onycha,

onycha Heb. וּשְׁחֵלֶת , a root of a spice, smooth and shiny as fingernails, and in the language of the Mishna[72] it is called צִפּֽרֶן . This is what Onkelos renders as וְטוּפְרָא . [Both צִפּֽרֶן and טוּפְרָא mean “fingernail.”]

 

(3) galbanum [chelbena],

and galbanum A spice with a vile odor, called galbane [in Old French], galbanum. The Scripture counted it among the ingredients of the incense [in order] to teach us that we should not look askance at including Jewish transgressors with us when we assemble for fasting or prayer. [The Torah instructs us] that they should be counted with us.[73]

 

(4) frankincense — each weighing seventy maneh;[74]

and pure frankincense From here our Rabbis learned that eleven ingredients were told to Moses [when he was] at Sinai: the minimum of aromatics—two [since סַמִּים is written in the plural form]; balsam sap, onycha, and galbanum—three, equaling five; aromatics [written a second time]—to include again the number of these, equaling ten; and frankincense, totaling eleven. They are as follows: (1) balsam sap, (2) onycha, (3) galbanum, (4) frankincense, (5) myrrh, (6) cassia, (7) spikenard (שִׁבּֽלֶת נֵרְדְּ) , and (8) saffron, totaling eight, because שִׁבּֽלֶת and נֵרְדְּ are one, for spikenard נֵרְדְּ is like an ear [of grain] שִׁבּֽלֶת . [To continue:] (9) costus, (10) aromatic bark, and (11) cinnamon, thus totaling eleven. Borith carshina [mentioned further in the Baraitha, is not counted because it] does not go up in smoke, but they rub the onycha with it to whiten it so that it should be beautiful.[75]

 

The Cassia which is also used in the annointing oil is also described by Rashi:

 

(6) cassia,

24 and of cassia Heb. וְקִדָּה , the name of the root of an herb, and in the language of the Sages: קְצִיעָה , cassia. -[from Ker. 6a]

 

The Gemara elaborates on Rashi’s cmments:

 

K’rithoth 6a WHEN ONE COMPOUNDS INCENSE. Our Rabbis have taught: ‘When one compounds incense for experimenting or in order to hand it over to the community, he is culpable; if in order to smell of it, he is guilty. He who smells it[76] is not culpable,[77] but he is guilty of sacrilege.[78] But is smelling subject to the law of sacrilege? Has not R. Simeon son of Pazzi stated in the name of R. Joshua son of Levi on behalf of Bar Kappara: Hearing, seeing and smelling[79] are not subject to the law of sacrilege?[80] — The reference to smelling means, after the pillar of the [incense] smoke has ascended,[81] in which case it is not subject to the law of sacrilege, for nothing is subject to the law of sacrilege, after the prescribed command has been performed therewith.

 

Rashi also tells us something about their weight:

 

they shall be of equal weight Heb. בַּד בְּבַד יִהְיֶה . These four [ingredients] mentioned here [explicitly] shall be equal, a weight for a weight. Like the weight of one, so shall be the weight of the other. So we learned (Ker. 6a): The balsam, the onycha, the galbanum, and the frankincense the weight of each was seventy manehs. The word בַּד appears to me to mean a unit; each one [i.e., the weight] shall be this one like that one.

 

Finally, Rashi tells us about the mixing of the spices:

 

35 well blended Heb. מְמֻלָח, as the Targum [Onkelos] renders: מְעָרֵב, mixed. He should mix their [the spices’] powder thoroughly, one with the other. Accordingly, I say that [the following] are similar to this: “And the sailors (הַמַּלָּחִים) were frightened” (Jonah 1:5); “your sailors (מַלָחַיִךְ) and your mariners” (Ezek. 27:27). [Sailors are given this appellation] because they turn over the water with oars when they propel the ship, like a person who turns over beaten eggs with a spoon to blend them with water. And anything that a person wishes to blend thoroughly, he turns over with his finger or with a spoon.

 

well blended, pure, holy It shall be well blended; it shall be pure, and it shall be holy.

 

The Torah teaches us that we may not burn the incense for our own ejoyment, however, Rashi tells us that we can compound it for the community:

 

38 to smell it[s fragrance] But you may make it according to its formula of your own [ingredients] in order to deliver it to the community. -[from Ker. 5a]

 

The Number Eleven

 

There is an interesting story regarding who can count to a minyan attributed by some to the Noda Biyehudah and others to Rav Chaim Brisk. Once he was on a journey and it was getting late in the afternoon so he asked his talmidim to make a minyan. With difficulty, they assembled ten men but the rav noticed that one of them was not particularly frum and asked them to find another. The talmidim explained the difficulty and suggested that, in the extenuating circumstances, they should allow him to count that one time. The rav insisted so one of them said that the Gemara rules that the prayers on a taanit tzibbur must include such a sinner to be effective just as the ketoret (incense) had to contain chelbenah, an evil smelling spice. The rav responded to point out that the ketoret had to have eleven spices!

 

The number eleven, which is how many spices there were in the Ketoret, at first seems rather odd. However, Kabbalistically it is a number of tremendous importance for it alludes to one of the most prized possessions in all of history: Daat Elohim, G-dly-Knowledge. Thus we learn that the sod level of Torah teaches us that ketoret, which is made by eleven ingredients, brings Daatknowledge.

 

At the sod level, Daat is the location (the mystical state) where all ten sephirot in the Tree of Life are united as one. Daat is usually depicted in place of Keter as Daat is the internal representation of Keter. One might say that while there are ten sephirot, Daat is the “eleventh” and hidden sephira.

 

Although often the sefirot are enumerated as being ten,[82] there are altogether eleven sefirot spoken of in Kabbalistic literature. This is because the sefirah of keter and daat are actually one, representing differing dimensions of a single force. When keter, which is the super-conscious of the soul, manifests itself in consciousness, it transforms into the sefirah of daat. In other words, keter and daat are two sides of the same coin, a conscious side and a unconscious side. Usually when referring to the Ten Sefirot one will either count keter in which case one does not count daat. Or visa-versa one counts daat in which case one does not count keter. Therefore there are actually only Ten Sefirot but there are all together eleven names. Still, many times in various models, all eleven sefirot are used at once.

 

Now we can begin to understand that the ketoret (Daat) alludes to the internal representation of the congregation (sephirot) which unites the other ten. Thus it is the ‘sinner’ who has the power to unite the congregation with his teshuva, his repentance. The following chart depicts the position of Daat within the sephirot (sefirot):

 


 

Keter

(Crown) – Colourless

Balsam

Ministry: Invisible

Divine Will in the Messiah

Ê

Binah

(Understanding) – Gray

Galbanum

Virtue: Simchah (Joy)

Ministry: 2nd of the bench of three

APOSTLE

ï

Chochmah

(Wisdom) – Black

Onycha

Virtue: Emunah (Faithful Obedience)

Ministry: Chief Hakham 1st of the bench of three

APOSTLE

Ä

Da’at

(Knowledge) – White

Frankencense

Virtue: Yichud (Unity)

Ministry: 3rd of the bench of three

APOSTLE

Ê

Gevurah

(Strength/Might) – Scarlet Red

Cassia

Virtue: Yir’ah (Fear of G-d)

Ministry: Sheliach [Chazan/Bishop]

ï

G’dolah / Chessed

(Greatness/Mercy) – Royal Blue

Myrrh

Virtue: Ahavah (love)

Ministry: Masoret [Catechist/Evangelist]

Ä

Tiferet

(Beauty) – Yellow

Spikenard

Virtue: Rachamim (Compassion)

Ministry: Darshan or Magid [Prophet]

Ê

Hod

(Glory) – Orange

Costus

Virtue: Temimut (Sincerity)

Ministry: Parnas [Pastor]

ï

Netzach

(Victory) – Emerald Green

Saffron

Virtue: Bitahon (Confidence)

Ministry: Parnas [Pastor]

Ä

Yesod

(Foundation) – Violet

Aromatic Bark

Virtue: Emet (Truth/Honesty)

Ministry: Parnas [Pastor]

(Female – hidden)

 

 

Shekhinah / Malkhut

(Presence) – Purple

Cinnamon

Virtue: Humility

Ministry: Meturgeman/Moreh/Zaqen [Teacher/Elder]

ò

 


Why was the number eleven selected for the production of the Ketoret? In order to answer this question, let us consider some other appearances of the number eleven in the Torah:

 

In Bereshit 36:40-43, the Torah enumerates the eleven chieftains that were born to Esav. In:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 33:11 Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have all (kol). And he urged him, and he took it.

 

Rashi points out a very basic difference between Yaaqov and Esav’s outlook on life. When Yaaqov described his material status, he exclaimed, “I have all that I need!” Esav, on the other hand, arrogantly stated, “I have much, much more than I need!” In contrast to Esav’s “much”, Yaaqov had kol, everything. Kol always refers to the spiritual world because in this world, even if you have the whole world it is simply “much”. It is only when we connect to the source that we can have everything!

 

The number ten represents a completeness; a full integer count. The number ten represents Yaaqov’s purposeful existence. The ideology of Esav, of seeing no limits or goals and amassing “much, much more” than one needs, is represented by the number eleven. It is indeed appropriate that his nation originated with ‘eleven’ chieftains. Yet for all his amassment of wealth, one who follows such an ideology will actually end up with less, not more. As our Sages put it,

 

Sanhedrin 29a one who adds, takes away.

 

Similarly, in the area of kashrut we are told that:

 

Chulin 58b an animal with an extra limb is likened to an animal missing that limb.

 

If an animal missing a leg is considered to be a Tereifah (unfit for food) and not kosher, one that has an extra leg is also a tereifah and not kosher.

 

Megilah 29a One who is arrogant is considered to be blemished.

 

This above Gemara follows the same principle. The arrogant person considers himself bigger, or more fit, than others, while in truth, his extra fitness is no more than a lack of fitness. He is blemished, or flawed.

 

In Sanhedrin 29a, the Gemara derives the rule that “one who adds, takes away” from a verse in Shemot 26:7. The verse states that the goat’s hair covering on the Mishkan (the Tabernacle in the wilderness) consisted of eleven curtains of goat’s hair, sewn together into one very long curtain which was draped over the Mishkan. The word the Torah uses for eleven is Ashtei Esreh. Had the Torah left out the letter Ayin from Ashtei, the Gemara explains, it would have meant twelve. Now that the Ayin is added to the word, it takes away from its meaning, such that it only means eleven.

 

Note that this rule is learned from the number eleven. Esav’s attitude of “much, much more than I need” is summed up by the number eleven. All of his additional wealth just takes him farther from attaining the true goals in life.

 

Interestingly, according to Rashi on Tehillim 80:14, a letter Ayin which is raised above the rest of the word in which it appears is used to represent Esav’s wickedness.

 

The Death Penalty

 

The following narrative is from Meam Loez[83]:

 

Also included in the incense was an herb known as maaleh ashan. This herb caused the smoke to go straight up like a pole and not to spread to the right or left. No one knew the identity of this herb except members of the family of the House of Avtinus mentioned earlier. These are the ones who were able to make the incense based on the tradition of their ancestors and they would not reveal it to any other person.

 

This herb had to be placed in the incense even though it did not have any fragrance. This is because it is written, “Speak to Aaron your brother and let him not come at all times to the sanctuary inside the veil which is before the ark.” (Leviticus 16:2) Moses was told to go to Aaron the High Priest and tell him not to go into the Holy of Holies at any time other than Yom HaKippurim. Even on Yom HaKippurim he could not go into the Holy of Holies empty-handed. The Torah therefore continues:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:2 For in cloud I shall be seen on the ark cover.

 

The only time the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies was when he brought incense and the cloud of smoke covered the ark cover. The cloud mentioned here is the smoke of the incense. As the Torah says later:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:13 The cloud of incense shall cover the ark cover.

 

Since the Torah says, “In a cloud I shall be seen on the ark cover” and it does not say, “With incense I shall be seen on the ark cover,” our sages taught that this herb known as maaleh ashan must be placed in the incense. If maaleh ashan was not placed there the incense would burn but there would not be this heavy smoke. Since the Torah speaks of a “cloud” of smoke we learn that there must be smoke. The only substance that makes this heavy smoke is the maaleh ashan, which made this smoke go up straight like a pole.

 

If a different type of herb were used, the smoke would not go directly up; rather, it would spread out to all sides of the Holy of Holies. It would then not be right over the ark cover and the Torah says explicitly, “The cloud of incense shall cover the ark cover.” This cloud of smoke must cover the ark cover so the High Priest does not see the Divine Presence.

 

If the High Priest burned the incense and it did not contain this maaleh ashan he would be worthy of death.

 

Furthermore if he left out any of the ingredients he would be worthy of death. The Torah says:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:13 He should place incense on the fire before HaShem and the cloud of the incense should cover the ark cover which is above the Testimony.

 

The Torah could have simply said, “He should place it on the fire before HaShem.” Why did it say he should place incense on the fire? The word “incense” appears to be redundant because it was already mentioned earlier, “a double handful of incense, finely ground perfumes.” Then the Torah should say, “He should place it on a fire before HaShem,” and we would know that the Torah is speaking about incense.

 

However, the expression, “the incense” (ha-Ketoret) teaches us that the incense must be complete without anything missing. Even a single dram of weight of any of the ingredients cannot be left out.

 

The Torah also teaches us that the smoke of the incense must cover the ark cover. This is why the maaleh ashan is placed in it. The Torah says:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:13 And he shall not die.

 

From this we learn the opposite. If any of the ingredients are left out or if the maaleh ashan was not placed in the incense, the High Priest was worthy of death. It did not matter how small an amount of the maaleh ashan was placed there as long as there was some.

 

One should read the section of the Ketoret out of a Siddur. Saying it verbally is the same as actually burning this incense in the Temple, as is explained earlier. If one says it by heart it is possible that he will leave out one of the ingredients. This is the same as burning incense lacking ingredients for which one is worthy of death. Therefore it should be read from the written page. For the same reason it is good to count the eleven perfumes with one’s fingers, so as not to skip any of them.

End of Meam Loez.

 

Ketoret has the power to nullify any evil decree, even that of death. It is for this reason that when a plague broke out among the Bne Israel in the wilderness Moshe ordered Aaron to go through the camp with the ketoret.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 17:12-13 Aaron took the incense pan as Moses had commanded him... He offered the incense to atone for the people... and the plague was checked.

 

Thus we see the healing properties of ketoret, especially to alleviate the plague. If the ketoret had not been formulated correctly it would not have ended the plague, thus condemning the people to death. This is why the death penalty is proper for those who leave out any ingredient while compounding the ketoret.

 

Ketoret Symbolizes Unity

 

Ketoret was a unique substance whose eleven ingredients had the ability to symbolize unity, as we can see from the following Gemara:

 

Kirithoth 6b Said R. Johanan: Eleven kinds of spices were named to Moses at Sinai. Said R. Huna: ‘Where is the text? Take unto thee sweet spices, at least two; balsam, and onycha, and galbanum, that makes together five; ‘sweet spices’ means another five, that makes together ten; ‘with pure frankincense’, which is one, that is together eleven. ‘Why not say, ‘sweet spices’ [at the beginning] is a general statement, balsam, and onycha, and galbanum’ a specification, and ‘sweet spices’ [at the end] is again a general statement! [‘We have thus, a generalization followed by a specification and then by a generalisation, [in which case] only things sharing the qualities of the specification may be derived. Just as the [items of the] specification are things whose smoke ascends upwards and whose fragrance spreads, so include all things whose smoke ascends upwards and whose fragrance spreads. And should you say in this case only one [item of] specification should have been mentioned, [I would answer] No, all are necessary; for if ‘balsam’ alone was written, I might have said: Only things from the tree [are to be taken], but not things growing on the ground. It was thus necessary to state ‘onycha’. And if ‘onycha’ alone was written, I might have said: Only things from the ground, but not from the tree. It was thus necessary to state ‘balsam’. As to ‘galbanum’, its mention is necessary for its own sake, for its odour is unpleasant if so, it could have been derived from: Take unto thee. But perhaps say: ‘The sweet spices’ in the latter part [of the verse] mean two, as ‘the sweet spices’ in the former part? Then it should have written the two expressions ‘sweet spices’ next to one another, and then write ‘balsam, and onycha, and galbanum’. In the School of R. Ishmael it was taught thus: ‘Sweet spices’ is a generalisation, ‘balsam, and onycha, and galbanum’ is a specification, sweet spices’ again is a generalisation, and from a generalisation followed by a specification and then by another generalisation one can derive only things sharing the qualities of the specification. As the [items in the] specification are things whose smoke ascends upwards and whose fragrance spreads, so all things whose smoke ascends upwards and whose fragrance spreads. Perhaps this is not so; but take the generalisation with the first generalisation, the specification with the first specification? — Say: This cannot be; hence you must not expound according to the latter version but according to the former.

 

The Master said: ‘Perhaps this is not so, but take the generalisation with the first generalisation and the specification with the first specification? — Say: This cannot be, hence you cannot expound . . . ‘ ‘What is the question? — This is his difficulty: Let the sweet spices’ in the latter part [of the verse] mean two like ‘sweet spices’ in the former. ‘Whereupon he replied as was answered before: Then it should have written, ‘Sweet spices, sweet spices, balsam, onycha and galbanum’. What is the meaning of ‘and the specification with the first specification’? — This is his difficulty: Things of the tree are derived from ‘balsam’, and things of the ground from ‘onycha’; why not then derive from ‘pure frankincense’ all things which have one quality in common with it [viz.,] that their fragrance spreads, though their smoke does not ascend upwards? Whereupon he replied: If this was so, ‘pure frankincense’ should have been written among the others, so that you could derive therefrom. But if ‘pure frankincense’ was written among the others, we would have twelve spices. — ‘Pure frankincense’ should have been written among the others and ‘galbanum’ at the end. Resh Lakish says: From the word itself it can be inferred; for ketoret [frankincense] means something whose smoke ascends upwards.

 

In other words, the incense used in the Bet HaMikdash, the House of the Holy One, consisted of fragrant spices as well as the foul-smelling galbanum, which itself acquired a pleasant aroma when combined with the other spices of the ketoret. The Gemara derives from this composition of the incense a similar phenomenon in the social, religious makeup of the Jewish people: when the wicked and righteous join together, the latter can positively impact upon the former to produce a single, “fragrant” unified community.

 

Rav Kook explained that the ketoret was a link between the material and spiritual realms. The word ketoret comes from the root kesher, a tie or knot. The incense rose straight up, connecting our divided physical world to the unified divine realm. From the sublime standpoint of overall holiness, it is impossible to distinguish between the separate, distinct fragrances. Each fragrance represents a particular quality, but at that elevated level, they are revealed only within the attribute of absolute unity. Only in our divided world do they acquire separate identities.

 

Because ketoret symbolizes the unity of the Bne Israel, when there is a lack of unity, ketoret is used to bring about that unity. In the case of Qorach and his followers, in Bamidbar 16, ketoret was used to bring about the death of Qorach and his followers and thus completely eliminate the heresy which had disrupted the unity of the Bne Israel.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:5 And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow HaShem will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him. 6 This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; 7 And put fire therein, and put incense in them before HaShem to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom HaShem doth choose, he shall be holy: ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:35 And there came out a fire from HaShem, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. 36 And HaShem spake unto Moses, saying, 37 Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed. 38 The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before HaShem, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel. 39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: 40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before HaShem; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as HaShem said to him by the hand of Moses.

 

Nadab and Abihu, in Vayikra 10, also disrupted the unity of the Bne Israel by offeringstrange fire”. Therefore, we also see that the ketoret was instrumental in bringing about their death as a judgment for disrupting this unity.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 10:1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before HaShem, which he commanded them not. 2 And there went out fire from HaShem, and devoured them, and they died before HaShem.

 

Rabbi Krohn said that we learn from the ketoret the need for unity among all Jews. If any one of the eleven ingredients was omitted from the mixture, the ketoret offering was invalid. One of the ingredients, chelbana (galbanum), has a foul odor. This undesirable spice symbolizes the sinners in a Jewish congregation. Our Sages state that a public fast day in which at least one sinner does not participate is not considered a fast day: that is, it does not accomplish the purpose for which it was intended, whether relief from a drought or protection from physical threats to the community. The requirement to mix chelbana into the ketoret reminds us that we must include those Jews who do not perform every commandment properly in our prayer services and community activities.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 30:1ff introduces us to the “mizbach ha-ketoret,” the incense altar, upon which the kohen would offer incense twice daily:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 30:1 And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it. 2 A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. 3 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about. 4 And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal. 5 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. 7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. 8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before HaShem throughout your generations. 9 Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon. 10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto HaShem.

 

One unique quality of the incense offering emerges from the Gemara in:

 

Keritut 6b Any fast day which does not include any sinners from among Yisrael is not a [legitimate] fast day; for galbanum [‘chelbena’ in Hebrew] has a putrid odor, but yet the Scripture included it as one of the ingredients of the ketoret.

 

In other words, the incense used in the Mikdash consisted of fragrant spices as well as the foul-smelling galbanum, which itself acquired a pleasant aroma when combined with the other spices of the ketoret. The Gemara derives from this composition of the incense a similar phenomenon in the social, religious makeup of the Jewish people: when the wicked and righteous join together, the latter can positively impact upon the former to produce a single, “fragrant” community.

 

However, as Rav Meir Simcha Ha-kohen of Dvinsk notes, this blend can occur only when a genuine sense of unity prevails among Bne Israel. The influence of the righteous upon the iniquitous can take effect only when true brotherhood is felt between the different segments of the population.

 

Bne Israel can survive exposure to HaShem’s revelation only through the joining together of the various elements of the population. The ketoret, the merging of the different sectors of the Jewish people, protects the nation from the potential divine wrath resulting from HaShem’s revelation. Individually, one cannot hope to emerge meritorious from divine judgment, the natural outcome of revelation; only the nation as a whole, through the collective merits of its individual components, can withstand the Shekhina.

 

Indeed, this theme is a dominant one in the Yamim Noraim, particularly on Yom HaKippurim, the day of revelation. No single Jew can claim sufficient worthiness to stand before the Creator in judgment. We do so only by identifying wholeheartedly with the entirety of the Jewish nation, affording us the merits of one another as well as the national merits of our Patriarchs. Thus we see the three “extra” maneh of Ketoret was burned on Yom HaKippurim to symbolize this unity.

 

Ketoret - קטרת as a protection

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 17:11-13 “And Moshe said to Aharon. Take a censer, and put fire in it from off the altar, and put on incense, and take it quickly... and ran... and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed” .

 

We learn from the Yom HaKippurim service that the cloud of ketoret facilitates a vision of the Shekhina: For in the cloud I shall appear above the kaporet.

 

Like a sort of veil which serves to dull the dazzling revelation. Perhaps, this is indeed the function of the Mizbayach HaKetoret (incense altar) throughout the year: it is meant to allow the Shekhina to dwell in the Mishkan by “screening” the revelation therein!

 

Ketoret is brought by men to recognize the fact that HaShem is present amongst us. Rashi illustrates this by examing ketoret - קטרת:

 

Rashi’s Commentary for: B’Midbar (Numbers) 7:20 filled with incense - קְטֹרֶת. The gematria of קְטֹרֶת [i.e., 613] corresponds to the six hundred and thirteen commandments—provided that you convert the “chaph” into a “daleth” in accordance with the cipher known as, קד רג שב ת א[in which the first and last letters of the alphabet are interchangeable, the second and the second-to-last letters, etc. Thus, ד = 4 ט = 9 ר =200 ת = 400 totalling 613]. 

 

Thus we see that ketoret = 613 commands. These 613 commands also indicate that HaShem is among me.

 

Furthermore, ketoret has the unique property of protection, which is necessary since as mortals we cannot handle the direct presence of HaShem, so we need the incense and the incense altar to protect us from the glory of HaShem. This is why when in verse 6, when describing where the Mizbayach HaKetoret is put it says:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 30:1 And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it. 2 A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. 3 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about. 4 And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal. 5 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. 7 And Aaron[84] shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.

 

Geographically all it needed to say was to place it before the partition, but the full description connects the Mizbayach HaKetoret to HaShem meeting Bne Yisrael, such that the Mizbayach serves as a buffer and interface between us and the glory of HaShem.

 

Not only the actual offering of the ketoret, but even studying and reciting the parasha of ketoret yields remarkable power as the Zohar writes:

 

Zohar 2:218 This matter is a decree issued by the Almighty, that whoever studies and reads the topic of the constitution of the ketoret every day is saved from all evil things and witchcraft in the world, and from all serious injury, from evil thoughts, from harsh judgment, and from death, and will not be harmed that entire day, for the evil force has no control over him. One must concentrate during this recitation. Rabbi Shimon said, if people would know how exalted the concept of the ketoret is before the Almighty, they would take every single word in it and wear it as a crown on their head like a golden crown. Whoever involves himself in it must delve into the concept of the ketoret. If he concentrates on it every day, he earns a portion both in this world and in the next world, and death will be eliminated from him and from the world, and he will be saved from all prosecution in this world, from impurity, from the judgment of Gehinnom and from subjugation to foreign rule.

 

The Yalkut Meam Loez cites a story from the Midrash Haneelam. Rav Aha once arrived in a certain town that had been ravaged by a plague for seven days. The townspeople came to him and told him of their troubles. The plague was only intensifying, and they did not know what to do. He said, “Let us go to the Bet Kenesset (House of the Congregation) and pray that it stops.” As they made their way towards the Bet Kenesset, people came and told them that the plague had claimed even more victims; others are about to die. He said, “Since the calamity is so severe and time is running out, we will not go to the Bet Kenesset. Rather, bring me forty G-d-fearing people and they will divide into groups of ten, each of which should go to one direction of the city and recite ‘pitum haketoret’ (the Talmudic discussion of the ingredients of the ketoret) three times. They should then add, ‘Moshe said to Aharon: Take the firepan and place fire upon it from the altar and place ketoret, and quickly bring it to the nation and atone on their behalf… ‘ until ‘and the plague ended.’” They did as he told, and the plague stopped. All those who had been stricken were cured. A heavenly voice called out to the harmful spirits, “Do no more damage in this town, for the attribute of justice no longer has any control over them!”

 

Rav Aha was exhausted and fell asleep. He dreamt that it was told to him, “Just as you eliminated the plague from the city, so must you bring them back in teshuva, for one cannot endure without the other, because it was on account of their sins that the plague was decreed”. He told this to the townspeople and they repented. They changed the name of the town to “Mahsiya,” which means “town of compassion”. They kept the town’s name in their minds at all times so as to ensure that they would not return to their sinful ways.

 

From Meam Loez:

 

The incense also had another great advantage. It was an enlightened remedy to purify people from sin. Whoever smelled the fragrance of the incense when it was being burned on the altar would have thoughts of repentance. His heart would be purified of all evil thoughts and from the defilement of the Evil Urge. In this respect it was very much like the forehead-plate worn by the High Priest upon which God’s name was written. Whoever looked at it would experience great awe in his heart and would repent completely. The same was true of anyone who smelled the fragrance of the incense when it was being burned. This would break the power of the Other Side so that it could not speak evil against Israel.

 

This is why the incense altar was referred to as an altar, (mizbeach). [The word mizbeach comes from the Hebrew zevach, which denotes slaughter.] The incense altar was called a mizbeach even though no sacrifice was slaughtered on it because the incense had the power to break and subjugate the power of the Other Side. This place was called a mizbeach because it was a place where the Other Side was slaughtered.

 

Since the incense is so important, a person should be careful to read this chapter every day in the morning and the evening. He should not consider saying it difficult even though it might take a few moments since it brings great joy to God.

 

Incense is greater than prayer. As is well known, the prayers were meant to be in place of the sacrifices, but as we have already said, the incense was more important and greater than all the sacrifices. Therefore it is obvious that the incense was greater than all the prayers. Moreover, it was a great remedy to purify a person of all sin.

 

In the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai says: If people knew how great it is when they say the section Pitum HaKetoret before God, they would take each and every word of the section and place it on their heads like a golden crown. Whoever says Pitum HaKetoret each day in the morning and evening slowly without skipping even a single word, and understands what he is saying, is protected against all evil occurrences and evil thoughts and from an evil death. He can rest assured that all day he will not be harmed in any way. He will also be protected from the punishments of purgatory and will have a portion in the World to Come.

 

Ketoret for Simcha (Joy)

 

The Midrash says:

 

Tanhuma, Tesaveh 15 The Almighty said: Of all the sacrifices you offer, there is none dearer to Me than the ketoret [incense], for it comes not for any sin or transgression or guilt, but rather for joy, as it says, ‘Oil and incense gladden the heart’ (Mishlei 27). See how beloved the ketoret is, for through it the plague ended. Aharon found the angel [of death] standing and destroying. He stayed opposite it and did not let it go. He said to Aharon: Let me go and carry out my mission. Aharon stopped it with the power of the ketoret.

 

In The Temple

 

The Ketoret must be made in the Bet HaMikdash, the House of The Holy One. Ketoret is one of the few offerings that can not be donated to the Mikdash, but must be purchased from public funds.

 

The Ketoret was also an intrinsic part of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle in the wilderness), since it is the proper thing to place incense in the King’s Palace, prior to his entry, all the more so, HaShem. Indeed, on a number of occasions in the desert, it was through the Ketoret that the Shechinah rested in Israel.

 

Ketoret was offered to bring joy and happiness to the world. For this reason, it was the most beloved to HaShem of all the offerings[85]. And, it was the life-preserving qualities of the Ketoret that the Angel of Death taught Moshe on Mt. Sinai, which worked to save lives in the disagreement with Qorach.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 17:11-13 “Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take the censer and put fire from the altar into it. Then take it quickly to the congregation and atone for them, for wrath has gone forth from the Lord, and the plague has begun.’ Aaron took it as Moses had said, and he ran into the midst of the assembly, and behold, the plague had begun among the people. He placed the incense on it and atoned for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague ceased”.

 

Our Sages taught that the righteous are compared to pleasant smelling spices (Megilla 13a). That is why Esther was also named Hadassah which means myrtle, while Mordechai is comprised of ‘mar dachia’, pure myhrr, one of the main ingredients of the incense. We have seen in the teaching of our Sages that sound is good for the incense. For this reason Mordechai, whose righteous deeds were pleasing to HaShem as incense, cried aloud in the midst of the city. Through his intense prayer and beseeching on behalf of the Jews, Mordechai saw that, as incense offered before HaShem, he was able to nullify the harsh decree against the Jewish people. In this way, he ‘stood between the dead and the living’ much as Aaron used the incense to stay the plague of HaShem’s wrath.

 

Among the other healing properties of the ketoret was that it was the part of the daily service that specifically atoned for lashon hara, derogatory speech about others.[86]

 

Why all these special properties of the ketoret, more than any other offering? The answer lies in the following Gemara:

 

Brochot 43b How do we know that one should make a blessing over pleasant fragrances? For, it says, “Let all souls praise G-d” (Tehillim 150:6). Now, what thing does a soul enjoy that a body does not? Only a good smell.

 

For, if the body enjoyed it too, such as in the case of food, a blessing would be made for that reason alone. We need something that the body does not enjoy, but, yet, there is pleasure from the thing. That, says the Talmud, is a pleasant fragrance, and that, we can say, is the basis of the importance of the ketoret Offering.

 

Ketoret Symbolizes Prayer

 

Berachoth 6b R. Helbo further said in the name of R. Huna: A man should always take special care about the afternoon-prayer. For even Elijah was favourably heard only while offering his afternoon-prayer. For it is said: And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening offering, that Elijah the prophet came near and said . . . Hear me, O Lord, hear me. ‘Hear me’, that the fire may descend from heaven, and ‘hear me’, that they may not say it is the work of sorcery. R. Johanan says: [Special care should be taken] also about the evening-prayer. For it is said: Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. R. Nahman b. Isaac says: [Special care should be taken] also about the morning.prayer. For it is said: O Lord, in the morning shalt Thou hear my voice; in the morning will I order my prayer unto Thee, and will look forward.

 

Revelation 8:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. 6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XIII:4 Offerings (muktar)’ alludes to the evening prayer, as is borne out by the text, Let my prayer be set forth as incense (ketoreth)4 before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice (Ps. CXLI, 2).

 

The House of Abtinus

 

The House of Abtinus was the family responsible for making the ketoret, in the latter days of the Second Temple. The secret of making the incense for the altar was hereditary. the Abtinus family were very talented in preparing the ketoret, etc.[87] The Sages were very upset with them for refusing to convey their dexterity to others.

 

Yoma 38a MISHNAH. AND THESE WERE MENTIONED TO THEIR SHAME: THEY OF … THE HOUSE OF ABTINAS WOULD NOT TEACH ANYTHING ABOUT THE PREPARATION OF THE INCENSE; THEY OF THE HOUSE OF ABTINAS WOULD NOT TEACH ANYTHING ABOUT THE PREPARATION OF THE INCENSE.

 

Yoma 38a Our Hakhamim[88] taught: The house of Abtinas were expert in preparing the incense but would not teach [their art]. The Sages sent for specialists from Alexandria of Egypt, who knew how to compound incense as well as they, but did not know how to make the smoke ascend as well as they. The smoke of the former ascended [as straight] as a stick, whereas the smoke of the latter was scattered in every direction. When the Sages heard thereof, they quoted: ‘Everyone that is called by My name, I have created for My glory’, as it is said: The Lord hath made everything for His own purpose, and [said]: The house of Abtinas may return to their [wonted] place. The Sages sent for them, but they would not come. Then they doubled their hire and they came. Every day [thitherto] they would receive twelve minas, [from] that day twenty-four. The Sages said to them: What reason did you have for not teaching [your art]? They said: They knew in our father’s house that this House is going to be destroyed and they said: Perhaps an unworthy man will learn [this art] and will serve an idol therewith. — And for the following reason was their memory kept in honour: Never did a bride of their house go forth perfumed and when they married a woman from elsewhere they expressly forbade her to do so lest people say: From [the preparation of] the incense they are perfuming themselves. [They did so] to fulfill the command: ‘Ye shall be clear before the Lord and before Israel.’

 

Lashon HaRa

 

The offering of the “ketoret” was carried out in complete seclusion. The Torah tells us:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:17 any person shall not be in the Tent of Meeting when he comes to provide atonement in the Sanctuary until his departure.

 

Although this pasuk is found in the section of the Torah dealing with the Yom HaKippurim service, this halacha is not limited to Yom HaKippurim. It was forbidden for any other Kohen to be present in the Bet Hamikdash while the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, was offering his ketoret, whether it be Yom HaKippurim when it was offered in the Kodesh HaKodoshim (the Holy of Holies), or any other day that it was brought on the inner altar. This offering that was always done in private serves to atone for lashon hara (evil speech) that is spoken privately.

 

Yoma 44a:  We learn that the incense obtains atonement for what was said: And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And the School of R. Ishmael taught: Why does incense obtain atonement for [the sin] of the evil tongue [evil speech]? Let that which is [performed] in secret come and obtain atonement for what is committed in secret!

 

The Gemara[89] teaches: Because of lashon hara, tzaraat befalls a person. Yet [the Gemara asks] doesn’t Rav Anani bar Sason teach that when the kohen gadol wears the garment known as the me’il, this atones for the nation’s lashon hara?

 

The Gemara (as explained by Rashi) answers: If the lashon hara caused a fight, tzara’at results. Otherwise, the wearing of the me’il atones.

 

Yet does not Rav Simon teach that the ketoret atones for lashon hara, for we read in this parasha that Aharon atoned for the people with ketoret? Yes, the ketoret, which is usually burnt privately in the inner sanctum of the Mishkan, atones for lashon hara spoken in private, while the me’il atones for lashon hara spoken in public. [Until here from the Gemara.]

 

The Chafetz Chaim writes: It follows from this that lashon hara which causes a fight is punished by tzara’at (leprosy) even when spoken privately. Ketoret atones for lashon hara spoken privately which causes no harm.

 

Why then did the ketoret provide atonement, in Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:46, where the lashon hara was very public? Because Aharon took the ketoret out of the privacy of the Mishkan and burnt it in the midst of the camp.

 

The Gemara records that offering of the ketoret is done privately[90]; that is, when the ketoret is offered, no one is allowed to be in the heikhal, the inner sanctum, other than the kohen offering the ketoret. While the Torah mentions this exclusion specifically regarding the special service of the kohen gadol on Yom HaKippurim[91], the Gemara understands that it applies to the ketoret generally[92].

 

Given its very private nature, the ketoret symbolizes the mysterious, the unknown. However, the Torah explicitly connects both offerings of the ketoret to the lighting of the menora. The menora is symbolic of the light of the Torah, the revealed Torah, while the ketoret is symbolic of the hidden aspects of Torah, of those parts that lie beyond human comprehension. The Torah links these two commands, highlighting the significance of striving to understand the Torah while recognizing that some aspects of Torah will remain difficult.

 

From The Septennial Cycle

 

In the Septennial Torah reading cycle, found in the Talmud, we found that the readings for Iyar 3, in the first triennial cycle, speak of the incense altar and the formula for the incense. The Ashlamata, Psalm, and Nazarean Codicil all take of the themes related to the incense as we can see in the following readings for Iyar 3, 5770:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 30:1-38

Malachi 1:11 – 2:7

Tehillim (Psalms) 64

Mordechai (Mark) 9:14-29

 

The verbal tally between the Torah and the Ashlamata is the word for “incense” (qatar).

The verbal tally between the Torah and the Psalm is “word” (dabar).

 

Here are the pertinent pasukim, in the Torah and Ashlamata,[93] where the verbal tally’s are found:

 

Shemot 30:7 And Aaron shall burn והקטיר <06999> thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense <06999> upon it.

 

Malachi 1:11  For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense םקטר < 06999> shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith HaShem of hosts.

 

Strong’s defines “word” as: 06999 קטר qatar kaw-tar’. A primitive root [identical with 07000 through the idea of fumigation in a close place and perhaps thus driving out the occupants]; AV-incense 59, burn 49, offer 3, kindle 1, offering 1, misc 4; 117. To sacrifice, burn incense, burn sacrifices, make sacrifices smoke.

 

There are eleven (11) pasukim[94] in Tehillim 64. There are eleven (11) spices in the incense (ketoret), as an allusion to the incense. This psalm speaks of the lashon hara spoken against Daniel when he prayed in his window. This act got him thrown into the lion’s den.

 

Among the other healing properties of the ketoret was that it was the part of the daily service that specifically atoned for lashon hara, evil speech about others, according to the Gemara.

 

Yoma 44a:  We learn that the incense obtains atonement for what was said: And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And the School of R. Ishmael taught: Why does incense obtain atonement for [the sin] of the evil tongue [evil speech]? Let that which is [performed] in secret come and obtain atonement for what is committed in secret!

 

The Torah agrees that the ketoret atones for the sin of lashon hara:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:41 But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of HaShem. 42  And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of HaShem appeared. 43  And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation. 44  And HaShem spake unto Moses, saying, 45  Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces. 46  And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from HaShem; the plague is begun. 47  And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. 48  And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.

 

As we look for the verbal tally between Shemot 30:1-38 and Tehillim (64), we find the following pasukim:

 

Shemot 30:11 And HaShem spake<01696> unto Moses, saying,

 

Tehillim 64:3  Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words<01697>:

 

Strong’s give the following definition of “words” – dabar -  רבד:

 

01696 רבד dabar daw-bar’ - a primitive root; v;

 

01697 רבד dabar daw-baw’ - from 01696; n m;

 

The mishna of Mordechai (Mark) takes up the matter of speech and its consequences in the portion for the Torah portion - Shemot 30:1-38:

 

Mordechai 9:17  And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; 18  And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

 

Strongs defines “dumb” as: 216 αλαλος alalos al’-al-os, from 1 (as a negative particle) and 2980; ; adj; AV-dumb. Speechless, dumb, wanting the faculty of speech.

 

The critical verbal tally for Mordechai is the word “dumb”, that is, speechless. This word is used only three times in the Nazarean Codicil,[95] and two of them are in our portion (v.17 and v.25). The incense atoned for those who spoke lashon hara. The one who speak lashon hara was afflicted with leprosy and had to dwell outside the camp. The man with a dumb spirit afflicted his own flesh and was driven from the camp. The similarities are obvious.

 

Thus we see that the septennial Torah readings for Iyar 3, 5770, contribute to our increased understanding of the incense. As I learn more about how to mine these readings, I am sure that they will continue to reveal additional understanding.

 

In the Targum

 

Targum Pseudo Yonathon on Shemot (Exodus) Ex 30:1-38:

 

22. And the Lord spoke to Mosheh, saying,

23. And you also take to yourself the first aromatics, choice myrrh, in weight five hundred minas, and sweet cinnamon of half the weight, two hundred and fifty minas, and sweet calamus in weight two hundred and fifty minas

[JERUSALEM. And you take to yourself the chief goodly spices, choice myrrh, in weight five hundred minas of shekels.]

24. and cassia in weight five hundred minas of shekels, in the shekel of the sanctuary, and olive oil a vase full, in weight twelve logs, a log for each tribe of the twelve tribes.

25. And you will make of it a holy anointing oil, perfumed with perfume, the work of the perfumer, of compounded perfumes: a holy anointing oil will it be.

26. And with it anoint the tabernacle of ordinance, and the ark of the testimony,

27. and the table and all its vessels, and the candelabrum and its vessels, and the altar of sweet incense,

28. and the altar of burnt offering and all its vessels, and the laver and its foundation,

29. and consecrate them, and they will be most holy. Every one of the priests who approaches to them will be sanctified; but of the rest of the tribes, (whoever touches them) will be consumed by the fiery flame from before the Lord.

30. But Aharon and his sons anoint, and consecrate them to minister before Me.

31. And speak you to the sons of Israel, saying, This will be a holy anointing oil before Me unto your generations.

32. Upon the flesh of man it may not be poured, and the like of it you will not make to resemble it; unto you it will be most sacred.

33. The man who compounds the like of it, or puts it upon the unconsecrated who are not of the sons of Aharon, will be destroyed from his people.

34. And the Lord said to Mosheh, Take to yourself spices, balsam, and onycha, and galbanum, choice spices, and pure frankincense, weight for weight will it be. [JERUSALEM. Balsam, spikenardmyrrh, and galbanum.]

35. And confect therewith a fragrant incense, the work of the compounder, a pure and sacred mixture. [JERUSALEM. Commixed.]

36. And beat, and make it small, and of it some will you put before the testimony in the tabernacle of ordinance, where I will appoint My Word to be with you. Most sacred will it be to you.

37. And of the sweet incense you will make, the like will not be made among you; it will be sacred to you before the Lord:

38. the man who makes the like of it to smell thereto will be destroyed from his people.

 

Holy Deodorizer

 

Maimonides describes the function of the ketoret as the vanquishing of the unpleasant odors that might otherwise have pervaded the Temple. HaShem commanded that the ketoret be burned twice a day, each morning and afternoon, to lend a pleasing fragrance to the Temple and to the garments of those who served in it:

 

Guide for the Perplexed, part III, ch. 45 “Since many animals were slaughtered in the sacred place each day, their flesh butchered and burnt and their intestines cleaned, its smell would doubtless have been like the smell of a slaughterhouse... Therefore G-d commanded that the ketoret be burned twice a day, each morning and afternoon, to lend a pleasing fragrance to [the Holy Temple] and to the garments of those who served in it.”

 

But Maimonides’ words carry a significance that extends beyond their superficial sense. In the words of Rabbeinu Bechaya:

 

Rabbeinu Bechayei on Torah, Exodus 30:1 “G-d forbid that the great principle and mystery of the ketoret should be reduced to this mundane purpose.”

 

As with all aspects of Torah, this is understood on many different levels. It is explained in the Zohar that the kohanim were not merely interested in converting unpleasant smells to pleasant ones; the inner purpose of the ketoret was to dispel the foulness of the Evil Inclination:

 

The Zohar Shemot, Vayakhel Pg 218b It is a ruling of the Holy One, blessed be He, that whoever looks and reads the incense-offering portion … will not be damaged that whole day.

 

Wisdom of the Zohar, Tishby, III 933 Rabbi Shimon said: If men only knew how exalted the section dealing with] the incense-offering was in the eyes of the Holy One, blessed be He, they would take each single word and make it an ornament for their heads, like a crown of gold. And whoever, wishes to study it should examine it in every detail. And if he concentrates upon it every day, he will have a share both in this world and the world to come. Pestilence will disappear from him and from the world, and he will be delivered from all the [evil] judgments of this world, from evil powers, from the judgment of Gehinnom and from Judgment of the alien kingdom.

 

Chassidic teaching explains that the animal sacrifices offered in the Temple represent the person’s offering of his own animal soul to HaShem, the subjugation of his natural instincts and desires to the divine will. This is the deeper significance of the foul odor emitted by the sacrifices which the ketoret came to dispel: the animal soul of man, which is the basic drive, common to every living creature, for self-preservation and self-enhancement, possesses many positive traits which can be directed toward gainful and holy ends; but it is also the source of many negative and destructive traits. When a person brings his animal self to the Temple of HaShem and offers what is best and finest in it upon the altar, there is still the foul odor, the selfishness, the brutality, and the materiality of the animal in man, that accompanies the process. Hence the burning of the ketoret, which possessed the unique capability to sublimate the evil odor of the animal soul within its heavenly fragrance.

 

Like the incense that burned in the Temple, the manifest function of teshuva[96] is to deal with negative and undesirable things. On the practical level, teshuva is repentance, a returning to HaShem, a healing for the soul. But teshuva is also the dominant quality of Yom HaKippurim, the holiest day of the year. On the day before Yom HaKippurim we grind the spices a second time to insure that they are the absolute finest. Thus, the ketoret that burned in the Holy of Holies was the manifestation of the function of teshuva; to deal with sin and its ability to disrupt the unity of the body and the soul of the nation..

 

The Avodah

(Adapted from the Rambam)

 

Any Kohen was eligible to bring the daily Ketoret, not specifically the Kohen Gadol. The Kohen would bring half of that day’s Ketoret (a Manah daily) in the morning (between the preparation of the Menora and the conclusion of the Korban Tamid), and half in the afternoon, between the kindling of the five lamps of the Menorah and that of the remaining two. This is how the Rambam describes the Avodat ha’Ketoret[97]:

 

The Kohen who won the right to clear the Mizbei’ach (altar) ha’Zahav (golden) would enter the Heichal (the Sanctuary) with a holy vessel made of gold (known as a ‘Teni’) that held two and a half Kabin. Placing it on the ground in front of the Mizbei’ach, he would proceed to scoop the ashes and the spent coals that remained on the Mizbei’ach with his hands and empty them on to the Teni. Whatever was left, he would sweep into it.

 

The Kohen who won the right to bring the Ketoret would then take a covered vessel (called a Bazach) already heaped with Ketoret. This, he would then place inside another vessel called a Kaf (a giant spoon) which he covered with a cloth. He was now joined by a second Kohen, who had won the right to perform the Avodah of the Machtah (the pan), and who had taken burnt coals from the middle of the second arrangement of firewood from on the altar, with a silver shovel. He now descended and poured the coals into a golden shovel. If no more than a Kav of coal spilt, they would sweep it into the Amah (the stream that ran across the Azarah), whereas on Shabbat, since it could not be handled, they would simply cover it with a vessel. If more than a Kav of ashes spilt, they would shovel it back on to the silver shovel, and from there on to the golden one. The two Kohanim then entered the Kodesh (holy place) together.

 

Meanwhile, the Kohen (priest) who had cleared the altar, had taken the Teni with the spent ashes, prostrated himself, and left the Holy Place. The Kohen with the golden pan would then empty its contents on to the golden altar, and flatten them across the top, using the base of the pan. Then he too, would prostrate himself and leave.

 

The remaining Kohen would then remove the Bazach from the Kaf[98] and hand it to another Kohen, who would then pour the contents of the Bazach (together with whatever spilt onto the Kaf) into the Kohen’s two hands, prostrate himself and leave the Kodesh.

 

Before the remaining Kohen began emptying the Ketoret from his hands on to the altar, those present would warn him not to begin pouring it at the point closest to him, to avoid getting burned as his hands moved over the burning Ketoret towards the far side of the altar.

 

The Kohen in charge would announce ‘Hakter’ (‘Proceed to sacrifice the Ketoret’), adding the title ‘Ishi Kohen Gadol’ if it was the Kohen Gadol who was performing the Avodah that day, and the Kohen would pour the ketoret from his hands across the surface of the altar (gently, like one sifts flour), beginning at the far end, as we explained.

 

The moment the Kohen gave the order to proceed, everyone had to leave both the Kodesh and the innermost area in the Azarah, known as ‘between the Ulam and the altar ‘.

 

According to the Zohar, the incense offering is the most precious part of the Temple service in the eyes of HaShem. The ketoret was so desirable that the Kohanim (Priests) had to wait to do it. No Kohen (Priest) ever did it twice in order to give all the Kohanim the chance to do it at least once. One of the reasons that the ketoret offering was so desireable was because the ketoret offering was a way to increase one’s wealth, as the Talmud indicates:

 

Yoma 26a It never happened that a person repeatedly offered incense. Why? Rabbi Chanina said: Because, the Incense-Offering enriches.

 

The procedure regarding the Ketoret is that a Kohen does not perform the mitzva of offering ketoret more than once in his lifetime. HaShem rewards the Kohen who offers the ketoret with wealth. Thus, we want to afford the opportunity to as many Kohanim as possible to become wealthy.

 

Mizbayach HaKetoret (Incense Altar).

 

The placement of the incense altar, the golden altar, in the Mishkan, and the Temple, is very significant. The Mizbayach HaKetoret (incense altar) was centered in the Kodesh, the holy place. It was centered left to right and front to back. It was exactly in the center of the Kodesh. We have learned elsewhere that when something is centered (see CITY), it carries with it the connotation of “connection“. The more centered the object, the greater the connection to life. That is why the heart is in the center of the area covered by a shirt. That is why the midbrain is located in the center of the head, and why the uterus is in the center of the area from the belt to the bottom of the torso. Thus we learn that the Mizbayach HaKetoret was the most important feature of the kodesh.

 

The details of the construction of the Mizbayach HaKetoret is detailed in Shemot (Exodus) 30. The details of it’s construction are given after all of the other furniture in the Mishkan. This placement is to teach us that nothing is as important as the ketoret. The ketoret has extremely high status!

 

The placement of the incense altar can be seen in the following picture:

The Ramban also had an explanation for why the incense altar was mentioned last:

 

“The Golden Altar’s function was entirely different from that of the Mishkan as a whole. The objective of the Mishkan was essentially to provide an appropriate setting for HaShem to rest His Presence upon Israel. However, His proximity creates the danger that those who do not honor His Presence are subject to the Attribute of Justice, which would in no way tolerate their infractions. Such was the case of Nadav and Avihu, who lost their lives when they brought an unbidden, and therefore forbidden, offering. Therefore, by means of this Altar and the incense offering, HaShem provided a means to shelter the nation from such potential danger. When offered in obedience to G-d’s command, incense has the unique property of being able to quench the fire of divinely inflicted plague. Consequently, once the agency of bringing His presence to the nation was provided through the Mishkan, G-d now gave Moshe the means of protecting the people through the incense altar.”

 

There is some evidence that the incense altar does not play as vital a role as the other components. The Gemara, in Zevachim 59a, concludes that the ketoret could continue to be offered on that venue even if the altar was uprooted.

 

The Holy of Holies

 

Exodus 30:34-36, 7-8 HaShem said to Moses: Take yourself spices — balsam, onycha, and galbanum — spices and pure frankincense; they are all to be of equal weight. You are to make it into Ketoret (incense), a spice-compound, the handiwork of an expert spice-compounder, thoroughly mixed, pure and holy. You are to grind some of it finely and place some of it before the Testimony in the Tent of Appointment, where I shall designate a time to meet you; it shall be a holy of holies for you.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Numbers IV:20 Our Rabbis said: There were two things which were really holy and great but which men wrongly considered to be dangerous, and in order that a stigma should not be attached to them a striking instance of their praiseworthiness and blessedness has been recorded. These are the things: The incense and the ark. ‘The incense’: That men might not say the incense was dangerous, having been the cause of the death of Nadab and Abihu and the cause through which the congregation of Korah was burned[99] as well as the medium through which Uzziah was stricken with leprosy,[100] the Holy One, blessed be He, recorded the great distinction of the incense in that it was the instrument whereby Israel was delivered; as it says: And Aaron took as Moses spoke, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people; and he put on the incense... and the plague was stayed (Num. XVII, 12).

 

The Discovery

 

In April 1992, Vendyl Jones and his team discovered 600 kilos of “reddish-brown organic substance” in a carefully sealed rock silo in another part of the Qumran cave complex. Subsequent analysis determined that this substance contained traces of at least eight of the eleven spices that were used in the manufacture of the ketoret.

 

In 1994, the incense spices were presented to the now late Rav Yehudah Getz, late Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places in Israel. A sample was also given to Hakham Ovadiah Yosef. Hakham Ovadiah Yosef had his own chemist analyze the mixture to confirm its organic nature. Then both Hakhamim requested that Vendyl Jones “burn” some of the incense for scientific purposes (not with fire but with hydrochloric acid). At their suggestion, he had the spices combined together with the sodom salt and karshina lye that was also found stored separately in the cave in Qumran.

 

The results were astonishing according to all accounts. Although the spices had lost some of their potency over the two millennia since their burial, it was still powerful. The residue of its fragrance lingered in the vicinity for several days following the experiment. Several people present reported that their hair and clothing retained the aroma. One account of the incident states:

 

“The aroma released from the spice compound during its processing was profuse and almost immediate. It initially saturated my hands as well as the clothes that I was wearing. Within a matter of minutes my laboratory and the surrounding area (for an area of several meters) was affected by the scent released from the spices... On the first day of processing, the aroma was so intense that I could almost taste it... Upon my return home that evening, the scent that had attached itself on my body and clothes was really apparent to both my wife and daughter. During the course of the week, the odor lessened slightly but was still noticeable in and around my lab. Within a few weeks the distinct aroma of the spices diminished to a freshness or cleanness of the air in my lab and the surrounding area. This aroma was in evidence, if even so slightly, for approximately two months.”[101].

 

* * *

 

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

Return to The WATCHMAN home page

Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com


 



[1] Maneh: A unit of weight: According to Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh, a Mishnaic maneh equals 480 grams (slightly less than half a kilogram and slightly more than 1 pound). A second opinion is that of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (The Living Torah, Exodus 30:34, p. 445; The Torah Anthology, Volume 11, p. 43), according to which a maneh equals 100 biblical shekels, or 5 pounds.

[2] Kav: A unit of volume; approximately 1 gallon.

[3] Se’ah: Approximately 6 gallons

[4] Shemot 30:34ff

[5] See also the Rashi’s Commentary for: Shemot (Exodus) 30:34 - and pure frankincense From here our Rabbis learned that eleven ingredients were told to Moses [when he was] at Sinai: the minimum of aromatics—two [since סַמִּים is written in the plural form]; balsam sap, onycha, and galbanum—three, equaling five; aromatics [written a second time]—to include again the number of these, equaling ten; and frankincense, totaling eleven. They are as follows: (1) balsam sap, (2) onycha, (3) galbanum, (4) frankincense, (5) myrrh, (6) cassia, (7) spikenard (שִׁבּֽלֶת נֵרְדְּ) , and (8) saffron, totaling eight, because שִׁבּֽלֶת and נֵרְדְּ are one, for spikenard נֵרְדְּ is like an ear [of grain] שִׁבּֽלֶת . [To continue:] (9) costus, (10) aromatic bark, and (11) cinnamon, thus totaling eleven. Borith carshina [mentioned further in the Baraitha, is not counted because it] does not go up in smoke, but they rub the onycha with it to whiten it so that it should be beautiful. -[from Ker. 6a]  

[6] Chatam Sofer, Derashot 18; quoted in Siddur Chatam Sofer ad. loc.

[7] Adapted from Olat Ri’iah 136-8

[8] Ramban’s Commentary for:  Shemot (Exodus) 30:1-38

[9] Ibn Ezra quoting Rabbenu Saadia Gaon.

[10] Mishneh Torah, Hilchoth Klei Hamikdash, 1:3: "Mor is the blood gathered up [in the abdomen] of a certain animal in the land of India known to all, which is used in perfumery."

[11] See Jastrow: muskin and mor.

[12] Song of Songs 5:1.

[13] In other words, this proves that mor is not musk as Saadia Gaon said, for the verse speaks of mor being gathered while musk is not "gathered."

[14] Song of Songs 5:5.

[15] Song of Songs 5:1.

[16] Song of Songs 5:5.

[17] Reference is to Rabbi Abraham ben David [Rabad] who commented on Rambam's language (see Note 96): "My opinion does not accept this, that there should enter into sacred things the blood of any animal in the world, and all the more the blood of an unclean animal."

[18] Among the eleven components of the incense was 'mor' (myrrh, cassia, spikenard etc.) (Kerithoth 6 a).

[19] R'dak, in his Book of Roots, under the root of dror.

[20] Leviticus 25:10.

[21] Shir Hashirim Rabbah 4:29. See Vol. I, p. 292, Note 73, for explanation of the name "Chazita."

[22] Song of Songs 4:14.     

[23] Berachoth 43 a.     

[24] Yerushalmi Berachoth VI, 6.

[25] Rabbi Nathan ben Yechiel of Rome [flourished in the middle of the eleventh century] was a contemporary of Rashi. His work the "Aruch" is not only a complete dictionary of Talmudic and Midrashic language but is also a veritable storehouse of explanations of Rabbinic texts. It is thus both a dictionary and commentary. It has had a lasting influence on Jewish learning.

- The particular reference here is to the Aruch, under the term: mushk.

[26] Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:58.

[27] Song of Songs 1:13.

[28] Ramban will further on explain that the intent thereof is, that in the verse before us where the spices [for the making of the Oil of Anointment] are listed, the myrrh heads the list, or it may mean that for aromatic purposes it is the best of all spices.

[29]See Vol. I, p. 160. 

[30] See the text from the Midrash Chazita.

[31] In Kohut's Aruch Hashalem [and in Jastrow's Dictionary] inmirinon is explained as a word of Greek origin.

[32] See the text from Midrash Chazita mentioned above - Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:58.

[33] Sifra, Vayikra Chova 22:7.

[34] Leviticus 25:10.

[35] Above, 21:18.

[36] Song of Songs 5:5.

[37] Esther 2:12.

[38] Song of Songs 5:5.

[39] Shir Hashirim Rabbah 4:29.

[40] Yerushalmi Demai I, 3.

[41] In his commentary to the Mishnah, at the beginning of Tractate Kerithoth. See, however, in my Hebrew commentary p. 497, Note 8, that this definition that Ramban quotes in the name of Rambam on kinmon besem, is in our texts of Rambam's commentary found on a different name altogether. The term mentioned here is in Arabic since Rambam wrote his commentary to the Mishnah in Arabic. See also following note.

[42] In Joseph Kapach's new Hebrew translation of Rambam's commentary in Arabic, he comments on this term that it is "Cinnamonum Zeylanicum" (Kerithoth, p. 229, Note 49).

[43] Mentioned by Ibn Ezra [in his short commentary on Exodus] in the name of Rabbenu Saadia Gaon.

[44] Beresheeth Rabbah 65:13

[45] Shir Hashirim Rabbah 4:29. See Vol. I, p. 277.   

[46] See Dictionary under "ascidium."

[47] In the Chapter Arbei Pesachim.

[48] Mentioned in Verse 24.

[49] Above 25:6.

[50] I.e., Nataph ushcheileth v'chel'bnah' These are generally translated as being various kinds of fragrant spices: "stacte, and onycha, and galbanum." But Ramban will now question the two terms [stacte and galbanum].

[51] Onycha... supposed to be the operculum of a marine gastropod (Dictionary).

[52] Above, Verses 23-24.

[53] Verse 23. Generally translated "sweet calamus."

[54] Kerithoth 6 a.

[55] Shabbath 65 a. In connection with what is taught in the Mishnah there that a woman may go out on the Sabbath with "anything that she puts in her mouth" [to have a good breath], the Gemara explained, "such as dartzuna," which Rashi explained as "cinnamon."

[56] Kerithoth 6 a.

[57] "Nine."  The reading should be "eight" (as explained above): the four components mentioned in the making of the Oil of Anointment [myrrh, cinnamon, kanah - the cane of sweet spice - and cassia], and the four expressly stated in the making of the incense [nataph, shcheileth, chel'bnah, and frankincense] . With the three components [spikenard, saffron, and costus] added by the second word samim they form the eleven components of the incense.

[58] Genesis 37:25.

[59] Ibid., 43:11.

[60] For since Onkelos translated (in Genesis 37:25) the Hebrew tzori as the Aramaic k'taph, he should have translated likewise here the Hebrew nataph, for as said above nataph is tzori, and so why did he translate it as k'topha?

[61] Chullin 111 b.

[62] Beitzah 16a.

[63] From Onkelos who translated (in Genesis 37:25) tzori as k'taph, and from Yonathan who translated it as sh 'aph.

[64] Genesis 37:25.

[65] II Kings 20:13.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Genesis 43:11.

[68] This explains Onkelos' translation in Genesis 43:11.

[69] Jeremiah 8:22.

[70] Rashi’s Commentary for: Shemot (Exod.) 30:1-38

[71] Keritot 6a

[72] Ibid. 7

[73] From Keritot 6b.

[74] Maneh: A unit of weight: According to Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh, a Mishnaic maneh equals 480 grams (slightly less than half a kilogram and slightly more than 1 pound). A second opinion is that of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (The Living Torah, Exodus 30:34, p. 445; The Torah Anthology, Volume 11, p. 43), according to which a maneh equals 100 biblical shekels, or 5 pounds.

[75] From Keritot 6a

[76] I.e., the incense of the community.

[77] I.e.,is not subject to kareth. Kareth is only prescribed for the manufacture of incense with the purpose to smell of it.

[78] Tosef. Mak. III, 1.

[79] Viz., of things belonging to Temple property, e.g., the smelling of incense.

[80] Because these are considered immaterial forms of use. V. pes. 26a.

[81] I.e., after it had been burnt.

[82] Sefer Yetzirah, "Ten sephirot of nothingness, ten and not nine, ten and not eleven".

[83] Meam Loez on Ki Tissa: The Incense Spices

[84] Ramban’s comments to Shemot (Exodus) 30:7. AND AARON WILL BURN THEREON INCENSE. This commandment [of burning the incense] did not devolve upon the High Priest alone, but was also incumbent upon the common priests, as is the law of the lighting of the lamps mentioned right beside it, [every morning, when he dresses the lamps], although of that too it says, And when Aaron lights the lamps,[84] and yet it does not apply to the High Priest alone, as He said above, Aaron and his sons shall set in order.[84] Therefore I do not know why He mentioned Aaron in both of them, and did not say "the priest" [which would signify any — even a common-priest]. Perhaps it is because of Scripture's statement further, And Aaron will make atonement upon the horns of it once in the year,[84] which was done by Aaron only, [because the reference there is to the Service on the Day of Atonement which could be performed only by the High Priest — therefore He also mentioned the name of Aaron in the verse before us and in the following verse]. Or it may be that He hinted that it was to be Aaron who [at the first time] was to begin the burning of the incense and the lighting of the lamps. Similarly at the end of Seder Emor el hakohanim He said, Aaron will set in order,[84] and He did not mention his sons, because it was Aaron who performed it first. The phrase a statute forever mentioned there,[84] refers to the commandment [of kindling the lamps, and does not mean that it is a statute forever that only the High Priest do it].

[85] Midrash Tanchuma, Tetzaveh 15

[86] Yoma 44a

[87] Yoma 38a

[88] ‘Hakhamim’ means ‘Wise Ones’, in Hebrew. This is how the Sephardic Jews call their Rabbis.

[89] Erachin 16

[90] Yoma 43b-44a, Zevachim 88b, Mishna Kelim 1:9, Rambam Hilkhot Temidin u-Musafin 3:3

[91] Vayikra 16:17

[92] Yoma 44b

[93] In the Septennial cycle, the haftarah, the reading from the Prophets, is called an Ashlamata.

[94] In the Hebrew text.

[95] The so called “New Testament”.

[96] Repentance

[97] Hilchot Temidin u’Musafin 3:4-9

[98] Long-handled bowl in which the Ketoret is placed.

[99] Cf. Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:35

[100] Cf. II Chronicles 26:19

[101] Dr. Terry Hutter, Palynological Asessment of the Qumran Spices, May 5, 1994, in Vendyl Jones’ Report on the Excavations at Qumran