Incense offering in rabbinic literature
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The incense offering (Hebrew: קְטֹרֶת), a blend of aromatic substances that exhale perfume during combustion, usually consisting of spices and gums burnt as an act of worship, occupied a prominent position in the sacrificial legislation of the ancient Hebrews. The correct blend of sweet spices and of aromatic condiments used in making the incense offering was a carefully guarded secret at the time of its offering, fully known only by the compounders of the incense offering so as to prevent its replication in the worship of foreign gods. The priests of the House of Avtinas who were charged with preparing the incense during the Second Temple period kept the technique and exact proportions secret, for which they were censured by the rabbis (Mishnah, Yoma 3:11). Today, what is known of the incense offering has been carefully gleaned from Jewish oral traditions, albeit, various conflicting opinions in Jewish classical writings have also filtered down as to its proper make-up. Modern scientific research conducted in the last century has shed considerable light on these findings.
- 1 General overview
- 2 Formulæ
- 3 Synopsis
- 4 Relative proportion of each spice
- 5 Further reading
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
Use in antiquity
The priests of Aaron's lineage were entrusted with the duty of burning incense in the Temple sanctuary. This was done upon a golden altar laid up within the outer chamber of the inviolable house. Those who were not of the priestly stock were prohibited by law from compounding incense in the same manner in which it was compounded by those of Aaron's lineage. Anyone attempting to do so with the intent of indulging his olfactory senses committed thereby a sacrilege and was made liable on that account to extirpation. However, to compound incense in order to instruct others was permitted, or to burn incense by making use of part of the same components, especially to impart its smell unto clothing, or simply to enhance the ambiance of one's house, this was permitted in Judaism.
During the late Bronze Age, the duty of burning incense was performed by the priests in the Tent of Convocation throughout their journeys in the wilderness while en route to the Land of Canaan. This practice continued all throughout the nascent years of Israel's settlement in the land, when the Tent was pitched in Gilgal, and in Shiloh, and in Nob and in Gibeon, and they did so in the Temple which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem, and later in the Temple built by the returning exiles. The priests would offer this incense offering twice a day; once, in the morning, immediately after clearing the stone altar of its coals and which remained after the daily morning whole-burnt offering, at which time, some of the coals were laid up upon the altar of incense. Again, towards the evening, after clearing the altar from its coals and embers, some were put upon the altar of incense within the antechamber of that sacred house. The priests took turns with the incense offering, and this was determined by casting lots between priests who had never yet offered the incense.
Jewish law prescribes that the ingredients used in making the incense be re-pounded twice a year. In storage, they were to be spread out in the hot summer months to prevent their mold and mildew, but in the winter months they were to be heaped up in a great pile so as not to lose their pungency. It was a custom to chant with the rhythm of the mortar and pestle while pounding the spices, during which they would say: "Pound [it] thoroughly; thoroughly pound [it]." Jewish oral teaching relates that the savors from the compounded incense could be sensed as far away as the mountains of Machaerus (Hebrew: הרי מִכְווָר), in Transjordan.
Some suggest that the command to offer incense was to purify the air and to perfume it, in order to mask the bad odors from the sacrificed animals. Others say that the command to offer incense was to ward off evil spirits and demons. Philosopher and Rabbi, Maimonides, rationalizes even further and writes: "There is a well-known saying of our Sages, 'In Jericho they could smell the incense [that was burnt in the Temple.' This provision likewise tended to support the dignity of the Temple. If there had not been a good smell, let alone if there had been a rancid smell, it would have produced in the minds of the people the reverse of respect; for our heart generally feels elevated in the presence of some good odor, and is attracted thereby, but it abhors and avoids bad smell."
A more esoteric explanation given for its function is to remind man that all things are from God and for God. The mystical tradition associates ketoreth (קְטֹרֶת) with the Aramaic word קטר, meaning a 'bind' or 'knot.' The incense thus reflects an underlying harmony and inter-connectivity in the universe, as it unites together the core essence of all forces — life, matter, and spirit — according to the recipe prescribed in the Torah.
The incense offering is first described in the Book of Exodus:
Take sweet spices, rosin, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense, each spice pounded separately; and you shall make it a blend of incense, even a confection after the art of the apothecary, seasoned with salt, pure and holy.
Although only four spices are specifically mentioned by name, the increased number is arrived at by homiletical interpretation of a verse in the Book of Exodus, and which raises the number of chief spices to eleven. One of the general rules used in biblical exegesis and which was applied to the verse in Exodus 30:34 is this one: "Whenever a generalization is followed by a specification, which again is followed by a generalization, one does not infer from its generalization any lesson other than what is true of its specification." The generalization, in this case, is in the first use of the word "spices," followed by specified details of "rosin" (i.e. any aromatic gum resin that exudes from trees) and the "operculum" (the so-called "fingernail" spice) and "galbanum". These aforesaid specified details are once again followed by a generalization, "spices." This would mean that the "spices" in question can only be those which have similar qualities to those named in the specified details; such as which are true of gum resins (e.g. Mastic, or terebinth gum resin, myrrh, balsam, etc.), and such as which is true of the so-called "fingernail" spice, etc.
For this reason, eleven spices were associated with the incense offering, and their names have come down in a Baraita found in the two Talmuds. These eleven basic ingredients, besides two other adjuncts and three additional ingredients which were used to help enhance the scent of the operculum, are listed as follows:
|Hebrew Name||English Name||Taxonomic Name||Notes|
|הצרי||Mastic resin (rosin)||Pistacia lentiscus||May also include other species of tree exudates:|
|הצפורן||Operculum (gastropod)||Strombus fusus; Strombus murex; Stombus lentiginosus||Identification certain|
|החלבנה||Galbanum (?)||Ferula galbaniflua (?)||Identification disputed. One of the major problems arising with the identification of this plant is that Maimonides calls it a tree, rather than an herbaceous plant. Its identification is believed by many to be the oleoresin of Styrax officinalis (see infra.)|
|הלבונה||Frankincense||Boswellia carteri||Identification certain|
|מור||Myrrh||Balsamodendron myrrha, syn. Commiphora myrrha, Amyris kataf||Identification certain|
|קציעה||Cassia||Iris pallida (?)||Identification disputed (see infra.)|
|שבולת נרד||Spikenard||Nardostachys jatamansi||Identification certain|
|קנמון||Agarwood||Aquilaria agallocha||Identification disputed|
|כרכום||Saffron||Crocus sativus||Identification certain|
|הקושט||Costus, also called 'Indian orris'||Saussurea lappa or Costus speciosus||Identification certain|
|קלופה||Cinnamon bark||Cinnamomum zeylanicum||Identification certain|
|כפת הירדן||Jordan amber||Ambergris (Ambra grisea) (?)||Identification disputed (see infra.)|
|מעלה עשן||smoke raiser||unknown||Today, there is only speculation as to what this herb may have been. Some suggest that it may have been the plant Leptadenia pyrotechnia which contains nitric acid.|
The three independent ingredients used in improving the savor of the incense are:
- בורית כרשינה = Karshinah Soap
- יין קפריסין = Cypriot Wine
- מלח סדומית = Salt of Sodom
An adjunct to these eleven spices, although not numbered with the eleven, was a spice called in Hebrew Kipath Ha-Yarden, or what some translate as "Jordan amber", and which Maimonides calls in Arabic by the name al-anbar (ambergris). There are varying opinions as to what this spice might have been. Some think, because of its name, that it was a rose that grew along the banks of the Jordan River. Others suggest that it was the sweet resin that exudes from the Storax tree (Styrax officinalis, syn. Liquidambar styraciflua) and which is native to Israel. This was the view of S. Muntner who informs us that only later, during the late Middle-Ages, the same name al-ʻanbar was applied also to ambergris which is washed ashore and used in perfumery. His opinion, however, is rejected by the fact that we find a 6th-century Greek reference to the use of ambergris, under the name of “ambra.” See: Aëtius of Amida (502-575 CE), Tetrabiblos: Sixteen Books on Medicine, I.131. Ambergris figures largely in ancient records mentioning fragrances used in making perfumes and in burning incense.
The most trustworthy tradition, that of Maimonides', avers that the Jordan amber was ambergris, or what is called in the Arabic tongue al-ʻanbar. Although ambergris is produced in the digestive tract of the sperm whale (Physeter catodon; P. macrocephalus), it was believed by the ancients of Israel to be derived from a "sea-creature" which fed on an underwater aromatic tree, and which later it expectorated and was washed ashore. According to Al-Fasi’s medieval Judeo-Arabic dictionary, this very tree in the midst of the sea was called al-ʻanbar (ambergris), but in Hebrew is called aholoth. This will explain why Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882‒942 CE) wrote in his Siddur (Siddur RSG, p. 93) that the blessing over the fragrance known as ʻanbar is “[Blessed are you, O Lord, etc.] who creates fragrant trees,” meaning, al-ʻanbar was considered the product of a tree. Rabbeinu Chananel, echoing these sentiments, thought that al-ʻanbar came from the digestive tract of a fish. Rabbi Saadia Gaon, in his Judeo-Arabic translation on Song of Songs 4:14, and on Psalm 45:9 and Proverbs 7:17, translates the Hebrew word aholoth in all places as ‘anbar (ambergris).
Alternatively, aholoth may have simply referred to “aloes wood,” since in the Aramaic Targum of Song of Songs 4:14 and Psalm 45:9, the translators write for אהלות (aholoth) the Judeo-Aramaic word אַקסֵיל אִלוָאָן, which is no more than a Greek loan-word used in the Aramaic tongue; Aksil, meaning "wood," while alwa'an meaning "aloe." The best aloe was known by the ancients as Socotrine aloe (Aloe socotrina), native to the island of Socotra, which happens to be the only aromatic aloe. It is unknown, however, if this condiment was ever used as incense. Rabbi Yonah ibn Ganah (c. 990 – c. 1050 CE), on the other hand, in his Sefer Ha-Shorashim, s.v. אהל, thought that the word "ohalim" in Numbers 24:6 meant sandalwood.
The second and final adjunct added to the above spices was a certain ambiguous plant, the name of which has been withheld by tradition. It was called in Hebrew by its action, "ma'aleh 'ashan" - meaning, "smoke raiser," since its sole function was to cause the smoke of the incense to rise up in a vertical column, before spreading out when it reached the ceiling. Its leaves were mixed in with the other ingredients.
The biblical word used here is נטף = naṭaf (Exo. 30:34), which was later called in Mishnaic times by the name צרי = ṣorī. By the time of the post-Second Temple era its meaning had already become spurious, which led Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel to say: “The ṣorī is no more than gum resin [that drips] from resinous trees.” For this reason, Rabbi Saadia Gaon translates naṭaf as mastic. In Arabic-speaking countries, mastic (Arabic: المصطكي) is a generic word used for many chewable gum resins, especially a chewable gum extracted from a species of frankincense. The same is true of its Aramaic/Hebrew cognate (מצטכי). Some Latin texts place here myrrh, whereas other texts place balsam (Balsamodendron opobalsamum, but classified by some botanists as Commiphora opobalsamum, and which has yet still the other taxonomic name of Commiphora gileadensis). Often translated in English texts as "stacte," it implies any gum resin that exudes in drops from certain trees.
One such gum producing tree native to Judaea is the terebinth tree (Pistacia palaestina), mentioned by Dioscorides in his "De Materia Medica," where he writes: "Terminthos is a well-known tree, the leaves, fruit and bark of which are astringent and good for the same things as lentisk (mastic), used and taken in the same way... The resin is brought out of Arabia Petraea. It also grows in Judaea, Syria, Cyprus and Libya, and in the islands called Cyclades. The preferred resin is most clear, white, a glassy color and inclining to an azure [blue], fragrant, and smells like terminthos. The resin from terminthos surpasses all other resins and after it is the lentiscina (Pistacia lentiscus), then Spruce and fir resin." As for the terebinth, the desired resin is often collected in the exocarp that grows on the female trees.
Called sheḥelet in biblical Hebrew, this spice has the more popular English name of "onycha", a word derived from the Greek and effectually translated as "fingernail" because of its resemblance to an animal's claw, or fingernail. Operculum has an aromatic odor when it is put to the coals. Josephus alleges that there were "thirteen spices" used in the incense offering, some of which came "from the sea!" The alleged "sea spice" is confirmed also by Isaac Abarbanel, in his commentary on the Pentateuch (Torah), as well as by Moshe Nahmanides commentary on Exodus 30:34. In his words: "But as for the sheḥelet, it is the 'fingernail' [spice] that comes from the sea."
Indeed, the ancients knew this "fingernail" spice (Gr. onycha) to be the fragrant operculum of certain mollusks (marine gastropods), which had the appearance of a claw. The same object had the function in life of closing the aperture of the mollusk's shell. This fragrant operculum has also been described in Ulysis Aldrovandus' Natural History (De Testaceis), and in Latin was called by the name of Byzantos or Blatta Byzantia. All are said to give forth a good scent when submitted to hot coals resembling somewhat the odor of castoreum. The operculum can be found in those species of mollusks with the following taxonomic names: Strombus fusus, Strombus murex and Strombus lentiginosus.
Although the Talmud says that this spice is "produced on the ground" (Hebrew: גידולי קרקע), Zohar Amar argues that it was an animal product, implying that it was viewed by some as a plant growth only because of the horny plates of these sea creatures were often cast ashore by the waves and were found lying upon the sea shore. Since they did not know its origin, it was formerly thought to be a product of the earth. The Arabians have often mentioned this incense in their books, and is to this very day called by them idhfār al-jinn ("the Devil's fingernails"). It can be found all along the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The best quality is said to have come from Jeddah, in Saudi-Arabia.
The Ṣippōren (literally "claw" or "fingernail" spice) used in the incense offering, would have also included those species of mollusks known under the taxonomic classification Pleurotoma Babylonia and Pleurotoma trapezii.
As far as smell, galbanum is said to be the least pleasant of all the incenses. Nevertheless, it was used in the Holy Incense, combining its savors with the others to produce one of the most tantalizing blends of aromatic scents the world has ever known. Maimonides calls it by its Arabic name, maiʻah, which is believed by most scholars to have been the reddish brown resin of Ferula galbaniflua, based on the surmised identification of this plant in Greek sources. The problem arising from this identification, however, is that Maimonides writes that it is "a tree endemic to the Grecian cities," whereas Ferula is only an herbaceous plant. The name maiʻah, however, has yet another meaning. Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroës (1126-1198), says of this resin: “Maiʻah, it is the peel of a tree that resembles the apple [tree] and it has a white fruit... now, it is the dried and liquid galbanum which is pressed from the heart of its heartwood and is called lebni...” Averroës referred to the reddish-brown oleoresin or exudate taken from the Storax tree (Styrax officinalis, syn. Liquidambar styraciflua). When the thin bark of this wood containing the absorbed oleoresin is pared and laid upon hot coals, it emits a vanilla-like scent. By comparison with the other fragrances, its essence was considered “bad.”
Like the Arabic name for the storax tree (lubna) which produces the resin, the tree is called in Hebrew livneh (cf. Hosea 4:13). According to Sefer Ha-Arukh, the Hebrew word ḥelbanah (galbanum) > ḥelbanitha has the connotation of devash > duvshitha (syrup). Such a description best fits that of liquidambar. Ibn Ǧanāḥ (c. 990 – c. 1050) also writes in his Sefer Ha-Shorashim, s.v. ח-ל-ב (end): “And then there is ḥelbanah (galbanum) which is called in Arabic lūbnī,” meaning, the resin of the storax tree. Sweet storax is also mentioned explicitly alongside other incenses in the apocryphal book, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 24:15, whence it is alluded that it was once offered as incense in the tabernacle. Dioscorides, in his De Materia Medica, book 1, section 80 (section 66 in some editions), also acknowledges that the resin of Styrax officinalis was used by people in his day as incense.
Dr. John Hill writes: “The Arabians in general have confounded the solid and liquid storax together; some of their writers however have distinguished them, as Avicenna, who treats of the liquid storax under the name Miha (i.e. maiʻah), and of the dry under those of Astarac and Lebni.”
A lesser known opinion states that the "galbanum" (Heb. חלבנה) may have been a spice derived from the Mahaleb cherry (Prunus mahaleb), a tree cultivated for an aromatic oil obtained from its seeds. Others have suggested that this spice may have been labdanum, a view rejected by Maimonides.
There is little doubt as to the identification of this one incense, and whose name in Hebrew, "levonah," is still related to its Arabic cognate, "lubān." Its name, in Hebrew, is derived from its color, which is a pale-white. According to Jeremiah 6:20, frankincense (Boswellia carteri, syn. Boswellia sacra) was imported into the land of Israel from Sheba, a country generally acclaimed to be Marib in Yemen, or more specifically, the district of Shihr in Yemen. The way in which this precious gum resin was extracted from the tree is described in Pliny's "Natural History."
The Hebrew word for this incense is מור = "mōr." Maimonides, following a lead by Rabbi Saadia Gaon, believed this incense to have been musk (Moschus moschiferus), the aromatic substance which exudes from a gland on the male musk deer. From ancient times down to our present time, an incense has been made from it. Still, with respect to the Holy Incense, musk is largely thought of today as being an erroneous designation.
Nahmanides (RAMBAN), in his commentary on Exodus 30:23, gives plausible arguments why the "mōr" in the Holy Incense can only be the gum resin myrrh (Commiphora myrrha, syn. Balsamodendrum myrrha) rather than the musk absolute. While quoting from the Midrash Rabba, he notes that the "mōr" is said to emit its fragrant odor only when put to heat, whereas the musk absolute already has a sweet odor before it is put to the fire. He quotes also from an early rabbinic source which says that "mōr," when it clings to vessels, serves as an interposing object between the water and the vessel, preventing its valid immersion in a ritual bath (Heb. miqwah). RAMBAN notes that this can only apply to the gum resin myrrh, which is sticky, but NOT to musk absolute taken from the musk deer.
Yonah ibn Ǧanāḥ (c. 990 – c. 1050), in his “Sefer HaShorashim” (Book of the Roots), s.v. מור, approaches the subject differently. There, he writes: “Choice myrrh (Exo. 30:23); In oil of myrrh (Esther 2:12), they have explained it in the Arabic tongue [to mean] musk. Yet, they say, ‘I have gathered my myrrh with my spice’ (Song of Songs 5:1), by which there is somewhat which negates that explanation, since the musk is not a plant that is gathered. Now, there is someone who says it is a flower called ‘nesarīn,’ which is possible. They say [elsewhere]: ‘And my hands dripped with myrrh’ (Song of Songs 5:5), he intends to say thereby the oil of myrrh. Nor is there anything to be had from the verse, ‘A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved’ (Song of Songs 1:13), that would negate the statement of him who says it is not musk, while our Rabbi Haye [Gaon], of blessed memory, in the commentary on [Tractate] Shabbath, says that it is the gum resin called in Arabic ‘lūbenī rahbān’ (= the frankincense of monks), which is a gum resin that has a fragrant smell, and which explanation is altogether fitting with, ‘I have gathered my myrrh’ (Song of Songs 5:1).” Maimonides' view is, therefore, seen as being a fringe view for the reasons given above.
Rabbi Avraham ben David (RAVAD) also objects to Maimonides' view, and insists that an "unclean animal" would not have been used in the Holy Incense, by which it is inferred that he understood Maimonides' words to have been referring to the civet cat (Civettictis civetta) which also produces a musk-like scent used in perfumery. Although human consumption of unclean animals is clearly proscribed in the Torah, where the use of such animals does not entail human consumption, but only smell, there is no prohibition. A blessing is also cited over the fragrant oil of the civet cat.
Cassia (Heb. קציעה) is perhaps the most difficult of the eleven spices to identify. Cassia is merely a Hebrew loanword used in English. Onkelos (Aquilas) in Exodus 30:24 translates "qidah" = קדה as "qeṣī'ah" = קציעתא, or what is transliterated as "cassia" in English texts. According to Theophrastus' Enquiry Into Plants, the "cassia" is identified with "a bark taken from a fragrant tree," and which modern botanists think may have referred to Cinnamomum iners or Laurus cassia. This opinion, however, seems to be rejected by the translators of the Greek Septuagint (LXX), on Exo. 30:24, as well as by Josephus, who translated the Hebrew word קדה = "qidah" (cassia), used in compounding the anointing oil, as ΊΡΕΩΣ, meaning the "iris plant," or in some translations rendered as the "oil of cassia."
The Prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 27:19) reveals to us the origins of the flora known as "cassia" and "calamus", saying of the city Tyre: “Dan and GRECIA… occupied in your fairs: they have brought [therein] wrought iron; [also] CASSIA and calamus, were [put by them] in your market.” The aforementioned flora are clearly associated with Grecia, rather than with India.
The ancient Greek botanist, Theophrastus, strengthens this notion, saying: “As to all the other fragrant plants used for aromatic odors, they come partly from India whence they are sent over sea, and partly from Arabia… Some of them grow in many places, but the most excellent and most fragrant all come from Asia and sunny regions. From Europe itself comes none of them except the iris.”
It is, therefore, highly probable that the קציעה = "qeṣī'ah" (cassia), equivalent to the biblical קדה = "qidah" and used in compounding the Holy Incense, was the root of the Sweet iris (Iris pallida; var. Iris illyrica), as noted by Josephus (aka Yosef ben Mattithiah) and the translators of the Septuagint, from whose dried roots is derived the Orris powder and used in cosmetics. Its fragrance resembles that of violets. The Talmud (Eruvin 34b) also seems to support this view, saying that there are two types of קדה, one being a tree and the other being an herb. Compare Mishnah Kilayim 1:8, where we find the proscription of grafting rue (classified as an herb) on white cassia (a tree). Pliny, in his Naturalis Historia, when describing this flora seems to be describing a tree, rather than an herb.
Most scholars agree that this spice was the nard (Nardostachys jatamansi, syn. Nardostachys grandiflora) brought from India, and which same spice is known by its synonym, Valerian (Valeriana jatamansi, syn. V. wallichii), a plant described by Maimonides by its Arabic name, "sunbul." Sir William Jones, in his "Asiatic Researches," concludes that the nard of the ancients was Valeriana jatamansi. This plant is called sunbul, or "spike," by the Arabs, from the fact that its base is surrounded with ears or spikes, whence comes its Hebrew appellation, "shibboleth nerd" = "spike" + "nard." Isidore of Seville, when describing this aromatic, says that it is a prickly herb, light in weight, golden, hairy, small of ear, very fragrant and resembling galingale. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historia 12:26, makes note of the fact that the nard which grows in Gaul (Gallia) was merely an herb and differed from the Indian nard. This is believed to have been valerian spikenard (Valeriana celtica) and which the 10th century Arab physician, Al-Tamimi, hails as being the best "spikenard" of Europe. Even so, a far lesser known opinion is that of Rabbi Saadia Gaon who holds this spice to be what is called in Arabic “al-waris” (Arabic: الورس), a name now used for several condiments; one being Flemingia rhodocarpa, and another being the iron-wood tree (Memecylon tinctorium). There was a certain type of "nerd" known to the ancients of Israel which was said to have emitted an unpleasant odour.
Problems with identification
The Hebrew word used here is "qinnamon" = קנמון. A teaching in the Midrash Rabba says: "Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Jose, 'This qinnamon used to grow in the land of Israel, and the goats and the gazelles used to reach up to the top of the tree and would eat from it.'" Moreover, among the eleven spices is specifically named, both, "qelufah" (believed to be our regular cinnamon) and "qinnamon," as two individual components. Since the meanings of some words are known to have changed throughout the annals of time, the question many scholars ask themselves is whether or not this happened with the word "qinnamon."
- Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882-942 CE) says that "qinnamon" is "ṣandal," meaning, sandalwood (Santalum album), although he translates "qinnamon besem" in Exodus 30:23 as "al-oud al-ṭayyib," literally meaning "the aromatic wood," and often applied strictly to agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha; var. Aquilaria malaccensis).
- Rabbi Haye Gaon (929-1028 CE) says that "qinnamon" is "darachini," a Persian loanword for our regular cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). The Persian loanword is, itself, borrowed from the Hindi, dālacīnī (Cinnamomum cassia).
- Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra (1092-1167 CE) says that "qinnamon" is "ou[d]ṭayyib," an Arabic word, meaning, agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha).
- Maimonides (1138-1205 CE) says that "qinnamon" is "al-oud," an Arabic word, meaning, agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha; var. Aquilaria malaccensis).
- Nahmanides (1194-1270 CE) conjectures that the "qinnamon" may have been "iḏkhir" (Arabic: إِذخر), meaning, the Aromatic rush (Andropogon schoenanthus; syn. Cymbopogon commutatus), also known as camel's hay.
The cinnamon of classical antiquity
According to Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 CE), the cinnamon plant described by him in his day was a far-cry from the cinnamon tree known to us today, and which has led many scholars to think that the ancients referred to a different plant when referring to this one aromatic plant. In Pliny's own words:
- “The cinnamon shrub is only two cubits in height, at the most, the lowest being no more than a palm in height. It is about four fingers in breadth, and hardly has it risen six fingers from the ground, before it begins to put forth shoots and suckers. It has then all the appearance of being dry and withered, and while it is green it has no odor at all. The leaf is like that of wild marjoram, and it thrives best in dry localities, being not so prolific in rainy weather; it requires, also, to be kept constantly clipped. Though it grows on level ground, it thrives best among tangled brakes and brambles, and hence it is extremely difficult to be gathered... The thinnest parts in the sticks, for about a palm in length, are looked upon as producing the finest cinnamon; the part that comes next, though not quite so long, is the next best, and so on downwards. The worst of all is that which is nearest the roots, from the circumstance that in that part there is the least bark, the portion that is the most esteemed: hence it is that the upper part of the tree is preferred, there being the greatest proportion of bark there. As for the wood, it is held in no esteem at all, on account of the acrid taste which it has, like that of wild marjoram; it is known as xylocinnamum.”
Moreover, Pliny seems to have had more knowledge of the tree than did Theophrastus, for Pliny contradicts Theophrastus and rightly claims that neither cassia, nor cinnamon, grow in Arabia as was previously believed by Theophrastus. Pliny informs us that the aromatic "cinnamon" is said to have been native to Æthiopia, and thence sold to the neighboring peoples on the other side of the Erythrean Sea, from whence it made its way to a port city in Gebanitæ, in South Arabia.
Modern scholars are, therefore, disputed as to what this incense might have been, although most would agree that it was not out regular cinnamon (see: infra) even though, in Hebrew, its name is given as "qinnamon." Scholars have at their disposal these early medieval sources on which to rely in their dispute, such as Rabbi Saadia Gaon and Maimonides, amongst others. Researcher Zohar Amar seems to rely upon the 14th century Yemenite Jewish scholar, Rabbi Nathanel b. Yeshaiah, who says: "Qinnamon is the wood that comes from the isles of India, which people use in incense, and whose fragrance is good. It is a wood which the merchants bring from the land of Java (i.e. Indonesia) and is called 'Java wood' (Arabic = oud Jawi)." Java wood is none other than Aloeswood (Aquilaria agallocha; var. Aquilaria malaccensis), or what is also called Agarwood. Likewise, we find that Maimonides writes in his Code of Jewish Law (Mishne Torah, Hil. Kelei HaMikdash 1:3) that the "qinnamon" is the wood that comes from the isles of India whose fragrance is good, and which men use in incense." He later gives the specific Arabic name for this one spice, calling it العود = "al-oud" (ibid. Hil. Kelei HaMikdash 2:4), meaning, agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha; var. Aquilaria malaccensis). So, too, in the 15th century Hebrew-Arabic lexicon, "Al-Jāma'," believed to have been compiled by Rabbi David b. Yesha' al-Hamdi, he calls the "qinnamon" by the Arabic name "al-oud," meaning, Agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha), while the "qelufah" he calls "qishr slaykha" = our regular cinnamon. Although there are many names given for agarwood in Sanskrit, one of the names given for this aromatic wood resin is लघुनामन् = laghunAman, a word which still carries the phonetic sound of "qinnamon."
Eight species of saffron are known to grow in Israel, some of which are protected by law. The dried stamens, used commercially to produce one of the most expensive food spices in the world, was formerly used as one of the ingredients in the Holy Incense. If mixed with the styles, the spice is called "female saffron," and is of less value.
Scholars are divided as to its true identification. The Indian Orris (Saussurea lappa), or Costus, is a fragrant root of an herb of the Aster family of plants native to Kashmir, and growing in the Himalayan mountains. A highly valued incense is derived from it and is often called by the locals of northern India and China by the name, "pachak." In Sanskrit, however, it is called "kustha," while in Tamalit it is called "kostam. Another plant which bears the name of "Costus" is the Costus speciosus of the Zangiber family of plants, also native to India, and also called "kostam" in Tamalit, but called "kust" in Hindikit." Rabbi Saadia Gaon mentions this plant when describing the "qaneh" (an aromatic cane) of the Bible, saying that it was "Costus."
Others suggest that it may have simply referred to the root of the Bitter Kost, or what is also called Elecampane (Inula helenium), since its name amongst the Hebrews was also called "qosht," and is native to Syria and to the regions thereabout.
The word used by Israel's Sages to describe this condiment is קלופה = "qelufah," which has been explained by Maimonides to mean "qishr slaykha," or what others call in Arabic, "al-qerfa," meaning Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia , syn. Cinnamomum aromaticum), or else one of the species endemic to the Indian subcontinent (Cinnamomum tamala, or Cinnamomum zeylanicum, syn. C. verum). The famous Talmudic commentator, RASHI, also calls "qelufah" by the name of cinnamon.
Borith Karshinah, or what is translated as "Karshinah Soap, was made by burning great quantities of barilla plants in ovens, and the dripping exudate then collected and allowed to congeal and to become stone-like, before being broken-up into smaller fragments for use as a cleansing agent. It was not necessary to turn the ashes into an actual bar soap, such as those now mixed with olive oil and lime for the production of an alkaline sodium soap. The congealed extract from the barilla plants was sufficient in cleansing the operculum. Barilla plants include such desert flora as the Jointed Anabasis (Anabasis articulata), as also other related plants, such as saltwort (Salsola kali, or Salsola soda, or Seidlitzia rosmarinus), all of which are native to the regions about Judaea and were used in soap making since time immemorial. The medieval Jewish commentator, RASHI, held a similar view, saying that the soap either comes from a place called Karshina, or else it is made from a peculiar soap herb called by that name. Elsewhere, in Malachi 3:2, Rashi explains the words "fullers' soap" as implying, in Old French, "saponaire" (Saponaria). The famous 18th century Yemenite scholar and Rabbi, Yiḥye Ṣāliḥ, also defines Karshinah as being an alkali plant called in Arabic: غاسول, any plant whose ashes are used in making a soap containing a fatty acid with soda. The Karshinah soap is not a true incense, but was rather used to scrub therewith the operculum, and thereby improve it. Maharitz, citing the Kol Bo, says that the purport of using this soap was to whiten the operculum withal, since its natural color was black and tended to darken the other constituents if not cleaned first in this manner. No more than nine kabs of karshinah were needed for this purpose.
To give the operculum a stronger savor when crushed and laid to the coals, it was first steeped in a bath solution of white wine, taken from a variety of grapes known by the name Ḳafrisin, thought by some to be a Cypriot wine, possibly the Xynisteri variety said to be indigenous to Cyprus and from which they made a wine containing a high level of acidity, since they were picked early. Maharitz, citing David Abudirham, says that this wine solution may have been made by using the leaves of the caper bush (ḳafrisin), from which tonics were known to have been made. Treating the operculum in such a way, or in any white, dry wine would make its savors stronger. The Jerusalem Talmud says that a capacity of only three seahs and three kabs of Cypriot wine was needed to steep seventy maneh-weight of operculum (See infra for an explanation of the maneh-weight).
Relative proportion of each spice
The Talmud brings down the proportion in weight of each of the eleven ingredients used in the Holy Incense. Compounded once a year, a total of 368 maneh-weight of spices were used throughout the entire solar year. One maneh, or what was a standard weight equivalent to 100 denarius (in weight), was offered each day upon the golden altar - half in the morning, and the other half toward the evening, making a total of 365 maneh-weight for each of the 365 days of the year. An additional three manehs were offered with the portion of incense given on the most venerable day of the Jewish year, the Day of Atonement.
The first four spices (aromatic gum resin, operculum, galbanum and frankincense) comprised the greatest weight. Each consisted of seventy maneh-weight, for a combined weight of 280. After each spice was pounded separately, they were mixed together. To these were added myrrh, cassia, spikenard (valerian) and saffron, each consisting of sixteen maneh-weight for a total weight of sixty-four manehs. These, too, were pounded separately before being mixed together. The combined weight now came to 344, although the first four spices were, in weight, more than the last four spices by a ratio of about 4 1/3 to 1. Costus was added unto these, being only twelve maneh-weight. The previous four spices mentioned were, in weight, more than the costus by a ratio of 1 1/3 to 1. The combined weight now came to 356. Unto these spices was added cinnamon; three maneh-weight. The previous spice named was, in weight, more than the cinnamon by a ratio of 4 to 1. The combined weight now came to 359. Finally, unto these spices was added nine maneh-weight of agarwood, which last spice was also more in weight than the cinnamon by a ratio of 3 to 1. The entire weight accruing therefrom was three-hundred and sixty-eight manehs. A quarter kab of salt was added to the pounded incense, as well as a dash of ambergris absolute, believed to be the "Jordan amber."
A question came to the fore in the course of their studies, whereby the Rabbis had asked whether or not it would be permissible for the apothecary to compound half of the total weight normally compounded in making the incense. The answer given was unequivocal, namely: to make half of 368 maneh-weight, or only 184 maneh-weight, of spices compounded together is still permissible, on the condition that the spices are compounded with the same ratio. It was not clear, however, if it were permissible to make a quarter or a third of its normal weight.
- The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. VI, Funk and Wagnalls Company: New York 1904, p. 568
- Exodus 39:38; Mishnah (1977), s.v. Kareithoth 1:1, pp. 562–563
- Mishnah Yoma 3:5; cf. Commentary of Rabbi Obadiah da Bertinoro, Mishnah Tamid, ch. 2, passim; "Sefer ha-Chinukh," mitzvah # 103
- Rabbi Obadiah da Bertinoro, ibid.
- Mishnah Yoma 2:4, "Those who are new unto the incense, come and cast lots!"
- Babylonian Talmud (Kareithoth 6b), although some texts read: "During summertime, they would shake it (i.e., the pile of spices) to prevent their mildew, but during wintertime they'd pile it in a heap."
- Mishnah (1977), s.v. Mishnah Tamid 3:8 (p. 585)
- Nathanel ben Yisha'yah (1983), p. 279
- The Aramaic Targum of Song of Songs 4:6
- Maimonides (1956), 3:45 (p. 358).
- Josephus (1981), The Jewish War (book 5, chapter 5, verse 5).
- Morrison, Chanan (2006), p. 256
- The Hebrew word used in the text is שחלת = "sheḥeleth," but which later became known in Mishnaic Hebrew as "ṣippōren," meaning, "fingernail." The English word "onycha" is a Greek loanword, having the same meaning as "fingernail."
- Translation follows the explanation given in the Babylonian Talmud, Taanith 7a.
- Exodus 30:34, and as explained by the Babylonian Talmud (Taanith 7a).
- Babylonian Talmud, Kareithoth 6b
- Babylonian Talmud, Kareithoth 6b
- Baraita, a term applied in Hebrew for the collection of Oral Teachings which were not included in the Mishnah, a compendium of Jewish oral laws compiled by Rabbi Judah the Prince in 189 CE.
- Babylonian Talmud, Kareithoth 6a; Palestinian Talmud, Yoma 4:5
- Can be almost any resin that exudes from trees, especially the terebinth tree – Pistacia palaestina, but not limited to this resin alone. Thus is it explained by Rabbi Shimon b. Gamliel. Ishtori Haparchi and Don Isaac Abarbanel, in accordance with the Midrash Rabba and Targum, have also said that this incense was called "mastic." A description on how the mastic resin was tapped from trees growing on the island of Chios in the Aegean can be seen in Howes, F.N. (1950), pp. 307-309.
- One of the explanations given by Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham, President of the Academy in the Land of Israel (11th-century CE), is that the Hebrew word qaṭaf is equivalent in meaning to al-isṭirāq (storax oleoresin), which he says is "the most important of all the chief aromatics, and whose manner is to harden and form into [smaller] pieces, although when it spoils it no longer hardens, but remains in the liquid state and is called 'the oil of al-kāffūr." See: Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, p. 51, Mishnah Shevi'it, chapter 7.
- The modern-day lexicographer, Marcus Jastrow, PhD., believed this spice to be a species of fennel of the genus Ferula. See Jastrow, M. (2006), s.v. חלבנה.
- This opinion follows the more conventional view, although Maimonides (1974), Hil. Kelei Hamikdash 2:5, holds that the myrrh referred to here was musk absolute (Moschus moschiferus), and which men used formerly as an incense.
- The English word is merely a loan-word borrowed from the Hebrew.
- Amar, Z. (2002), pp. 122-123
- Agarwood is believed to be the qinnamon of the Sages. Alternatively, the "qinnamon" may have referred to Sandalwood (Santalum album). Our regular cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) was also compounded in the incense offering, but it was known by the Sages under the name of "Qelufah" = קלופה
- "Karkom" is not to be confused with the modern Hebrew word now used for turmeric, also called "karkom" = כרכום. The original word "karkom" applied only to the flowers of the genus "Crocus," while the rhizome known as turmeric was formerly called in Hebrew "rikhpah" = רכפה, according to a medieval source (Rabbi Nathan's lexicon).
- Amar, Z. (2002), pp. 118-119. He informs us that even today the aromatic plant known as Saussurea lappa is called in Sanskrit "kustha," while in Tamalit, both, Saussurea lappa and Costus speciosus are called "kostam." Moreover, he says, it is still used as an incense in India and in China.
- The sole function of which was to make the smoke ascend in a straight column, before spreading out on the ceiling.
- Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 8, Third Printing, Jerusalem 1974, p. 1316
- According to RASHI (Babylonian Talmud, Menaḥot 21a, s.v. מכל מקום), the Salt of Sodom is distinguished by being very fine (pulverized), whereas ordinary salt derived from salt flats was usually more coarse. The Talmud (ibid.) makes it clear that if one could not find the Salt of Sodom, he is permitted to use a coarser salt in the Temple offerings. In any rate, the Salt of Sodom was not common house salt (Sodium chloride), but rather, according to Zohar Amar of Bar-Ilan University, was what was called in medieval Arabic, "anḍrāni salt," a mineral identified as either potassium sulfate (K2SO4) found in the Dead Sea, or carnallite (KMgCl2, 6H2O), being a white mineral, hydrous chloride of potassium and magnesium. See Amar, Z. (2002), p. 135; Amar, Z. & Serri, Y. (2004), pp. 48–52.
- Maimonides (1974), Hil. Kelei HaMikdash 2:4. In Maimonides' day the word al-inbar had already come to imply ambergris, as evidenced by Chananel (1990), s.v. Berakhoth 43a.
- RASHI in the Babylonian Talmud, Kareithoth 6a. See also RASHI (ibid.), Baba Kama 82b, s.v. גינת ורדין. According to RASHI, a rose garden was planted in Jerusalem specifically for the purpose of supplying this spice to the incense formula.
- Muntner, Suessmann (ed.) (1963), p. 115
- Not to be confused with the fossilized pine resin now known as amber, since originally it was not called amber, but rather electron and lyncurium. See Aëtius of Amida (1549), II.34, where he writes that "electrum (amber), succinum and lyncurium (ligure) are all one and the same thing."
- Ibn Māsawaīh’s (777-857 CE) book, On Simple Aromatic Substances, and Leo VI’s The Book of the Eparch (ed. E. H. Freshfield), and Hippiatrica’s Corpus hippiatricorum græcorum (7:48), and al-Masʻūdī’s Kitāb, I, p. 366, et al..
- Not to be confused with the fossilized pine resin now known as amber, since originally it was not called amber, but rather electron and lyncurium (Aëtius of Amida, II.34). If burnt over coals, it emits a bad smell.
- Al-Fasi, D. (1936), s.v. aholoth.
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 148. This view is also shared by Rabbeinu Hananel (965-1055 CE), in his commentary on the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Berakhoth 43a).
- Chananel (1990), s.v. Berakhot 43a (p. 97)
- Hill, J. (1751), p. 772, who writes the following about the Socotrine aloe: “Its smell is strong, and of the aromatic kind, somewhat approaching to that of myrrh. Its taste is bitter, but it has somewhat very aromatic in it, and is not nearly so disagreeable as the rest.” He also says of it: “It is of a dusky purplish orange colour in the lump, but of a fine bright saffron like yellow when powdered.” He admits, too, that today botanists tend to classify two distinct kinds of aloes, namely, "aloe" (Genus: Aloe spp.) and the Lignum aloes, believed to be the Aquilaria spp. However, the latter is only a modern invention, so-called in order to distinguish between the two. In ancient times, there was only one aloe and/or aloes wood, viz., the genus Aloe, as described by Dioscorides (1959), Book III:25.
- Ibn Ǧanâḥ, Yonah (1896), p. 15 (top) s.v. אהל
- Midrash Rabba (Canticles Rabba 3:4).
- Babylonian Talmud, Kareithoth 6a; Siddur.
- Saadia (1968), vol. 1, Exodus 30:34
- Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 4 (Seder Mo'ed, Tractate Kippurim, ch. 2), p. 91 [3b].
- Maimonides (1985), Hil. Berakhot 9:6, s.v. והלבונה והמצטכי, p. 635, note 22
- Qafih Y. (1963), p. 96, note 13 (explaining Rabbi Saadia Gaon's Arabic translation). Cf. Amar, Z. (2002), pp. 66-69, who suggests that the wood shavings of the balsam tree, i.e. xylobalsamon, may have been used and which contain the resin, rather than the tears of gum resin, citing the precise language used by Rabban Shimon Gamliel in the Jerusalem Talmud (Yoma 23a) and where he says: "The ṣorī is no more than gum resin from resinous trees.” Here, he omits the words "that drip." So, too, is the version of the Munich Ms. of the Babylonian Talmud (Kareithoth 6a).
- Dioscorides (1959), book 1, section 91 (in some editions, section 71).
- Cf. Theophrastus (1916), vol. 2 (IX, II.2): "The best [gum resin] is that of terebinth; for it sets firm, is the most fragrant, and has the most delicate smell; but the yield is not abundant."
- Exodus 30:34
- Qafih Y. (1963), p. 97, note 14.
- Not to be confused with what is called in modern Hebrew, Ṣippōren or what is known as cloves (Syzygium aromaticum).
- Josephus (1981), The Jewish War, book 5, chapter 5, verse 5 (5.215)
- Nachmanides (1993), s.v. Exodus 30:34
- Dioscorides (1959), II, 2-10, s.v. ONUX.
- Macht, D.I. (1928), pp. 20-27
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 78
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 77
- Babylonian Talmud, Kareithoth 6b, where we learn: “Said Rabbi Ḥanna, the son of Bizana, ‘Rabbi Shimon the Pious said: Every fast wherein there cannot be found any of those who transgress in Israel isn’t a fast, for the galbanum has a bad smell, and yet it was numbered with the ingredients of the incense!’”
- Cf. Theophrastus (1916), vol. 2, IX.7.2; IX.9.2 (pages 249 and 261), who called this resin khalbane, being the same word described for חלבנה in the Septuagint, and which, according to Theophrastus, is produced from a plant called all-heal (Greek: πάνακες = pánakes). The so-called pánakes is not to be confused with Cheiron's pánakes (Inula salicina), but is rather a generic word believed to have merely implied a plant with medicinal healing properties. See: Overduin, Floris (2014). p. 392. A description on how the Ferula galbaniflua oleo-gum resin is collected is brought down in Howes F.N. (1950), p. 314.
- Maimonides (1974), Hil. Kelei Hamikdash 2:4, who writes explicitly that the galbanum is “like black syrup whose smell is strong, being an oleoresin derived of trees in the Grecian cities.”
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 85. According to Abu-Rabiʻa, ʻAref (2001), p. 47, the Storax tree is also called in Arabic luban, which is the name given also by Al-Fasi, D. (1945), vol. 2, p. 149, for the לבנה of Gen. 30:37. Its name in Hebrew is derived from the fact that in the summer months when there is a sweltering heat, the leaves of the tree begin to curl until they reveal their whitish undersides, giving the tree a white appearance (hence its name livneh = der. of white).
- Hill, J. (1751), p. 715 (Solid Resins)
- Maimonides (1967), vol. 3, s.v. Kareithoth 1:1, note 40 (p. 228). Those who thought that galbanum may have come from the Mahaleb cherry (Prunus mahaleb) obviously believed that the Hebrew word, ḥelbanah, was related etymologically to its Arabic cognate – in this case, maḥlab (Mahaleb cherry). Aromatic oil is obtained from the crushed seed kernels of the Mahaleb cherry. This opinion was rejected by Maimonides in his commentary on Mishnah Kareithoth 1:1 because of its being far too pleasant as a scent to have been associated with what the Talmud describes as "unpleasant."
- Maimonides (1967), vol. 3, s.v. Kareithoth 1:1, notes 41 & 42 (p. 228)
- Bower, A., et al. (1747), part 1, vol. 16, chapter 79, section 1, p. 257
- Pliny the Elder (1968), 12:32
- Qafih, Y. (1963), p. 96, note 6 (explaining Rabbi Saadia Gaon's Arabic translation). See also Markson, I. (1943), pp. 97-102.
- The use of musk as an incense is evidenced by a statement in the Babylonian Talmud (Berakhoth 43a): "Over all of the incenses, they bless: '[Blessed are you, O God, etc.] who creates fragrant trees,' excepting over the musk, since it is from an animal; the blessing which they make over it is: '[Blessed are you, O God, etc.] who creates multiple kinds of fragrances.'..."
- Encyclopaedia Judaica, Third Printing, vol. 8, Jerusalem 1974, s.v. Incense and Perfumes, p. 1311.
- Canticles Rabba 1:58.
- Mishnah Miqwaoth 9:5.
- Ibn Ǧanāḥ, Yonah (1896), pp. 256-257
- Maimonides (1967), vol. 3, Kareithoth 1:1, note 22. Cf. Amar, Z. (2002), pp. 101-102, who rectifies this difficulty, saying that Maimonides did not refer to an unclean animal, but to musk taken from the musk deer, an animal that is considered clean.
- Jerusalem Talmud (Terumot 10:2 [52a], s.v. מהו לצלות שני שפודין); Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 76b); Maimonides (Hil. Ma'achalot Asurot 15:33); Rabbi Isaac Alfasi (Hullin 32b). The Halacha, in this case, follows Shmuel in the legality of the act.
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 104. See also Macht, D.I. (1928), pp. 38-46, who treats on this subject in great length, but whose conclusions differ from those of Amar. In any rate, all agree that Cassia should not be confused with our modern taxonomic names of Cassia acutifolia and C. angustifolia, from which plants are produced senna (Cassia fistula).
- Theophrastus (1916), editors.
- Such was the opinion of Linnæus, with whom French botanist, Antoine Fée, agreed.
- Josephus (1981), Antiquities, book 3, chapter 8, verse 3 (3.197)
- Theophrastus (1916), vol. ii, 9.7.3 (pp. 249-251). The same is mentioned by Pliny the Elder (1968), 13.2.2, with the one exception that he says nard also grows in Gaul (Gallia). However, they both speak of a cassia that grows in the same hemisphere as cinnamon, or quoting Pliny the Elder (1968), 12:43: "Cassia is a shrub also, which grows not far from the plains where cinnamon is produced, but in the mountainous localities."
- Exodus 30:24
- Pliny the Elder (1968), xii.43
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 109 (note 409)
- Maimonides (1974), Hil. Kelei Hamikdash 2:4, s.v. "sunbul al-nārdin."
- Jones, W. (1790), pp. 405-417; Jones, W. (1795), pp. 109-118.
- Isidore of Seville (2006), pp. 349–350
- Called by him al-nārdīn al-eḳlītī, and which he equates as being al-sunbul al-rūmī. See: Amar, Z. & Yaron, S. (2004), p. 141
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 111. Cf. Saadia (1962), Song of Songs 4:14 (p. 91), and Rabbi Yosef Qafih's identification of "al-waris" in his new translation of the Mishnah, printed in: Maimonides (1967), vol. 3, Kareithoth 1:1; see also Edwards, Sue (1995), s.v. Genus: Flemingia, used as dye in Ethiopia and in Yemen.
- The Aramaic Targum on Song of Songs 1:12.
- Genesis Rabba 65:13; Canticles Rabba 4:29, Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 63a), et al. After the Temple's destruction, the wood known as "qinnamon" ceased to be seen in the land of Judaea. However, our regular cinnamon continued to be seen. See Amar, Z. (2002), p. 125.
- Based on RASHI's commentary on Kereithoth 6a, s.v. קליפה, and Maimonides (1974), Hil. Kelei Hamikdash 2:4, s.v. "qelufah".
- Saadia (1962), Song of Songs 4:14 (p. 91)
- Saadia (1968), vol. 1, Exodus 30:23
- Hai Gaon (1924), Mishnah Uktzin 3:5, s.v. והחמם
- Avraham ibn Ezra's short commentary on the Pentateuch, Exodus 30:23. Cf. Nachmanides (1993), Exodus 30:23, s.v. קנמן בשם מחציתו.
- Maimonides (1967), vol. 3, Mishnah Kereithoth 1:1 - end, and Maimonides' Code of Jewish Law (Mishne Torah, Hil. Kelei HaMikdash 2:4); Arabic names are given in the same order of their respective Hebrew names mentioned in Hil. Kelei HaMikdash 2:3
- Nahmanides' commentary on the Pentateuch, Exodus 30:23, s.v. קנמן בשם מחציתו, Jerusalem 1993. He cites in support of this view an obscure statement made by Rabbi Isaac Alfasi, in his Halacha (Pesahim 25a), where he says that spikenard and “qinnamon” are similar to straw (meaning, since they are both used as a recipe in making the sweet relish for Passover, or what is analogous to the mortar made by the Israelites in Egypt, the spikenard and "qinnamon" are therefore like the straw or stubble used by the Israelites in making the mortar).
- Macht, D.I. (1928), p. 32, quoting Schoff, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1920, XI, p. 260.
- Pliny the Elder (1968), xii, 42 
- Pliny the Elder (1968), xii, 41. Compare Theophrastus (1916), vol. 2, book 9, chapter 4, verse 2.
- Qafih, Y. (1963), p. 96, note 7. Qafih has harsh words for those who call our regular cinnamon by the name "cinnamon," saying that "they have not known, nor have they understood; they walk in darkness!"
- Nathanel ben Yisha'yah (1983), p. 276
- Amar, Z. (2002), pp. 122-123
- Gamliel, Shalom (1988), s.v. קנמן (p. 115)
- "Sanskrit Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit".
- Basker D. & Negbi, M. (1983), pp. 228-236
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 119
- Qafih Y. (1963), p. 96 (note 10). See also Saadia (1962), Song of Songs 4:14, where he writes קסט for the word given in Hebrew as קנה.
- Muntner, Suessmann (1963), p. 119, who cites Assaf; Jerusalem 1963. However, according to Dioscorides (Aromatics: I-15), the root of Elecampane was often used to make a poor substitute of the true costus (Costus arabicus) and was sold as an imitation.
- Babylonian Talmud, Kereithoth 6a; Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 4:5 (23a).
- Maimonides (1974), Hil. Kelei Hamikdash 2:4
- RASHI's Commentary on Kereithoth 6a, s.v. קילופה.
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 120, citing Rabbi Saadia Gaon, and Rabbi Hefeṣ ben Yaṣliaḥ and Rabbi Nathan ben Yeḥiel of Rome, the author of Sefer HaArukh.
- Babylonian Talmud, Kereithoth 6a
- Amar, Z. (2002), p. 46
- Amar, Z. & Serri, Y. (2004), pp. 61–66
- Abu-Rabi'a, 'Aref (2001), pp. 47-48
- RASHI's commentary on Kareithoth 6a, s.v. קרשינא.
- Amar, Z. (2012), p. 216 (s.v. ברית)
- Saleh, Y. (1971), vol. 1, p.163
- Babylonian Talmud, Kareithoth 6a; Siddur.
- Saleh, Y. (1983), s.v. פטום הקטורת
- A kab was an ancient Hebrew measure of capacity, equivalent to the volume of 24 eggs. Nine kabs would have been equal to the volume of 216 eggs.
- Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 4:5 (23a).
- Erler, Jochen (2001), p. 31
- Literally, "floral envelopes,' or hulls, from the caper bush.
- Amar, Z. (2002), pp. 130-131
- Yoma 4:5 (23a)
- The seah was an ancient Hebrew measure of capacity equal to the capacity or volume of 144 eggs, the equivalent of about 9 US quarts (8.5 litres). Three seahs were equal to the volume (not weight) of 432 eggs.
- The kab was a measure of capacity, equivalent to the volume of 24 eggs. Three kabs were equal to the volume of 72 eggs.
- Babylonian Talmud, Kereithoth 6a.
- Maimonides (1974), s.v. Hil. Kelei HaMikdash 2:3. This weight is equal to the weight of 50 Holy Shekels (Glossary of the Babylonian Talmud, Soncino edition).
- A "kab" was a standard measure of capacity used during the time of the Temple, consisting of the volume of 24 eggs. A quarter "kab" would have meant the equivalent in capacity or volume of 6 eggs.
- Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 23a-b.
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