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Exodus Ki Tisa
  Ki Tisa
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Ki Tisa

30:33 If a person blends a similar formula, or places it on an unauthorized person, he shall be cut off [spiritually] from his people.
Ish asher yirkach kamohu va'asher yiten mimenu al-zar venichrat me'amav.
30:34 God said to Moses: Take fragrances such as balsam, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, all of the same weight, as well as [other specified] fragrances.
Vayomer Adonay el-Moshe kach-lecha samim nataf ushchelet vechelbenah samim ulevonah zakah bad bevad yihyeh.


cut off
  See note on Genesis 17:14.

  (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 2:4; cf. Kerithoth 6a; Rashi; Radak, Sherashim; Saadia; Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1). Nataf in Hebrew. Some say that nataf denotes the wood of the balsam, rather than the sap (Ramban). Balsam is also known as tzori in Hebrew (see Genesis 37:25). It is derived from the balsam tree, Commiphora opobalsamum, known as kataf in the Talmud, which grows wild in Yemen and around Mecca.

The Septuagint translates nataf here as stacte, which some identify as storax gum (Pachad Yitzchak, s.v. Ketoreth; cf. Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 1:79). However, the Greek word can also mean 'an oozing substance', very much like the basic connotation of nataf, and hence, it can denote any gum (thus, stacte can also denote myrrh; Pliny 12:75). It can thus denote balsam gum as well.

  Shecheleth in Hebrew. The Targum translates this as tufra, the Talmud as tziporen (Kerithoth 6a), and the Septuagint as onyx, all denoting 'fingernail.' Some maintain that this is a spice actually prepared from human fingernails (cf. Arukh s.v. Tziporen), but most authorities see it as coming from an aquatic animal (Mossef HeArukh ibid.; Ramban). It is therefore usually identified as onycha (Hirsch; King James) or blatta byzantia (Abarbanel; Shiltey Gibborim 85), the fingernail-like operculum or closing flap of certain snails of the murex family, such as the Onyx marinus, Strombus lentiginosus, or Unguis Odaratus (Tifereth Yisrael, Chomer Bakodesh 2:67; Cf. Ben Sirah 24:15, Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 2:10). This emits a very pleasant smell when burned.

Other sources, however, state that shecheleth is a kind of root (Rashi). The Talmud also appears to indicate that it came from an annual plant (Kerithoth 6b). Some identify this plant with a species of rock-rose, Cistus ladaniferus, which has fingernail-like petals.

The onycha was rubbed with an alkali solution prepared from the bitter vetch (Vicia sativa) (cf. Rambam on Maaser Sheni 2:4) to remove all impurities. It was then soaked in the fermented juice of the caper berry (Caparis spinosa) (see Tosafoth, Betza 25b, s.v. VeTzalaf) or strong white wine to enhance its fragrance (Kerithoth 6a; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 2:5).

  (Rashi; Septuagint). Chelbanah in Hebrew. It is a yellow-brown gum resin obtained from the Persian plant, Ferula galbaniflua (Pliny 12:56,24,13; Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 3:97). Alone it had a pungent, almost unpleasant odor (Kerithoth 6b).

According to some, the chelbanah here is the gum of the common storax tree (Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1).

  Or oliban. (Septuagint). Levonah in Hebrew. This is a gum resin from trees of the genus boswellia, most notably Boswellia carterii and Boswellia frereana from Arabia, and Boswellia serratae from India. The gum is yellowish and semi-transparent, with a bitter nauseous taste. It is hard and capable of being pulverized, producing a strong aromatic odor when burned.

all of the same weight
  (Targum; Kerithoth 5a; Rashi; Saadia). Or, 'each ground separately' (Ibn Ezra; cf. Yad, Kley HaMikdash 2:5).

other specified fragrances
  By tradition, an additional 7 fragrances were added, besides the four mentioned here, to give a total of eleven.

The formula for the incense was given in terms of the maneh which was 100 shekels or 5 pounds. It was

70 maneh 350 lb. Balsam
70 maneh 350 lb. Onycha
70 maneh 350 lb. Galbanum
70 maneh 350 lb. Frankincense
16 maneh 80 lb. Myrrh
16 maneh 80 lb. Cassia
16 maneh 80 lb. Spikanard (shiboleth nard)
16 maneh 80 lb. Saffron (karkom)
12 maneh 60 lb. Costus (kosh't)
9 maneh 45 lb. Cinnamon
3 maneh 15 lb. Cinnamon bark
___ 365

The total amount was 365 maneh, so that one maneh (5 lb) could be burned each day of the solar year.

Besides these ingredients, 1/4 kav (1 cup) of Sodom salt (nitrate) and small amounts of maaleh ashan (probably Leptadenia pyrotechnica, which contains nitric acid) and kippath ha-yardan (probably cyclamen) were added. Besides this, 9 quarts (kab) of vetch lye (borith karshina) and 21 quarts (3 saah and 3 kab) of caper wine were used to prepare the onycha.

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