The Fragrance of the Field

The Fragrance of the Field
Scents from the Plant and Animal World in the Literature of the Blessings – Material Culture, History and Jewish Law
Abraham Ofir Shemesh

From biblical to current times, a large number of fragrances have been recorded in Jewish literature. This book is dedicated to a discussion of the halakhic domain of the "blessings on scents" that evolved in the time of the Sages, i.e., blessings recited for the pleasure caused by the scent of fragrances. Extensive current knowledge on the history of the fragrances, their identification, names in Jewish languages, usages, and place in Jewish life and folklore is presented here for the first time. More precisely, methods and approaches concerning the blessings proposed for the different types of fragrances, from the Talmudic Sages to contemporary adjudicators, are discussed. This study is interdisciplinary and it encompasses several fields of knowledge: botany, zoology, history, material culture and Rabbinic literature. The topic is explored in light of a variety of literary genres, Jewish literature (halakha, responsa, customsm and prayer books), external sources and ancient and modern scientific literature.
The main part of the book is devoted to a systematic review of some 70 species of fragrances. Prior to the industrial-chemical development, the large majority of aromatic substances came from the plant world and a minority from the animal world. Halakhic authorities in the East and West engaged in discussions about plants and the aromatic secretions of animals that lived in the wild or were raised for agricultural purposes in the close vicinity of the speakers, as well as about exotic fragrances that arrived in their countries through the trade routes, by sea and by land, from their regions of cultivation in South East Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.


Digital Edition Kotar

Danacode:   110-20310 ISBN:  978-965-226-489-3 Language:   Hebrew Pages:   360 Weight:   900 gr Dimensions:  17X25 cm Publication Date:   07/2021 Publisher:   Bar-Ilan University Press


Preface 7

Part 1: Introduction 13

Blessings on scents in Jewish literature: origins, development and design 13; “What is that which gives enjoyment to the soul? – that is fragrant smell”: the affinity between perfumes and the human soul 14; Versions of blessings on aromas in rabbinic literature 18; Fragrant plants and their parts: definitions and basic terms 19

Part 2: Perfumes from vegetal origin 31

Introduction: Aromatic plants and spices in culture and religion 31; Aromatic plants in Jewish literature 35: Lavender 35; Marjoram 38; Clove 40; Iris 45; Mastic tree 50; Lemon grass / Citronella grass 54; Balsam 57; Calamus and Galangal 67; Purple nutsedge 70; Myrtle 72; Citrus 78; Cardamom 85; Rose 87; Ginger 109; Quince 113; Habkah 115; Tobacco 117; Tagetes 122; Jasmine 123; Arabian jasmine 127; Hyacinth 129; Henna 130; Saffron 133; Frankincense 137; Gum Benjamin 147; Lemon verbena 149; Wormwood 150; Nutmeg 152; Myrrh 155; Common stock and Wallflower 161; Water lily and Nymphaea 163; Mint 165; Spikenard 169; Narcissus 174; Sweet violet 180; Black elder 188; Simlek 190; Sandalwood 193; Inbar 196; Agarwood / Aloeswood 198; Juniper 202; Common rue 205; Black pepper and Allspice 210; Pelargoniums 214; Pandanus 215; Mahaleb cherry 217; Carnation / Clove pink 219; Costus 222; Cinnamon 225; Camphor tree 230; Rosemary 231; Sweet basil 235; Fennel 239; Lily 242; Apple 246

Part 3: Perfumes and aromatic substances derived from animals 251

Introduction: scents from animals’ body – Overview and features 251; Musk deer 255; Eurasian beaver 261; Viverridae (civet and genet) 264; Wax 276; Kermesidae (scale insects) 280; Sperm whale (amber) 283; Animal leather 288

Part 4: Fragrant or spiced foods and drinks 291

Blessings on aromas of food and drink 293; Bread 294; Wine 299; Olive oil 303; Coffee 306; Mushrooms 307

Afterword 309
Bibliography and Abbreviations 313
Index 351

Prof. Abraham Ofir Shemesh is the Head of the Israel Heritage Department at Ariel University in Samaria; Israel. His research focuses on natural and medical issues in Jewish literature though the ages; such as ecology; history of medicine; materia medica; history of food and nutrition. He has published three books and many articles in these fields.

Emunat Itecha, Shevat 5782, pp. 154-155 (Hebrew) (PDF)