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Besamin boxes [heb. bassamim, psumin-byksy] served as containers for spices and were used during the end of the Sabbath and were usually tower-shaped, whereas the besamin box from Sącz was in the shape of a fish, whose head, connected with a trunk with a hinge could be opened and tilted.

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Besamin boxes [heb. bassamim, psumin-byksy] served as containers for spices and were used during the end of the Sabbath and were usually tower-shaped, whereas the besamin box from Sącz was in the shape of a fish, whose head, connected with a trunk with a hinge could be opened and tilted. The fish trunk consists of five overlapping segments in row forms of semi-circularly finished scales. The individual segments of the trunk are mutually conjoined in such a way that the body of the fish could be slightly bent. The surface of the besamin box is engraved and covered with a web of grooves and zigzags that render the texture of scales and fins. Round red stones or small glasses are fixed into one of the eyes of the fish. The lack of a manufacturer’s stamp does not allow for identification of the exhibit’s place of origin and hinders its dating.
The item was purchased for the museum in the year 2000, enriching its collection of Judaica. The unusual, but very interesting and rare shape of the exhibit distinguishes it from other besamin boxes in the museum’s collection.

Elaborated by Edyta Ross-Pazdyk (Nowy Sącz District Museum), © all rights reserved

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What are besamin boxes used for?

What are the origins for the custom of inhaling herb scents at the end of the Sabbath and what does it symbolise?
This is the trace of the times when the Jews made sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem. After its final destruction by the Romans (AD 70), the Jews abandoned the sacrificial cult. In the times of the diaspora, they replaced...

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What are the origins for the custom of inhaling herb scents at the end of the Sabbath and what does it symbolise?
This is the trace of the times when the Jews made sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem. After its final destruction by the Romans (AD 70), the Jews abandoned the sacrificial cult. In the times of the diaspora, they replaced it with prayer and rituals which referred to its elements. Inhaling scents during Havdalah, a ceremony of the symbolical separation of sacred time (i.e. Sabbath, in the shortened version also other holidays) from ordinary weekdays. It is the trace of the incense offering made in the Temple (along with the food offerings — from animals). The incense can be burnt only in the Temple and only by the priests.
Today, the ritual of inhaling scents can be held both in the synagogue as well as at home. The person conducting the Havdalah ceremony takes a besamin box in his or her right hand and utters the following blessing:
Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam bore minei vesamim
(”Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who creates species of fragrance”.)
Next he or she smells the fragrances and passes them to the others.
According to the tradition, the pleasant aroma is intended to alleviate the sad moment of losing the additional soul, which accompanies each Jew during the Sabbath and leaves them upon its termination. Moreover, it is designed to enhance the inhaling before the hardships of the weekdays to come.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See:
Besamin tower box
Besamin tower box from Vienna
Fish-shaped besamin box
Spice container from Austro-Hungary

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Fish-shaped besamin box

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