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One of liturgical utensils of the Jewish faith is a vessel for scents called a spice tower (Hebrew: bassamim, psumin-byksy) used during Sabbath. This spice tower represents the most common turret type in the shape of a multi-storey synagogue.

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One of liturgical utensils of the Jewish faith is a vessel for scents called a spice tower (Hebrew: bassamim, psumin-byksy) used during Sabbath.
The scent tower was probably created on the territory of Poland. It was made with the technique of intricate filigree typical of earlier scent towers coming from Polish goldsmith workshops. Unfortunately, it has no punch that would enable its precise identification.
This spice tower represents the most common turret type. It has shape of a multi-storey synagogue situated on a square shape base set on four legs in the corners. The core is quadrilateral; at half of its height, there is a round node. The upper part is in the form of a two-storey tower. The first storey is enclosed with four twisted pillars in the corners, tipped with knobs; on one of the walls, there is a small door opened with a key because inside the vessel there is a container. In the upper storey of the tower there is a characteristic element for the works made on Polish Lands —  four divided arcaded windows, as in Polish Romanesque churches (biforium).

Elaborated by the Irena and Mieczysław Mazaraki Museum in Chrzanów, editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © 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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Different forms of besamin boxes

Besamin boxes — also known as censers or scent boxes—can take on various forms; the most common ones, however, are tower-shaped besamin boxes, like the ones belonging to the collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków and the Irena and Mieczysław Mazaraki Museum in Chrzanów presented on our website...

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Besamin boxes—also known as censers or scent boxes — can take on various forms; the most common ones, however, are tower-shaped besamin boxes, like the ones belonging to the collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków and the Irena and Mieczysław Mazaraki Museum in Chrzanów presented on our website.
This is the most popular form of spice boxes, widely known as early as the Middle Ages. Its appearance often imitated local architecture, whereas the symbolical point of reference was the Strong Tower, being the Biblical symbol of God. Besamin boxes were usually made of silver, sometimes of other metals and were often decorated with enamel and precious stones. A widely popular technique was fine filigree, visible also in our two exhibits.

Elaborated by the 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

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Besamin tower box

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