Huberman Spice boxSpice boxSpice box

  • Issue: September 1990
  • Designer: A. Vanooijen
  • Stamp size: 40 x 30.8 mm
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

In Hebrew, spice boxes are known as "hadassim", which is a translation of myrtle. Myrtle has a number of ceremonial uses; in particular it is regarded as being the "boughs of thick-leaved trees" mentioned in Leviticus XXIII, 40, which is one of the Four Species used on the Festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles).

Myrtle is also connected with particular customs in different Jewish communities around the world, such as the Circumcision and the Redemption of the First-Born Son ceremonies where there is a tradition, in some communities, of pronouncing a benediction over the myrtle. In some communities a crown of myrtles is made for bridegrooms, and myrtle branches are also waved by those dancing before the bride and groom.

On Saturday evening, in the "Havdala" or Separation Ceremony, differentiating the Sabbath from the six working days, four benedictions are pronounced: one over a glass of wine, one over sweet-smelling spices, one over light and one over the division between the holy and the secular. Different plants are used for the benediction on spices, and among them the myrtle.

Spice boxes take various different forms, the most common of which is the turret or spire. This form is often a copy of city towers with flags flying from their pinnacles, with clocks and even model sentries.

A number of reasons have been suggested for the spice box taking this form. The turret, of course, symbolizes Jerusalem and the Temple. It is, however, likely that the idea comes from the medieval towers where oriental spices were kept under guard. Another possibility is that this form originated in its resemblance to the ritual appurtenances of the Church. There are also those who hold that the form is an expression of the verse in the Song of Songs (V, 13), where spices and towers are linguistically connected in the Hebrew. Spice boxes also exist in a very wide variety of other forms: globe-shaped, fruit on stalks, birds with wings extended, fish made of silver segments, and so forth. But whatever the reason, the turret-shaped spice box, in all its rich variety, is by far the most dominant artetact for holding spices in the "Havdala" ceremony.

55 agorot stamp: spice box

Austro-Hungary, early 19th century. Silver, cut, pierced and engraved, wire work. Height 29.5 cm. Width 5.5 cm. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Collectian no. 124/364.

80 agorot stamp: spice box

Rome, Italy, 19th century. Silver, pierced engraved and cast Height 25cm. Diameter 3.5 cm. Gift of Mr. Sistiero, Rome 1951 to the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Collection no. 124/7.

1.00 NIS stamp: spice box

Augsburg, Germany, c.1700. Silver, cast, repousse and engraved, partly gilt and painted. Made by Matheus (Markus?) Wolf. Height 35 cm. Width 9 cm. Feuchtwanger Collection, acquired and donated to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by Baruch and Ruth Rappaport, Geneva, 1969. No. 124/415.

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Festival stamps 5751 (1990)