Thursday, April 8, 2010



Ok, so I have to admit that the combination of Passover chaos and Leviticus gore has not been very conducive to consistent Parsha Projects. But, the girls were home from school the Friday before Pesach so I was determined to get back on track (despite the fact that we had plenty of Pesach-related projects to keep us busy!)

On Thursday night, I opened up to read Parshat Tzav. In short, it is about korbanot, ritual sacrifices - the burnt offering, the meal offering, the guilt offering, the thanksgiving offering...It is not that I don't appreciate that there may be deep significance in this ancient form of worship, it is just that I am not equipped to even begin to convey what that might be to two preschoolers!

So, I zoomed in on one of the early verses that describes the "ketoret" or the incense that was burned on the altar as a "pleasing odor to the Lord." I have always liked the idea of sending sweet smells in God's direction (even if practically it might have been necessary to cover up the smells of burning animal flesh and skin). I was able to explain to the girls that the Israelites wanted the Mishkan to always smell special and beautiful - they got that.

For the project, I originally thought that we would recreate the Ketoret. Nothing like a multi-sensory craft. First, I looked into the ingredients. It says in Exodus 30 (this would probably be a better project for that parsha - Ki Tissa): "God said to Moses: Take fragrances such as balsam, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, all of the same weight, as well as other fragrances. Make the mixture into incense, as compounded by a master perfumer, well-blended, pure and holy..." According to the Rabbis, the ketoret was comprised of 11 spices:

Aromatic Bark

My first idea was to run to Rainbow Grocery and try to find as many of these whole spices as possible (not even knowing what half of them were!). Then I thought, "Emily, it is four days before Pesach, just use what you already have at home. They won't know the difference!" So, on Friday morning, we gathered together what we already had in the house - cardamon, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves and rosemary.

We had fun smelling each of them individually and then combining them into organza drawstring sachet bags (10 for $1 - best purchase ever!)

I decided that I wanted this project (like the welcome mat and kohen aprons) to be something that we could actually use regularly and not just throw out. So, we turned our ketoret into besamim or spice bags for havdalah. I still have the puffy fabric paints from the Kohen aprons so they used them to decorate their bags.

The whole project didn't take very long and there were plenty of bags and spices so I let them make as many as they wanted. In the end, we probably made about 10 bags. Maya was SO excited to give the extra bags out as gifts.

It is a regular tradition that friends gather at our home in the late afternoon on Shabbat and stay with us for Havdalah. On the rare week that nobody is around, both Maya and Avital moan "when are our friends going to come???" Thankfully, this week, our home was filled with guests and Maya was able to distribute spice bags to everyone for Havdalah and to send each of them home with this sweet gift.


  1. I can almost guarantee you that Rainbow doesn't carry spikenard, whatever that is. And I love my besamim bag!

  2. I also love my b'samim bag -- thank you Maya!