Object of the Month - November 2014 - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

You are here

Object of the Month - November 2014

Main Content

Spice Box 19th century, Augsburg, Germany, gilt silver.  Gift of Harry G. Friedman.  Cincinnati Art Museum de-accession, 53.128.

The most important holiday in Judaism is also the most frequent.  Shabbat, or the weekly celebration of the Sabbath, begins at sundown on Friday evenings.  Shabbat is a time of rest, reflection, and family.  The ceremony that is performed at the end of Shabbat, as the sun is setting on Saturdays, is known as Havdalah, or “separation”.  Havdalah is meant to separate the holy time of Shabbat from the rest of the week.  The Havdalah service is relatively short, but it holds a great deal of symbolism and meaning.  Each part of the Havdalah ceremony relates to our five senses.  The blessing over the wine is our taste, we smell fragrant spices, we see the brightly lit candle, we listen as the candle is extinguished in the wine, and we feel by participating in the service.  
During Havdalah, a special box is used to hold the spices that are passed around.  Spice boxes take many shapes and forms, but they all consist of a closed container to hold the spices, and small holes perforated in the box to smell the spices.  This beautiful example was made in Augsburg, Germany in the 19th Century.  The gilt silver spice box is a sphere, reminiscent of an apple suspended on leaves and a branch.  The ornate silverwork on top of the spice box shows that wonderful skill and craftsmanship that went into making such a stunning piece of Judaic art.    

Click here to see a larger version >