Spice Box


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What can we see?

We can see a steeple with a ball and flag on the top of the spice tower. We can also see dolphins on the sides of the steeple.

Look closely, what do you see?

What do we know?

This silver Spice Tower was made around 1700 in Berlin, Germany by a silversmith named Joachim Andreas Schaar.

At the top of the spice tower there are six figures representing different ritual workers from the synagogue. One of the figures is a Rabbi, a teacher of the Torah and leader of the Jewish community. Another figure depicts a Shochet, a ritual butcher who inspects and prepares meat according to kosher laws. The third figure shows a Hazzan, a cantor or reader who leads the synagogue in prayer which is sung or chanted. The fourth figure depicts a beadle, the caretaker of the synagogue and assistant to the Rabbi. The remaining two figures have not yet been identified.

The door on the spice tower opens and closes to allow spices such as clove and nutmeg to be placed inside for smelling during the Havdalah ceremony, the closing ceremony to Shabbat.

What do we wonder?

We might wonder who the other two figures are on top of the spice box? We wonder who might have used this spice box?

What do you wonder?

Object File

Object name: Silver Spice Tower

Date: c. 1700

Catalogue number: JM 412

Material(s): Silver

Artist: Joachim Andreas Schaar

Size: 35 cm in height

On display in the Jewish Museum? Yes

Havdalah means ‘separation’ and is the closing ceremony to Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. Havdalah takes place after sundown on Saturday evenings when the first three stars have appeared in the sky. During the ceremony, Jewish people say blessings over wine, light a plaited candle, and smell fragrant spices in a spice box or spice tower. These rituals are done in order to give thanks to God for the senses of taste, sight, and smell. The spices used in the spice box or tower are sweet smelling, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. During the Havdalah ceremony Jewish people smell the spices in order to remember Shabbat, and as a way of wishing each other a sweet week to come. The Havdalah ceremony symbolises the separation of work and rest.

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