As a follow up to this question, there seem to be two contradictory conclusions on what Rambam holds to be the keneh bosem.

  • First it is said that (Rav Kapach's notes to) Rambam's commentary in the Mishna (Keritot 1:1) implicates that Keneh bosem may be identified as the sweet calmus, or the Acoras calamus (which grows in Europe with similar species growing in the Holy Land - Aryeh Kaplan).

  • But on his Mishne Torah (Kley HaMikdash 1:3) the Rambam himself holds that Keneh bosem is to be identified as the Indian plant, (the Cympopogan martini or the palmarosa plant - Aryeh Kaplan).

How Rav Kapach solves this - considering what Rambam says in his Mishne Torah (above)? If Rambam himself holds these two positions, how can we reconcile these distinct identifications?

  • Don't we usually assume the Rambam retracted his earlier views and replaced them with his later views?
    – robev
    Jun 22, 2020 at 0:41
  • @robev if yes, this would become Rav Kapach's conclusion even more problematic. Jun 22, 2020 at 2:12
  • Why? He's explaining each Rambam on his own, no? Or am I missing something...
    – robev
    Jun 22, 2020 at 2:17
  • Is he pointing out on these passages that the later view replaced the earlier view? If yes, that's an answer i'm looking for. If not, the question still remains. Jun 22, 2020 at 3:48
  • Why should he point that out? I'm not following your question...there's dozens of contradictions between the Mishneh Torah and what he originally wrote in his commentary on the Mishnah. Why is that a question on Rav Kapach?
    – robev
    Jun 22, 2020 at 3:57

1 Answer 1


There does not appear to be a contradiction. In his commentary to the Mishnah Rambam doesn’t describe the plant; he merely mentions it as one of the ingredients in the anointing oil. (Presumably because there is no explanation given) R. Kapach has a footnote where he cites Rambam from Mishneh Torah in explanation of what this plant is:

וכתב רבנו בחבורו הם הקנים הדקים כתבן האדומים הבאים מאיי הודו וריחן טוב והם ממיני הבשמים שנותנים אותם הרופאים בצרי

Given that this still doesn’t give us a modern name of a plant that we can relate to, R. Kapach concludes the note by saying:

והוא Acorus Calamus

I.e. the plant that Rambam mentions here and which he describes in Mishneh Torah is the plant called Acorus Calamus. In fact, the Wikipedia page for this plant which you linked in the question indeed mentions that this plant grows in India:

Sweet flag grows in India, central Asia, southern Russia and Siberia, and Europe. Habitats include edges of small lakes, ponds and rivers, marshes, swamps, and wetlands.

  • +1. Nice. I wonder why R. Aryeh Kaplan came to suggest that it is Cympopogan martini. But I think that his reasons are beyond the scope of this question. Jun 23, 2020 at 2:45

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