Considering the current parshios mentioning of Levonah (Frankincense, Olibanum), I decided to look into it a bit.

According to the wiki entry here there are therapeutic and medicinal properties associated with it. It is also seemingly exclusively grown in Africa and the Arabian peninsula.

These facts caught my eye and I'm wondering if any classical Jewish sources mention anything along these lines. I'm interested in anything, whether it be a drasha associated with the medicinal aspect or a practical discussion concerning procuring this item used on a daily basis in the Beis Hamikdosh from foreign lands.

1 Answer 1


Procurement-wise, there's been great spice trading for a very long time, so this really was nothing unusual. It was the incense of choice for all the surrounding pagan cultures. The Talmud Avoda Zara 14a talks about whether it's permissible to sell frankincense to pagans, knowing that they will use it in their worship.

לבונה: אמר רבי יצחק אמר ר"ש בן לקיש לבונה זכה תנא ומכולן מוכרין להן חבילה וכמה חבילה פירש ר' יהודה בן בתירא אין חבילה פחותה משלשה מנין וליחוש דלמא אזיל ומזבין לאחריני ומקטרי אמר אביי אלפני מפקדינן אלפני דלפני לא מפקדינן

[Don't sell a pagan] frankincense ... it was taught that a wholesale bundle may be sold ... at a minimum three pounds. Shouldn't we be worried that the wholesaler will turn around and sell it to others, who will offer it [in pagan sacrifice]? Said Abayei -- we are concerned with enabling, not enabling the enablers.

Medicinally, the Talmud in Sanhedrin 43a says they would drug someone before execution by giving them frankincense mixed with wine.

אמר ר' חייא בר רב אשי אמר רב חסדא היוצא ליהרג משקין אותו קורט של לבונה בכוס של יין כדי שתטרף דעתו

Said R' Chiya bar Ashi, Rav Chisda said that if one is about to be executed, we give him a drink of a dose of frankincense in a cup of wine, to mix up his consciousness.

  • 1
    Do you have more precise citations for your Talmud paraphrases?
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 14:08

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