The Aruch HaShulchan in OC 494:5 seen here mentions a minhag to put saffron in the food on Shavuos due to the fact that has a pleasant smell which alludes to the passuk in Shir HaShirim לריח שמניך טובים.

וגם נוהגין ליתן כרכום שקורין זאפרע"ן בהמאכלים והתבשילין, מפני שמשמח שיש בו ריח טוב, על שם "לריח שמניך טובים"

[Printed immediately afterwards is the parenthetical statement: (עיין מגן אברהם סעיף קטן ו בשם הזוהר, וזהו כמו שכתבתי). but that Magen Avraham has nothing to do with the saffron statement and is only talking about to the idea right beforehand about how eating dairy hints to strict law changing to kindness]

I would like to understand more about this saffron minhag. Where did he get this from? Who actually did or does this? Why specifically saffron, don't other spices have nice smells as well?

  • saffron challah is mentioned in this cook book among russian minhagim(books.google.com/…)
    – user12767
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 17:45

1 Answer 1


It's possible that Magen Avraham got this from Kol Bo. See footnote 57 on p. 15 here as well as Kol Bo section 52 here, right column a few lines from the bottom. Kol Bo states that it was customary for people to put saffron in their matzot because it makes people happy.

Kol Bo doesn't explain the custom any further nor why specifically saffron. I'm surmising that saffron was one of the oldest spices known according to wikipedia. Historically, it was one of the most expensive seasonings known (still is). Perhaps, in accordance with a concept of "hiddur" of doing something special, unique and nice for Yom Tov, (similar to the idea of buying a nicer more expensive meat esp. for Yom Tov) they decided to use saffron vs. other fragrant spices.

The Wikipedia article states:

Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes

Earlier in the same Kol Bo column, he states that it is customary to eat milk and honey. I've never baked matzot, but I assume that if one did, it wouldn't come out like matzot as the honey has a lot of weight. I can say that baking honey in bread drastically changes its consistency. So, I assume that to get the honey-like taste into the matzot, they found saffron to be a good substitute.

  • +1 for tracing it back to the Kol Bo (and your interesting insight) but again, it's not in the Magen Avraham.
    – user6591
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 17:06
  • @user6591 I admit that my answer is not the greatest. You may not find a complete reason for why they did this minhag. That's not a strange phenomenon among Jews, incidentally (not knowing the reason for a minhag) ;-)
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 17:12
  • But tracing it back to the Kol Bo is helpful. I actually wonder if the Aruch Hashulchan ever saw saffron in his entire life. Tracing it back to someone who may have, or at least was famous for collating various minhagim takes a little bit of the bizarre aspect away. Also I can check a fancy shmancy Kol Bo with foot notes;)
    – user6591
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 17:22
  • @user6591 See latest edits. I added something that may explain why specifically saffron was used.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 17:51
  • 3
    You know what just hit the daylights out of me?! They put it in their bread (Matzah) this is the holiday of two breads, one for milk and one for meat, at least according to the way the Magen Avraham sees things. And since this is the case, they actually baked one with butter to make sure they don't eat milk and meat with the same loaf. So here's the kicker. Milchig bread needs a siman, even though color is not standard siman, perhaps having the bread be bright yellowish was part of the solution.
    – user6591
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 18:18

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