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Ketoret (Hebrew word meaning bonding) is the transliteration of the Hebrew word, which is translated, in English, as 'incense'.

The Ketoret symbolized Israel's desire to serve the Lord in a pleasing way. This offering was brought twice daily, once as part of the morning service and once as part of the afternoon service. This happened seven days a week, every day of the year, including Shabbat and Yom Kippur. Five pounds of ketoret was burnt daily, half in the morning and half in the afternoon.

Central to all of the ceremonies conducted in the Temple was the Incense Offering. It consisted of a precise mixture of 11 Holy Spices, known in Hebrew as the Ketoret Bisamim (mentioned in Exodus 30:34-38).

"And the LORD said unto Moses, "Take unto thee sweet spices: stacte and onycha and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense, of each shall there be a like weight. And thou shalt make it a perfume [ketoret], a confection according to the art of the perfumer, tempered together, pure and holy" (Exodus 30:34-35 KJ21).

The 11 spices of the Ketoret are: Balsam, Clove (or onycha), Galbanum, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cassia, Spikenard, Saffron, Costus, Aromatic Bark, Cinnamon.

During the days of the Temple, the Ketoret is burned every evening and morning on the golden Incense Altar by the Priests (Cohanim), in front of the Holy Ark in the Temple’s Sanctuary. And the exact method of Ketoret preparation by the Master Perfumer was a closely guarded secret. Today we are still unravelling the mystery of exactly which ingredients and processes were used to formulate the finely ground mixture. Although there are still varying opinions and speculation about some aspects of the Ketoret, the wise ones among us have been able to identify the botanical sources of the main ingredients

The Talmud relates that women, as far away from Jerusalem as Jericho, did not wear perfumes because the fragrance emanating from the Ketoret so filled the air. The Talmud further relates that three things revive a person’s soul: pleasant sights, pleasant sounds and pleasant smells:

"Ointment and perfume [ketoret] make the heart rejoice" (Proverb 27:9).

The Ketoret is a symbol for atonement:

"And he (Aaron) put on incense [ketoret], and made an atonement for the people" (Numbers 16:47).

The Ketoret is a symbol for our prayers:

"Let my prayer be set before Thee as incense [ketoret]" (Psalm 141:2).