Sniffin' the Snuff

Remember the snuff?  Some older gentleman would walk around the men’s section, late afternoon on Yom Kippur, passing around the snuff. Sometimes one of the men would even pass it over to the women’s section and some brave women would take a pinch of the stuff as well.  The stuff was vile! I never understood why people liked sniffing snuff. In any case, snuff is out of fashion these days, probably to do with the fact that snuff is tobacco based and not as many people smoke now. The basis however for sniffing snuff still holds true however.  The idea is that we should always say as many brachot as we possibly can, and especially on Yom Kippur when we don’t eat or drink, we should try and add other brachot and say the bracha of “borei minai bsamim”.

It is brought down that it was a tradition to smell spices on Yom Kippur so as to be able to say the bracha.  As an aromatherapist, I say, why smell the spices when you can get a much more intense hit from the condensed super powerful essential oils instead.  This way you get to say the bracha and also receive the enormous benefit of the oils. The only question is, which one of my many dozens of oils should I bring to shul, or should I make a specific blend special for Yom Kippur.

Since it is shul, and Yom Kippur, we think holy thoughts, and the holiest of all is the “ketoret” the spice blend, sacrificed in the Temple, that we are absolutely forbidden from making.  Since the ketoret had a tremendous amount of cinnamon in it, and I am absolutely allergic to cinnamon, no worries, I won’t be heading in that direction at all. I am and will remain transgression free with regard to recreating the ketoret.  As for my own essential oil blend, I think I will go in a more practical direction.

  1. An appetite suppressant.  It’s a fast day, we are all hungry, an oil that suppresses the appetite would work well here.  Two major ones come to mind, patchouli and mint. While on an ordinary day, I would probably prefer patchouli, on Yom Kippur I’m going to go for the mint.  The refreshing smell is also revitalizing and will give a boost to the tired and hungry, it also can alleviate headaches (especially migraines) and provide mental clarity.  Taken internally, it is also a breath freshener, sadly however we will have to wait until after the fast to benefit from that aspect.
  2. An elevating oil.  Essential oils serve many different purposes, one of which is to elevate the spirit, they can be used, and have always been used in religious practices to deepen and strengthen our spiritual connection to the heavens.  Smelling something turns it from the physical and transforms it into the spiritual. Heavenly smells actually increase our spiritual awareness and can bring us and our prayers closer to G-d. While sandalwood has traditionally been used in spiritual practices for thousands of years, sandalwood also has the side effect of putting me to sleep.  Like a knock-out punch. Not going to use sandalwood! I think instead I will use a very traditional combination of frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh is a familiar combination which works very well together in balancing both the body and the spirit. Frankincense and myrrh were also two of the spices used in the ketoret, so while not recreating the ketoret itself, I am still benefiting from some of the heavenly substances used in our ancient Temple worship.   

And so, this is what I shall be bringing to shul this Yom Kippur. A machzor, a scarf, some tissues and my bottle of oil.   I might walk around with my alternative snuff bottle, or if I lack the courage, due to my naturally shy, introverted personality, feel free to come up to me and ask to sniff my snuff.  I’m always happy to share my goodies.  

Sima Herzfeld Navon is a naturopath focusing on limiting the amount of chemicals and toxins in our daily lives.  Navon Naturals is her line of outstanding skincare products to help women transition over to using healthier cosmetic products.