The Ancient Secrets of Keterot ~ Part Two

The Holy Incense  קטרת   Ketoret

Ketoret is the transliteration of the Hebrew word קטרת which is translated into English as Ketoret (or Qetoret); it means incense. It is referred in the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish writings of the Siddur, Mishnah and Talmud.  It is also referred to as the HaKetoret Kodesh (the Holy incense).

Ketoret was offered on the golden altar of incense during the time of the Mishkan (The Tabernacle in the Wilderness) and the first and second Temple periods in Jerusalem. The Ketoret was part of the daily offerings and burned twice a day. Today there isn’t a Temple in Jerusalem, but the prayer of remembering the incense is part of the daily traditional morning prayers.

It is You, Hasehm, our God, before Whom our forefathers burned the incense-spices in the time when the Holy Temple stood, as You commanded them through Moses Your prophet, as it is written in Your Torah.

The footnotes of The Complete Artscroll Siddur tell us that Arizal wrote that the careful recitation of this section (the ketoret) helps bring one to repentance. It goes on to say that Hirsch comments that the ketoret symbolizes Israel’s duty to make all its actions pleasing to God.

I wrote the following symbolic meaning of Ketoret in my books Precious Oils ~ A Study of the Fragrances of the Bible (2008) and Ketoret ~ The Holy Incense (2009).


Symbolic Meaning

Sweet Spices

“Joyful” (to be fragrant in all things


“To fall or to drop”;  freedom


“to roar or to groan”; the anointing is Holy and will roar and flow out of our hearts



“fatty or rich” It’s the”sap”  from a broken shrub



“to be pure and white”


The Vignette of The Holy Incense ~ By Cynthia Hillson

© Precious Oils 2008 ~ All Rights Reserved

To be a sweet-smelling sacrifice daily we must be broken and fallen. It is in the times of prayer and worship that the ability to intercede for the freedom of others can flow from our hearts. The joy and sweet fragrance allows us to be pure day and night. It is the holy and acceptable offering of our service to the King.

Stay Tuned for additional thoughts on Ketoret. In Part Three of Ketoret I will expound on the present day health properties of each ingredient. In Part Four and Five, I will expound on the 11 ingredient list of the symbolic meanings, the health properties of the ingredients and the vignette.


Apothecary Cynthia Hillson


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jerry
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 23:27:40

    I would like to to if it is forbidden to burn ketoret incense for praying .I would be burning it in my apartment to pray.


    • preciousoils
      Jan 21, 2011 @ 17:08:28


      I am going to comment on your question as a blog under Ketoret as I am asked this question often. Hopefully I will find time to write it over the next few days. I’ll personally e-mail you when it is posted.


  2. Keturah
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 19:05:24

    Good afternoon Ms. Hillson,

    My question is the same as Jerry’s. May I please be included in the research answer that you send to him?

    Thank you kindly and G-d bless!


    • preciousoils
      Jan 27, 2012 @ 03:06:27

      Yes, Sorry, I’m late addressing Jerry’s question in my WordPress blog, but will do in the next few days. Your comments, as well some calls and e-mails that I have received over the last few months, all share in the curiosity and mystery of the Ha Ketoret, The Holy Incense. Historians, commentators and botanists agree that the plants that we identify with today may not be the actual plants from Biblical times, and from my studies I agree that they aren’t. The best we can do is to blend what we believe are close to the “actual” essences for educational and spiritual use. The 11 ingredients that I blend for Ketoret is something that I reserve for set-apart times reserved to study, pray and reflect upon the goodness of the Lord.


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