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ONYCHA (Heb. שחֵלֶת), aromatic substance. According to the ancient translations, the sheḥelet included among the ingredients of the incense (Ex. 30:34) is onycha. An early baraita dating from Temple times has צִפּׁרֶן ("fingernail") instead of sheḥelet (Ker. 6a). The reference to the shell of a mollusk, the Unguis odoratus (shaped like a fingernail and hence its name) which is found in the Indian Ocean, and, like several other mollusks found in the Red Sea, emits a pleasant smell when burned. Ben Sira 24:15 also includes onycha (in Greek ὄνυξ as one of the ingredients of the incense in the Temple, while in Ugaritic writings it is mentioned among several spices and foods.


Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 313; H.L. Ginsberg, Kitvei Ugarit (1936), 103; H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), 223f., no. 209.

[Jehuda Feliks]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.