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AVTINAS , family in charge of mixing the incense in the Temple (Shek. 5:1). Originally the sages denounced the house of Avtinas for refusing to teach the manufacture of the incense (Yoma 3, 11). They sent for skilled perfumers from Alexandria, but when the column of smoke from their incense did not rise in a straight shaft, as that produced by the Avtinas family, the sages reached an agreement with them and doubled their remuneration (Yoma 38a; tj, Yoma 41a; Tosef., Yoma 2:6–7), which was paid from the public treasury (Tosef., Shek. 2:6). Later generations did not agree with the censure. It was explained that the reason for their refusal to disclose their secret formula was that they had a tradition that the Temple would soon be destroyed, and if their formula became known, the incense would be used for idol worship. The aggadah relates that an old man of the Avtinas family gave Johanan b. Nuri a written recipe for the incense, and when Akiva heard this, he said, "We need no longer mention them with censure" (Yoma 38a). They also were praised because they did not permit their wives to perfume themselves, lest they be accused of using the incense as ointment. The Mishnah mentions the upper chamber of the house of Avtinas where the high priest was brought during the days preceding the Day of Atonement. This was where members of the house of Avtinas prepared the incense which was guarded by the priests (Yoma 1:5; Tam. 1:1).


Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19074), 333; Klein, in: Leshonenu, 1 (1928/29), 347; Derenbourg, in: rej, 6 (1883), 49; et, 3 (1951), 149–50.

[Lea Roth]