By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 19, 2009

“So, when will we be able to bless on the mugmar?” is a question Bibi Netanyahu has been asked a lot lately. It means, “When will the task be completed?”

Mugmar is a talmudic term that refers to the spices put over the coals at the end of a meal in order to fragrance the room. One is obligated to recite the blessing for spices, “who created varieties of spices”, before partaking of the pleasure of mugmar.

If we have reached the point of blessing on the mugmar, the meal must have already concluded. Hence the expression “levarech al hamugmar”, to bless on the mugmar, meaning to have the gratification of a job completed.

Although mugmar is associated with endings, it has no etymological connection to gamar, the Hebrew word for finish, or “complete. Mugmar derives from the Aramaic gumrin, meaning coals. The fascinating thing about mugmar is that it started off having nothing to do, linguistically, with gamar and yet has become synonymous with it.

Mugmar is an example of a modern Hebrew term whose ancient roots reveal the everyday habits of our ancestors. The role of our postprandial coffees and teas was once filled by a mixture of Middle Eastern spices tossed over simmering coals — sounds good, no?

Last updated: 12:02pm, March 19 2009