When we speak about someone who is a great person or a worthy person, we say that he is the “salt of the earth.” In ancient times, salt was very valuable because of its preserving power. Some civilizations even used salt as a form of currency.
In the Jewish religion, salt was even more important. The salt that we have on our table teaches us three basic tenets of our religion: the concept of t’shuva (repentance), the concept of tzedakah (charity, and the value of divrei Torah (words of Torah).
The thirteenth passuk of the second chapter of Leviticus ends: “al kol karboncha takriv melach.” (With all of your offerings you should bring salt.) The Talmudic tractate of Menachut learns from this passuk that in the same way that you always must have salt with your offerings to God, you must also have salt on your table when you eat. The family table is akin to the mizbayach (altar) of the Temple, according to the Gemara, because even as salt with the offerings serves as a form of admission of guilt and remorse, so too the salt on the family table performs the same purpose.
The salt on our tables also teaches us the concept of tzedakah. In the Biblical time of Lot, the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, because they had no pity on the poor among them who sought charity. Lot accidentally tipped off the other people in Sodom to the fact that he had visitors (Avraham and the angels) in his house when he went out to borrow some salt from a neighbor. Now the salt on our tables reminds us of the destruction that was rained on these two cities – measure for measure – in the form of salt and sulfur. When a poor person comes to us, we offer him from the food and salt of our table.
Lastly, the salt serves to remind us to recite divrei torah at the table. We learn that even as it’s impossible for the world to exist without words of Torah, the Mishneh says, “Pos b’melach tochel ” (bread and salt you should eat). Do we need to be commanded what to eat, like the stickers by the car’s gas tank reading “Unleaded Fuel Only”? Not exactly. However, it does remind us that when we eat, we should have words of Torah, because the recitation of His words elevates us to the status of eating at His table.
From the Torah to Your Table
In referring to the lowly meal offering (mincha), the Torah refers to the one bringing such a sacrifice with the Hebrew word, Nefesh (soul). The Midrash HaGadol holds that “God values the poor man’s gift of flour as much as if he had offered his very life. The Almighty proclaims, “This measure of flour may have been the sole provision which he had in the house. He could have used it to sustain his family, yet he offered it as a gift to Me, leaving his house bare of food. His offering, therefore, is considered as precious to Me as if he had sacrificed his very life.”
Discuss and compare the sacrifices of the poor with the “sacrifices” of those with means.
A final thought:
“Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.” (Shana Alexander)
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March 2011/Adar I-II 5771
Candle Lighting Times and Torah Portions
Friday, March 4
Light candles at 5:32 p.m.
Saturday, March 5
Torah Portion: Pekudei (Exodus 38:21-40:38)
Friday, March 11
Light candles at 5:38 p.m.
Saturday, March 12
Torah Portion: Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)
Friday, March 18
Light candles at 6:43 p.m.
Saturday, March 19
Torah Portion: Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)
Friday, March 25
Light candles at 6:48 p.m.
Saturday, March 26
Torah Portion: Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)