Sunday, March 6, 2011

Please Pass the Salt

Parshat Vayikra
Vayikra 1:1 – 5:26
6 Adar Bet 5771 / March 11 – 12, 2011

Please Pass the Salt
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ

ב:יג וְכָל-קָרְבַּן מִנְחָתְךָ, בַּמֶּלַח תִּמְלָח, וְלֹא תַשְׁבִּית מֶלַח בְּרִית אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מֵעַל מִנְחָתֶךָ; עַל כָּל-קָרְבָּנְךָ, תַּקְרִיב מֶלַח.

2:13 And every meal-offering you shall season with salt; neither should you remove the salt of the covenant of your God from your meal-offering; with all thy offerings you shall offer salt.

Do you know the story about the sad ocean waters who complained that they were too far away from G-d? The Midrash teaches that when the upper waters were separated from the lower waters on the second day of creation, the lower waters threw a bit of a hissy fit.

“Why should the upper waters have all the fun, hanging with G-d in heaven? What about us?”

G-d, being a good listener and problem solver, answered, “Hey beautiful lower waters, don’t fret. In the future there will be a group of people called Israelites, and they will be commanded to worship me through sacrifices. In order to cheer you up, I am going to add on a rule to their sacrifices that the salt that comes from you will be sprinkled on each sacrifice that they put on my alter. So through your salt you will make it up here bit by bit.”

This appeased the waters and all was good and happy.

Rabbi Yaacov Kaminentsky points out that when salt water is boiled, it is the water that rises and the salt that stays behind. It is as if we are commanded to put the “rejected” part of the water on the alter. And this is basically what Rabbi Kaminentsky concludes. The salt not only involves the element of water in the sacrificial process, but it also reminds us that every part of this physical world can serve as a prayer to the Divine.

When we remember that the Hebrew word for sacrifice (korban) also means to come close, a beautiful teaching emerges. The one thing that was constant in all the sacrifices was the salt. No matter what the reason for the sacrifice, for peace or guilt, sin or celebration, through the salt the Israelites added a piece of themselves that they felt was unworthy to bring close to the Divine. This is a transformational process. What I might want to reject about myself is ultimately accepted by G-d.

I am pretty sure that heaven is not actually above us in outer space somewhere, and I doubt that the message of the salt story is that we are closer to G-d when we are higher up in the sky. I think the message is that we get closer to the Divine when we allow more of ourselves to come close. This point of awareness should be weaved into our lives in all of our prayers.



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