Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Vayikra

Why do we add salt to our bread at the commencement of our meals?

In Parshat Vayikra the Torah tells us ‘al kol korbancha takriv melach’ – ‘you must offer salt together with every one of your sacrifices’. Rabenu Bachya brings Tosfot in mesechet Pesachim, Daf 94a, who explains that there are three types of area in this world. We have inhabited places, deserts, and the seas and rivers.

The Torah was given to us in a dessert. Our Temple was built in an inhabited area. And Hashem gave recognition to the waters of the world by instructing us to use salt in our sacrifices because salt is ever present in the waters of the sea.

There is a further extraordinary dimension of salt. Salt is NaCl –  sodium chloride. No one would think about placing sodium or chlorine on our tables. But remarkably the fusion of the two produces salt, a staple element of our diet and one of the great preservatives of food.

The salt that we have on our tables for our meals serves as an ongoing reminder that there are some things that we will never be able to work out. As clever and as advanced as we are within our sophisticated age, nonetheless, there are some things that will always be beyond our understanding. The mystery of salt sends us a reminder of Hashem’s mastery over our world and our ongoing indebtedness to him for the world that he has created – the world that he maintains and food that is on our plates – each and everyday.

Shabbat shalom