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    With a grain of salt – Vayikra

    salt shakerLike many other people I have been advised by my doctor to reduce the amount of salt I take with my food.

    The decision of whether to do what the doctor advises has to do with salt as a metaphor. Because my doctor is “the salt of the earth”, I dare not take his advice cum grano salis, “with a grain of salt”. So when I see fellow-diners tipping large quantities of salt onto their food, I have that self-satisfied feeling that tells me I am doing the right thing.

    I have the same feeling when I am with chain smokers. They probably can’t or won’t break their addiction, but I feel good that I am able to resist the temptation, but actually smoking never appealed to me and when anyone offered me a cigarette I was easy to say “No thank you”.

    Now, after that introduction, you will wonder what started me on salt this week. The answer is the Torah reading, which says in regard to the sanctuary, “You shall flavour every offering with salt” (Lev. 2:13). Salt, especially in Eretz Yisrael, is a plentiful and essential condiment and was known to human beings from a very early period.

    The Torah ascribes special status to the salt on the sacrifices by calling it b’rit melach – “the covenant of salt” (a phrase which also appears in Num. 18:19 and II Chron. 13:5). The sages say that just as salt preserves the food, so the people of Israel must preserve the Divine covenant.

    The link between salt and the sacrifices could be that the offerings are the symbol that God preserves and maintains His generosity to human beings.

    The practice of putting salt on one’s bread is a reminder of the Temple procedure and underlines the tradition that one’s home is mikdash me’at, “a minor sanctuary”, and the meal table is like the altar.

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