Hold the Honey, Pass the Salt:
We all love salt. Who doesn’t? In certain countries, going back centuries, treaties were signed and covenants were entered into by breaking bread dipped into salt. Even in our times, in Russia and other countries, bread and salt are offered as gifts to guests. Salt is ubiquitous. Ober why? The experts tell us that salt adds flavor. According to some, salt does not add, but instead brings out the natural flavors of the item being salted. How all that works, ver veyst!? Ober one thing is zicher: salt can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and seemingly, even worse. What could be worse?
According to the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, consuming too much sodium (contained in salt) can increase the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart (cardiovascular) disease. These risks increase with age. Consuming too much sodium can increase the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart (cardiovascular) disease. These risks increase with age. Reducing sodium in the diet can reduce the risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease. And what is the potential health impact of reducing sodium (salt) consumption, you ask? We’d save money and we would save lives. One estimate suggested that if the U.S. population dropped its sodium intake to 1,500 mg/day, overall blood pressure could decrease by 25.6%, with an estimated $26.2 billion in health care savings. Another estimate projected that achieving this goal would reduce CVD deaths by anywhere from 500,000 to nearly 1.2 million over the next decade.
Moreover, we find several negative connotations to salt in Tanach (Scriptures). Limoshol (by way of example), we read in Shoiftim (Judges 45:9) how Avimelech waged war against Shechem (the city of), and that following its capture, destruction, and killing of the enemy, he sowed the city with salt thereby rendering it unusable. Says the Ralbag: Avimelech salted the city knowing that such salting would render its fields and vineyards unusable. We know that salt can kill as it did to Loit’s wife. The bottom line: salt can be used and abused. It can wreak havoc.
Ober the RBSO seemingly loves salt -honey not so much as we will soon find out- and so taka we will learn in this week’s parsha of Vayikra as we review the parsha for the ninth time. Yearly, as we approach Sefer Vayikra (the book of Leviticus) which dedicates two -the first two- entire parshas to korbonos (sacrifices), a number of readers wonder whether or not the Oisvorfer will be able to inject a shtikel life, humor and plain oisvorfer talk into this otherwise boring topic of sacrifices, one that we, in our times, can barely relate to. What are korbonis (spelled in this posting with either an “i” or an “o”)?
Let’s start here: Korbonis were brought and offered during Temple times. Sadly, we have not seen a temple in several thousand years. The first was destroyed because the Yiddin sinned and violated a number of cardinal laws the RBSO gave them. And the Second was destroyed over ‘sinas chinam’ (petty jealousies and bad mouthing). The bottom line: Yiddin don’t get along. They never did. Efsher the Moshiach can fix all that; a tall order for sure, and maybe that’s why he’s afraid to announce himself. They bad mouth one another whenever possible. Ober, during Temple times -as an aside, the first Beis Hamikdash stood for 414 years and the second for 656 years- people offered sacrifices to the RBSO as a means of getting closer to the RBSO, mostly after sinning, but not always. It has been 1,949 years since we lost the second.
And the third? Shoin, we have to wait -as mentioned above- until the arrival of the Moshiach. When is that? Some say in the year 6000 (we are at 5779), and others suggest, we could hasten his arrival were the Yiddin -all of them- to either observe two consecutive shabosim, or were the Yiddin to suddenly all get along and play nice. Good luck with any of those conditions. The bottom line: he’s not coming! Not until the RBSO sends him. Veyter. In any event, when the Beis Hamikdash was operative, Yiddin were able to bring korbonis (sacrifices). They brought them mostly after they sinned but there were a few other occasions. Will korbonis be offered when the third Temple is built or -according to some- falls out of the sky fully built and ready to function? That topic, hotly debated, was previously -more than once- covered by the Oisvorfer a number of years back -find it in achieves over at www.oisvorfer.com.
Bikitzur (in short), our parsha describes five different categories of sacrifices. They are: the Oilo (the burnt-offering); the Mincha (the meal-offering); the Shilomim (the peace-offering); the ever popular Chatos (sin-offering); and the Oshom (the guilt offering, mistama, second most popular). My focus this week is the Mincha offering. Says the heylige Toirah: someone who is unable to offer either an animal or a bird offering because his means are limited (he has very little in money, or assets to spend), is granted the opportunity to bring a flour offering instead. A flour offering is known as the “Mincha.” Unlike other sacrifices which consisted of an animal, or a bird, the Mincha offering is comprised of three ingredients: fine flour, oil, and frankincense. One more thing. There are five varieties of the Mincha offering, all however have the same ingredients. And the differences? The Mincha Soiles is but a mixture of the ingredients, while the other four Mincha offerings are differentiated by where and how they are prepared. Those are made either on the griddle, in a pan, baked in the oven into Challahs, or oven baked into wafers. Got all that? Veyter!
And while the Mincha was offered by those without the means to offer an animal or even a bird, those who offered the Mincha were not forgotten or even frowned upon by the RBSO. Frakert (the opposite is true)! Says Rashi quoting the heylige Gemora (Minochis 104b), azoy: says Rebbe Yitzchok, given that the Mincha offering was brought by a person with no means -the poorest of the poor- the RBSO values the effort and says azoy “I consider it for him as if he offered me his soul.” Nice! Seemingly, it’s the thought that counts and not necessarily the size of one’s gift; another life lesson. And with that givaldige introduction let’s learn two pisukim and find out the role of honey and salt. Says the heylige Toirah (Vayikra 2:11 and 2:13) azoy:
|11. No meal offering that you sacrifice to the Lord shall be made [out of anything] leavened. For you shall not cause to [go up in] smoke any leavening or any honey, [as] a fire offering to the Lord;||יאכָּל־הַמִּנְחָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר תַּקְרִ֨יבוּ֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֔ה לֹ֥א תֵֽעָשֶׂ֖ה חָמֵ֑ץ כִּ֤י כָל־שְׂאֹר֙ וְכָל־דְּבַ֔שׁ לֹֽא־תַקְטִ֧ירוּ מִמֶּ֛נּוּ אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַֽיהֹוָֽה:|
|13. And you shall salt every one of your meal offering sacrifices with salt, and you shall not omit the salt of your G-d’s covenant from [being placed] upon your meal offerings. You shall offer salt on all your sacrifices.||יגוְכָל־קָרְבַּ֣ן מִנְחָֽתְךָ֘ בַּמֶּ֣לַח תִּמְלָח֒ וְלֹ֣א תַשְׁבִּ֗ית מֶ֚לַח בְּרִ֣ית אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ מֵעַ֖ל מִנְחָתֶ֑ךָ עַ֥ל כָּל־קָרְבָּֽנְךָ֖ תַּקְרִ֥יב מֶֽלַח:|
Let’s look at these pisukim carefully and count how many times salt is mentioned in this one verse. The answer is three. And when salt is thrice mentioned in one posik, you can only imagine how many rabbis and sages pontificated over the significance of these mentions. Actually, the answer is four, ober the sentence contains three different instructions. The posik could have told us that one must place salt on all offerings, period end discussion. Ober it does not. Instead, we seem to have three different instructions regarding the salting of the Mincha and all other offerings. Let’s find out what a few had to say.
Ober before we do, what about honey? Why was honey verboten? In posik 11 above, we were instructed not to offer honey on the Mincha offering. Ober, isn’t honey sweet? Who doesn’t enjoy a drizzle of honey in or on kimat everything? Why was honey forbidden as an ingredient in the Mincha offering? Says the Rambam (Maimonides) azoy: it was common practice for idolaters to offer sacrifices to their various gods, and they seemingly included leaven and honey on their offerings. Honey and other sweeteners were used. Shoin: in order to distinguish the Yiddin from the goyim, and not to confuse sacrifices offered to their gods with korbonis being offered to the RBSO, the offerings needed to be different. In other words: the laws of salting and honey create distance between the Yiddin and goyim. Salt it is.
Moreover, the ban on honey which makes things sweet, extends also to other sacrifices. As well, to the incense offering we wrote of several weeks ago. Nu, since most of us skip over the korbonis part of the daily davening -guilty as charged- let us quickly review a sentence or two from the instructions given regarding the preparation of the incense offering. The rabbis taught: ……”if he places fruit-honey into it (the mixture), he invalidated the entire batch. That is actually good news. Why is that? On the other hand, were the person making the incense prep to leave out any one ingredient, he is liable to the death penalty. Mamish? Says Bar Kappara, azoy: Had one put a kortov (a specific easement, a minimal amount) of fruit honey into the mix (for the incense offering), no person could have resisted its scent. The sweet scent of honey is seemingly intoxicating. Given its power, why was honey then one of the ingredients of the kitoires (incense)? The heylige Toirah teaches us in this week’s parsha “for any leaven, or any fruit honey, you are not to burn them as a sacrifice offering to Hashem. The bottom line: though we Yiddin love honey and offer it on out tables from Rosh Hashono until after Sukkis, as honey -amongst other properties- symbolizes our desire to have a sweet new year, and though honey has transformative properties – it can -at times and under certain conditions- even make non-kosher mixes, kosher. For reasons the RBSO did not specifically tell us, but others did proffer on, honey, specifically, fruit honey is forbidden on any offering.
Ober what about salt? Why does the RBSO insist that salt davka be included? And not just on the Mincha offering (all five varieties), but also on all other sacrifices brought to the RBSO? Says the Rambam, it’s also quite simple: salt was one ingredients the goyim did NOT offer to their gods. Interestingly enough, while the RambaN kimat always argues with the Rambam, in this case, they both agree. As an aside, we are taught that the idolaters did add honey to their offerings.
Says the Sefer Hachinuch: ershtens (firstly), everything goes better with salt. Salt adds or brings out flavor. We add salt to the korban to add flavor, and to make us feel good about the korban we are offering to the RBSO. Would you ever consider offering dinner or any other meal without proper flavoring? Avada not, and avada and avada not when offering one to the RBSO. Says Rabaynu Bichaya: the reason we add salt to our offerings is because it would not be respectful for ran offering to the RBSO to be offered bland and without salt. The heylige Toirah, by commanding us to add salt, is teaching us how to properly give honor to the Heavenly King. It’s similar in manner to the respect one would give to a mortal king. Though the RBSO does of course not eat any part of the korban (or anything else), offering a seasoned korban is vital. Secondly, the addition of salt to korbonis is a shtikel symbolic. Just as salt is used as a preservative, by salting our offerings, we are hopeful that -though we have sinned- the RBSO will also preserve us and let us live good lives. Let’s recall that most korbonis were brought by sinners.
Says Iyov 6:6 (Job), azoy: “can that which is bland be eaten without salt…”? As well, there are other positive references to salt sprinkled in throughout Scripture. Seemingly, salt is not just another spice which adds or allows flavor to come out. And salt is more than a preservative for meat, fish, vegetables and more- extending their shelf life when properly salted. It appears that salt is perhaps the most basic of spices, essential for flavoring and much more.
Our rabbis -mistama based on the words in this week’s parsha regarding the role of salt in korbonis, teach us that we must always place salt on our tables and dip bread into salt before eating such bread or challah. They explain this rule as follows: in the absence of a Temple -as discussed above- our own tables act like altars. Just as sacrifices were meaningful to the giver and always included salt, are meals are to b similar meaningful and therefore should always include salt -avada in moderation. And let’s not forget: asking your eishes chayil with whom you have not been speaking to for days as a result of some major, or even minor spat, is a great ice-breaker. Gishmak.
The bottom line: given that the system of sacrifices was designed in order to arouse favor and to appease the RBSO -typically after you yourself may have been aroused when you shouldn’t have, chazerim that you are, if you chap, and since by doing that, you may have (surely) broken the covenant – the “bris” which translated literally does mean covenant, by salting your korbonis you are -when bringing sacrifices with salt added- atoning for your abuse of your own bris, if you chap, and are also observing “the salt of the covenant of your G-d.”
Another bottom line on the Oisvorfer’s mind this week: People are like salt. They have good and bad qualities. When however, their bad attributes overtake the good, when they spew forth only hate aroused by their own insecurities and or other demons which posses them, when they seek to wreak only havoc instead of peace wherever they should find themselves, when they become overly abrasive like the taste of plain salt out of its shaker, they should be tolerated -if at all- in small doses. Better advice would be to avoid them altogether; such persons will certainly have a deleterious effect on your life. Mamish gishmak!
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv