I was up early this morning preparing soup and fish for Shabbat. I chopped up the vegetables and threw them in to the pot with water and let it boil for about 90 minutes. I put the fish into a pot to boil for about 45 minutes. By 5 am I prepared the cholent, putting the beans and barley into the crock pot. By this time the vegetables we soft and I pureed them into soup. I added a bit of onion powder and garlic powder, but I discovered one problem – no salt. I forgot to buy more when I went shopping last night. I found some soy sauce in the cabinet, poured some in and made a mental note to buy more salt on my way home today. I could use soy sauce in the soup, but I really can’t dip the challah into soy sauce at the Shabbat meal.
This week we begin Sefer VaYikra. The main thrust of this third book of the Torah is to put into use the mishkan whose construction was described for much of the second half of Sefer Shemot. The parsha begins with the offerings that were brought in the Mishkan. In the parsha there is this strange idea of a Covanant of Salt. The Torah says, “You shall salt your every meal offering with salt; you may not discontinue the salt of your G-d’s Covenant from upon your meal offering – on your every offering shall you offer salt.”
What exactly is this Covenant of Salt? The midrash describes that during Creation when a division was made between the “Heavenly Waters” and the “Earthly Waters,” the “Earthly Waters” protested – they wanted to be close to the Divine as were the “Heavenly Waters.” To comfort the Earthly Waters, HaShem forged a covenant with them that they too would have a share in Divine service through the salt that comes from the salt water of the oceans. The salt would be used as part of the sacrificial offerings in the mishkan and in the Beit HaMikdash.
Today, when we no longer have offerings, the Shabbat table is considered a Mikdash Me’at, a replacement for the altar and we use salt with the challah. Salt was used as a preservative before refrigeration. Some Hasidic commentaries say that salt neither spoils nor decays making it a perfect metaphor for the unbreakable bond that HaShem has with the Jewish people.
Salt has another property as well. When salted just right it enhances flavor, it makes the flavor of that food stronger; more tasty. There is another metaphor – the role of parents and teachers and leaders in general is to bring out the strengths of our children, of our students, of the people we are privileged to serve as leaders. Salt brings out the strengths of the food so we enjoy the food to the fullest. Our task as parents or as teachers is to bring out the full potential of our children. Leaders need to bring out the talents of others, to help them reach their full potential.
May we all be a metaphorical salt shaker for others, to help bring out the greatness of our children, our students, and those people who lives we touch every day.
Rabbi Yaakov Traiger