"…Do not omit the salt of your G‑d's covenant from your meal-offerings - on all your sacrifices offer salt." (Lev. 2:13)

"Can the plain be eaten without salt?" (Job 6:6) Salt brings out the taste in other foods. Ironically, salt itself is not pleasing to the palate, yet it can make another food tasty.

The reason for this is as follows: Salt is a derivative of water. It is formed by the fiery beating of the sun upon the water. Water is chesed, kindness; salt is gevura, severity. [Hence the sharpness of salt.]

It is an axiom of kabbalistic thought that every physical substance is, in essence, the devolved form of a higher spiritual entity. Thus salt does not only "symbolize" or "represent" the supernal realm of gevura, it is gevura in its physical manifestation.

Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in Eitz Chaim that what is gevura on one level creates chesed for the level immediately beneath it. Thus gevura of chochma becomes chesed of bina.

When it descends to a lower…it becomes chesed

Salt on its own is gevura, meaning bitter, but when it descends to a lower level [i.e. it enters the substance of another food], it becomes chesed and grants taste to that food.

[Note: Salt does not truly enter the substance that it affects; it brings out the natural flavor of the food. When you eat a properly salted food, you are not tasting food with salt; you are tasting a food whose natural flavor has been brought out by salt. For example:] When a person separates the edible from the inedible, he does not "enter" the substance that he is sifting. Rather, the sifting process is achieved by him [from the outside]. Similarly, in the process of making cheese, the rennet does not "enter" the cheese. The taste of the rennet is not present in the cheese. Yet despite its detachment, the rennet separates the various substances and creates the cheese.

Salt is also the embodiment of the root of all severities and therefore has the capacity to sweeten judgments. It is for this reason that salt must always be present on one's table as an antidote to misfortune, for, as is known, severities can only be sweetened by their root. The example given for this is: "The wood for the axe that will chop down the trees of the forest is taken from the forest itself."

In the realm of Torah, "salt" is Kabbala, the inner dimension of Torah.

Salt is Kabbala

Unlike the legal aspects of Torah, which can be completely understood and "tasted", Kabbala is hidden and concealed. It cannot be truly "tasted" and assimilated by the human mind. It remains detached [like salt and rennet which achieve their function without truly entering the item].There is, however, an advantage to both aspects of Torah. The advantage of the legal aspects is that man is able to fully digest divine wisdom as it is manifest on the physical plane in the form of the laws of the Torah. This level is called chochma, wisdom, where the human mind can become one with divine wisdom.

Kabbala, which speaks of supernal realities, is beyond chochma. This is its advantage-and its disadvantage. Because it is beyond chochma, it cannot be fully absorbed by the human mind. Conversely, because of its transcendence its effect on its student is much more powerful.

Only through study of the law that one can truly grasp and absorb Divine wisdom

Without knowledge of the law, one does not gain a taste of chochma - G‑d's wisdom. For it is only through study of the law that one can truly grasp and absorb Divine wisdom. With Kabbala or Midrash, one does not truly digest the essence of the thought.

On the other hand, although in studying Kabbala one perceives only a ray of the actual ideas, nevertheless, this ray stems from the inner dimension, the soul of Torah and has the capacity to affect the spiritual perspective of its student.

From this we learn that the Torah law is the bread and meat. Midrash and Kabbala are the salt, which grants taste to the food, neutralizing negativity.

The above lesson is illustrated by the Talmudic parable (Shabbat 31a):

A man said to his agent, "Bring a kor of wheat to the attic for me". [A kor is the volume of 4,320 eggs, estimated to be between 248 and 430 liters.] He went and brought it up for him. Afterwards, the man said to his agent, "Did you mix into the wheat a kav of chumton [soil with a high salt content used to preserve grain]?" [A kav is the volume of 24 eggs.] "No," said the agent. The man said, "It would have been better if you had never brought the wheat."

The salt preserves the wheat and ensures that it does not spoil.

Without the salt, the wheat can be useless…

Without the salt, the wheat can be useless. Similarly, Torah study without fear of heaven, which is brought on by study of Kabbala, is susceptible to corruption.

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "wheat", chitah, is 22, alluding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, with which the Torah is written. Additionally, the giving of the Torah is celebrated on Shavuot with the offering of the first produce of the wheat harvest (Ex. 34:22).

Hence the necessity for the study of both dimensions of Torah: the hidden and the revealed. (Likutei Torah, Biur "lo tashbit")

Salt is a preservative…

Salt is a preservative. Thus G‑d's everlasting covenant with Aaron is associated with salt ["…an everlasting covenant of salt", as in Numbers 18:19]. As Rashi explains, "G‑d made a covenant with Aaron with something that is 'healthy', enduring, and which preserves others…salt, which never spoils."

Severity Sweetened at Its Root

The Arizal points out the connection between salt and the priestly blessing:

The Hebrew word for salt, melach, is numerically equivalent to 78, which is 3 x 26 [3 x the divine name Havayah, which equals 26]. Similarly, the priestly blessing contains the name Havayah three times: "May Havayah bless you…May Havayah shine His countenance…May Havayah raise his countenance…." These blessings keep the world in existence and are therefore compared to salt, which sustains other items.

Another characteristic of salt is that it cuts down and destroys negative things. It has this capacity because it stems from gevura of holiness. Thus the divine name used in the verse regarding the covenant of salt is elokim ["brit elokecha"], which is the divine name that embodies gevura. It can therefore transform and "sweeten" the negative forms of severity, since severity is sweetened by its root.

The waters of Jericho were therefore cured by the prophet Elisha through salt. And when negativity is cured or sweetened through its source, the change is internal and hence much more powerful.

Salt also has healing powers. Thus, the Tikunei Zohar (54a) points out that one of the permutations of the word melach is chalam, which connotes strengthening and healing. (see Job 39:4 and Isaiah 38:16)

The sacrifice, therefore, had to include salt. For in the spiritual "sacrifice", man's approach toward G‑d, all of the properties of salt must be present. His approach must have the staying power of salt, i.e. it cannot be a transient affair. Furthermore, it must involve and transform the animal soul, not only overwhelming and silencing it, but actually causing the animal soul to experience an internal change, i.e. the sweetening of the severities through their root.

Adapted by Yosef Marcus from Sefer Hasichot 5749 pp. 337-8

Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.