Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

A grain of salt

As we prepare for Pesach and purge our houses from hametz, the current Torah portion also deals with the leaven. In Leviticus 2;11 God warns Moses that offerings made with flour cannot include leaven or honey into them. Maimonides writes in Moreh Nevuchim 3, 46 that the heathens were in the habit of offering leavened products in all their meal-offerings and that they mixed in some honey in all of them. Thus both of these agents are forbidden in the Jewish offerings as not to imitate idolatrous worship.

Tur HaAroch brings a more domestic dimension to this prohibition. Anyone who has ever baked knows that the leavened dough is sticky and clings to one’s hands, unlike the simple dough made with just flour and water. Tur HaAroch explains that such a dough may remain on the fingers of the priest, who was scooping it for laying on the altar. Consequently, the required amount of offering might be reduced and the commandment will not be fulfilled.

However, there is an agent that has to be added to the meal offering. The further verse states, “כָל־קָרְבַּ֣ן מִנְחָתְךָ֮ בַּמֶּ֣לַח .”תִּמְלָח֒. Rashi explains that the “salt of the covenant”, mentioned here, comes back to the original creation story when the waters of the ocean were assured by God that they would be offered at the altar in the form of salt. Behind the humble domestic baking in our tradition, there is a remembrance of all things grand – from the separation of hallah to even the simple act of adding a pinch of salt to your dough.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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