I recently enjoyed journalist John McQuaid’s book Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat. (To be clear: I enjoyed reading the book, not eating it.) McQuaid says that “Flavor, which… is more of what people experience when they eat, combines taste with the sense of smell. Because when you chew, aromas are liberated from the food which waft up to your nose. The brain then combines the sensation, along with other things – your memories, feelings, the way things look – into the experience of flavor.” We all have our favorite foods and our favorite food stories: one of the questions we asked at our Pesach table was for each person to share their favorite Pesach food.
Salt is one of the ingredients that changed how the world eats. We all have experienced how too much salt tastes terrible, but how the right amount brings out the flavor of the food we’re eating like nothing else can. I thought of salt as I looked to the world of Chabad – inspired by the events of this past Shabbat in Poway – for insight into this week’s Torah reading of Acharei Mot.
Chabad’s Rabbi Naftali Silberberg writes that this week’s parasha teaches that blood cannot be eaten; we must therefore use salt to draw blood out to make meat kosher. We all need to add a little salt to our lives, if only to remind ourselves of the need to move away from the needs of the body and concentrate on the needs of the soul. All that we do, every interaction we have with others is an opportunity to be holy — or to be drawn back into the physical, animal side of our natures. We can be more “bloody,” or we can be more “bloodless.”
It struck me that Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, in the midst of horror in Poway, turned a literally bloody moment into one of bloodlessness, into a holy moment as he ran to take the children of his congregation to safety. Our students learned of several such stories during their Yom HaShoah commemorations this week and will hear more as we commemorate Yom HaZikaron next week. RabbiSilberberg reminds us that our covenant with Hashem is referred to earlier inSefer Vayikra as a berit melach, a “salt covenant.”
Everyone’s life has — and must have — a degree of salt. May Hashem grant us the strength to see those moments for what they are and raise ourselves closer to God.