Likkutei Torah-Parshas Vayikra-The mystical meaning of salt and its connection to the study of Kabbalah

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Parshas Vayikra

Velo Sashbis Melach

[Likkutei Torah p. 6]

This Mamar of Lo Sashbis Melach is one of the classic Mamarim of Likkutei Torah. It contains many fundamental principles and explanations on the power of Torah learning and the difference between the two forms of Torah, the revealed Torah and the inner Torah, called Penimiyus Hatorah. Parshas Vayikra mentions the commandment to place salt on every offering brought to the Mizbeiach, whether it be a meat offering or a meal offering of flour. The Torah forbids placing bland meat or flour on the altar. Why? What is the significance of salted meat or salted flour that makes it so important to Hashem? To explain this matter, the Alter Rebbe analyzes the power of salt and its corresponding root in the Sefiros. Every creation that exists contains some root and source within the Sefiros, and this root and source affects the traits and characteristics of the creation. Salt is seen to have a paradox of powers. On the one hand it is sharp and spicy, which is a tendency that derives from Gevurah, the severities of G-d. On the other hand it has the ability to bring out taste and sweeten all foods, which is a characteristic of Chesed, the attribute of G-d’s kindness. Therefore, which Sefirah does salt derive from and who are its spiritual parents? This leads to an interesting analysis of the Sefirah of Chochmah and its ability to sweeten and refine other matters. The above discussion on salt in the Mamar is used as a mere parable and introductory phase to explain the difference between the two forms of Torah, the revealed Torah and the concealed Torah, Toras Hanigleh and Toras Hanistar. Understanding the power of salt assists in the understanding of the need for learning the inner dimensions of the Torah and how this sweetens one’s learning of the Torah’s revealed aspects.


Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      What is the significance of having salt placed on all the sacrifices?

2.      How does salt have the ability to sweeten foods if it has a bad taste itself?

3.      Which Sefirah is responsible for Avodas Habeirurim, the refining of good from evil?

4.      What is the relationship between the inner and revealed parts of the Torah, and what significance does each one have?


The question:

The verse states, Vechol Karban Minchascha Bamelach Timlach, VeLo Sashbis Melach Bris Elokecha Meial Minchascha Al Kol Korbancha, “All of your sacrifices are to be salted. Do not cede from placing salt on all of your sacrifices.” The salt had to be placed on every form of sacrifice, whether it was a meat offering or a meal offering of flour. What significance does salt contain that Hashem required it to be placed on every sacrifice?

The power of salt:

Salt contains the ability and power to give taste to foods such as meat, as the verse states, “Will you eat bland [meat] without salt?” Without salt, the meat is bland and does not have any taste, but when one salts the meat, the meat then contains taste as the salt sweetens the meat. It is interesting to note that although salt sweetens meat, it does not have a [good] taste in itself, [as salt is bitter and sharp, and is thus not edible as its own substance]. To understand this paradox, we must first introduce the spiritual root of salt above in the Sefiros.


The spiritual parents of salt-The root of salt in the Sefiros:

The spiritual root of salt is within the Gevuros of Aba, [which is the severity and aspect of the Sefirah of Chochmah, the highest Sefirah of the world of Atzilus]. [The concept of Gevuros of Aba is itself contradictory, as Aba, which is Chochmah, is a form of Chesed, kindness, while Gevurah is the opposite of kindness, as it represents severity and judgment. Therefore, how can Gevuros exist within Chochmah, and how can salt be Gevurah if it comes from Chochmah? Regarding the Sefirah of Chochmah, the explanation is that in truth this concept of Gevurah of Chochmah is not true judgment and severity, but is a form of judgment and severity that leads towards kindness. The severity is a mere medium for the kindness to become a reality and come to fruition. Regarding salt, the Alter Rebbe explains as follows:] Salt derives from water, as salt is created through the evaporation process of water. Through the heat of the sun beaming onto water, the water evaporates and condenses until it forms salt. Water is the aspect of Chesed of Chochmah, and the evaporated water, which turns to salt, is the Gevurah of Chochmah, and it is for this reason that salt is sharp and bitter.

The severities of Chochmah turn into the Kindness of Bina:

It is explained in the Sefer Eitz Chaim of the Arizal that the Gevuros of Chochmah become the Chesed of Bina/Ima. This means as follows: When the Gevurah of Chochmah remains within Chochmah, it truly contains a connotation of severity and judgment, hence being bitter and inedible like salt. However, when Chochmah descends into Bina, it is specifically the Gevuros of Chochmah that transform and serve as the aspect of kindness found in Bina. [Although Bina is rooted within Gevurah, severities, and that is its essential character as opposed to Chochmah, nevertheless it is sweetened through the descent of the Gevurah of Chochmah into Bina. It is specifically the Gevurah of Chochmah that has the ability to sweeten Bina.] This is because all aspects of kindness that we see in the world derive from Chochmah, and every aspect of Chochmah contains an essential aspect of kindness, including the Gevuros of Chochmah.

Salt sweetens meat, just like Chochmah adds Chesed to Bina:

We can now understand the characteristic of salt that sweetens foods but at the same time is bitter in essence. All the good tastes of foods derive from the Chochmah of Atzilus. Thus salt, which also derives from Chochmah, has the ability to give a good taste to foods, just like Chochmah itself. Nevertheless, the salt itself remains bitter, as salt comes from the aspect of severities that is found in Chochmah. This is especially true regarding placing salt on meat. Meat derives from Bina, as meat is red and all the red aspects of an animal and its child derive from the mother, as stated in the Talmud: “The red from the mother, from which comes the meat.” The meat is thus sweetened by the salt, just as Bina is sweetened by the Gevuros of Chochmah.

Chochmah and Salt-The power to refine:

We have heard many times of the concept of Avodas Habeirurim, the service of refining the world from evil. Evil is mixed within all aspects of the spiritual worlds from Beriyah and down, ending in this physical world in which the mixture of evil is so coarse and abundant that the majority of its occurrences are ones of severity and judgment that lead to tragic events.[1] The Sefirah that contains the power and ability to refine the evil from the worlds is the Sefirah of Chochmah. Chochmah refines everything and separates between the bad and good that it contains. It should be noted that Chochmah does not refine the item by penetrating it and blending within the item its positive aspects, but rather through serving as an external force that simply brings out the good found within the item itself. This is similar to one who refines the pebbles from grain and makes the grain edible. The person did not add anything of his own to the grain, but simply removed its negative aspects. This can be similarly seen in the cheese-making process. The rennet that is used as a catalyst to curdle milk into cheese does not invest any of its own taste into the milk, but simply serves as an external force to separate between the solids of the milk and its whey, thus forming it into cheese. The cheese itself however, as well as the whey, does not contain any taste of the rennet, but nevertheless the rennet brings about this separation of the solid and liquid compounds contained within the milk and changes it for the better. The Sefirah of Chochmah works in a similar fashion, in which it does not contribute any of its own qualities to the refined item but simply separates its negative tendencies, hence revealing only its positive aspects. This is the same way that salt works with meat. The salt removes the blood from the meat, refining the waste from the food, as it derives from Chochmah, which contains the power of refinement. Thus, although it itself does not contain any taste, nevertheless it affects the taste within the meat, just as the catalyst creates the cheese.

Having salt at the table:

Whenever one eats a meal [with bread], he is supposed to have salt on the table.[2] [The custom is to place salt on the table because a table is compared to a Mizbeiach, while the eating of the meal is similar to a Karban, and regarding a Karban the verse states that on every sacrifice salt is to be placed.[3] The Poskim[4] write that the salt is not to be removed from the table until after Birchas Hamazon.] The reason for this is because salt protects the person from punishment. [As when the Jewish people sit at the table and delay until everyone settles after washing, the Satan prosecutes against them. The salt thus serves as a protection against this prosecution.[5]] Salt contains this ability because it is the root of all the Gevuros, as it is found in Chochmah, which is the highest Sefirah, and it thus has ability to sweeten all severities, as the Gevuros can only be sweetened through their root. 

The relationship between the revealed and concealed levels of the Torah:

Regarding food, we see that the foods that serve as a source of sustenance in their plain state, without salt, remain bland. Similarly, the revealed and concealed aspects of the Torah share this relationship. The revealed aspect of the Torah, which is its commandments and laws, is the main content of Torah learning that gives us the knowledge of how to perform the Mitzvos in a proper way and live in accordance to Hashem’s will. Furthermore, it is the only part of the Torah that is clearly grasped and comprehended by the human mind, as this part of the Torah discusses the physical reality that we live in. By learning and understanding the revealed Torah, one completely grasps the Or Ein Sof that is invested within the Torah. This is in contrast to the inner dimension of the Torah, which does not offer knowledge of the details of Hashem’s will and also cannot be comprehended on a clear and understandable level due to its occupation with the upper spheres and worlds that are beyond our reality and is thus beyond the grasp of human intellect and comprehension. Nevertheless, in truth this inability of comprehension is because the inner dimensions of Torah are rooted higher than the revealed aspects of the Torah and thus cannot descend to the level of limited human intellect. It is for this reason that the inner dimensions of Torah contribute to the person the love and fear of G-d and reveal within him his dedication to Hashem. Thus, while the revealed aspects of the Torah teach us the details of how to perform G-d’s commandments, the inner aspect of the Torah is what motivates the person to do so. The inner dimension of the Torah is the salt that sweetens the revealed laws and gives them its spiritual taste of feeling closeness to G-d. This is why the entire Torah was given in accordance with Kabbalah, and that all of the direction of the worlds is in accordance with the inner aspect of the Torah.

The blending contributions given by the revealed and inner dimensions of the Torah:

Learning the inner aspects of the Torah connects the inner aspects of one’s soul with Hashem and contributes to the person the proper intent and fear of Heaven needed for learning the revealed aspects, just as the salt brings out the taste of the meat. On this, the Sages state: “Whoever has studied Halachos but has not studied Midrash [which is the concealed aspects of Torah] has not tasted the taste of fear of Heaven.” As it is, the learning of the inner dimension of Torah lends the holiness and spirituality found within the revealed laws that are studied; hence one who studies the laws without studying the inner dimensions of the Torah is like one who eats bland meat without salt. On the other hand, the Sages also state, “Whoever has studied Midrash [which is the concealed aspects of Torah] but has not studied Halachos has not tasted the taste of wisdom.”As the wisdom of G-d’s will can only be fathomed within the revealed dimension of the Torah, hence one who only studies the Midrash and not the revealed laws is like one who eats plain salt without meat.



Lessons of the Mamar:

·         Contemplate how every aspect of this world contains a root and source in the Sefiros of Hashem. Salt has the ability to sweeten the severities. Make sure to place salt on your table when you eat a meal and do not remove it until after Birchas Hamazon.

·         Establish for yourself a set time for learning both the revealed and inner dimensions of the Torah. Focus on gaining knowledge of the details of how to perform G-d’s commandments in accordance with His will and at the same time be penetrated with a motivation of love and fear of G-d and the knowledge that this learning connects your inner soul with Hashem.




[1] Tanya chapter 6

[2] 167/8; Rama 167/5

[3] Admur ibid; Rama ibid

[4] Kitzur Shlah, brought in Kaf Hachaim 180/3

[5] Admur ibid; Rama ibid

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