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A Grain Of Salt

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Topic: Altar, Table as a Substitute

Sandra Block from Scottsdale, AZ wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I would like to know: Why do we put salt on bread? Is it on all types of bread or just challah? Do we say the hamotzi blessing before eating all types of bread or only over challah?

Thank you!

Nancy Gomes from Toronto, Ont wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Every Kabalat Shabbat (Friday night) after hamotzi, we put salt on our challa and still don't know how this tradition came to be?

Roi Levine Garshoni wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Shalom. The Torah speaks of salt on the sacrifices. My grandfather, may he rest in peace, would always put salt on the bread in the prayer of hamotzi. What significance is salt to a Jew? Is this the reason Lot's wife was turned to salt?

Toda Raba

Dear Sandra Block, Nancy Gomes and Roi Levine Garshoni,

There are two reasons for dipping bread in salt after saying the blessing on the bread.

One is that people sometimes put salt on their bread to give it flavor. This is a matter of taste, not Jewish law. So, if you are going to dip your bread in salt throughout the meal, you should certainly dip the first piece in salt. This is a way of honoring the blessing, by making sure that the piece of bread you eat after saying the blessing is delicious. This follows the Torah idea that physical pleasure can be used as a vehicle in the service of Hashem.

Another reason we dip our bread in salt is that when we had the Temple and brought offerings on the altar, salt accompanied every offering. The significance of salt is that it completes other foods and enhances their taste. Also, it preserves things which would otherwise spoil.

For these two reasons, the Torah tells us to salt our offerings: To offer a completed offering, and to symbolize that our offerings help preserve our relationship with Hashem.

We no longer have the altar to atone for us. Now, our table is our "altar," because we share our food with the needy, and this atones for us. Since our table is like the altar, we try to keep salt on the table all the time. And we dip our bread in salt the entire week, not only Friday night.Lot's wife turned into salt because she was stingy towards the needy. Lot himself was a generous person, always inviting guests. His wife resented guests and discouraged them. One trick of hers was not to provide salt, a small thing which makes a big difference to guests. Therefore, she was punished by means of salt, measure for measure.

And to answer Sandra's last question, we say hamotzi on all types of bread, not only on challah.

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