Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Korach) Sea Salt!

The Torah relates that on the second day of creation G-d divided the world’s waters suspending half in the heavens and leaving the rest on earth.

The angels representing the lower waters complained to the Almighty, “Why should we remain on earth and lose an intimate connection with G-d while the upper waters bask in the spiritual domain of the Heavens?”

G-d appeased the lower waters with a treaty that they would be present on G-d’s Altar in the Temple through the water libations poured on the Altar and through salt - a derivative of seawater – that would be placed on each sacrifice.

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. wonders why was salt placed on the sacrifices and not water itself?

He explains that in the Heavens fire and water coexist without conflict. This symbolizes that although the waters were split which introduced divisiveness into creation, yet, the split waters when they entered the fiery Heavens created an atmosphere of Shalom – peace with each other.

There was always fire on the Altar in the Temple and had water been poured on the fire it would conflict the fire. Therefore, G-d prescribed that instead, salt, a derivative of water, be placed on the sacrifice. The presence of salt on the meat and other sacrificial items actually enhances and stirs up the fire. Thus, salt was chosen because it is the element of water that coexists with fire, thus causing an atmosphere of Shalom between two opposite forces on earth.

The splitting of the waters introduced divisiveness into creation and as a result in the following days of creation the fruit trees failed to oblige G-d’s command to produce bark and wood tasting like its fruit, and the moon which originally had its own illumination complained about the sun and thus lost its internal light. However, G-d advanced the ability to restore unity between forces infusing within any separation or division the ability to work out an amicable way to restore a sense of Shalom between the parties. Many a time it takes creativity and a process – just as the waters went through a change to salt to facilitate Shalom between fire and water on the Altar.

Similarly, the moon’s embarrassing reduction was softened by G-d creating the stars which give the appearance that G-d splintered the moon’s light into billions of sparkling stars.

The trees were also assuaged by G-d giving the Mitzvah of Esrog on Succos - the Esrog tree was the only one that listened to G-d’s complete command.

In this week’s Parsha the Torah relates the incident of Korach who led a rebellion against our leader Moshe. Throughout the conflict, Moshe did his utmost and went way beyond the call of duty to restore Shalom and understanding with Korach and his group.

At the end, Korach and his group were eliminated Divinely in a spectacular way.

The reason Moshe did not succeed in restoring peace in this situation was because Korach would not listen or budge to come to the table to discuss the matter. We see that when the waters on earth complained to G-d for not having a Heavenly connection, G-d made a treaty with the water through the salt. But a treaty or deal can only be effective if two sides are willing to negotiate and be open to resolution. Korach unfortunately chose to remain alone while he scoffed and ignored Moshe’s entreaties.

Since in this situation Korach was challenging Moshe’s Divine appointment as leader and the whole premise of the Divinely given Torah through Moshe was at stake, there was no recourse other than having Korach eliminated in a public showdown in order to prove and confirm to all that Moshe was G-d’s appointed leader, prophet and teacher of the Torah to the Jewish people. This status is what enables us to endure for all generations.

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks