From the moment I began collecting multi-volume Torah commentaries in my JTS days, I noticed a fascinating trend. In almost every set that contained five volumes, one for each of the books of the humash (an abbreviation for Hamishah Humshei Torah, the Five Books of the Torah), the thickest volume of all was Vayikra, Leviticus.
Considering that the vast majority of this third book of the Torah is about the sacrificial cult of ancient Israel, you would think there would be fewer interesting things to say about it. After all, we haven’t made use of the vast majority of Leviticus-law for 2,000 years. But herein lies the brilliance of the Jewish interpretative tradition. There are lessons to be drawn from every sacred text, even if the text appears dry or even obsolete.
The driest of the sacrificial offerings is korban minhah, the flour offering. Not only is this the cheapest of the offerings (compare the price of flour to the prices of meat or fowl), it’s also the one with strict uniformity of preparation: “And all of your minhah-offerings should be seasoned with salt. Never omit the salt of your Godly covenant from your minhah. You should offer salt with all your sacrifices” (Leviticus 2:13).
Most kitchens have a far more diverse selection of spices and condiments than just salt, and most meals are prepared with a variety of flavors. But the minhah, when you think about it, sounds like prison rations: bread and salt. Why, in the midst of a massive sacred meal plan, are we told that one offering has to be as plain as this minhah?
On Shabbat morning, we’ll explore the meaning of the simple, salt-only flour offering, and what that means about the modern meaning of minhah.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,