“The cure for everything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea” – Karen Blixen.
Couples beginning to create a family know all too well the investment and challenges a family unit brings. Financial costs aside, the mere newfound responsibilities are daunting. Starting from the first step of pregnancy and childbirth, going all the way to grandchildren, parenting is a huge test. Yet, most parents will say no cost/benefit analysis can capture the true value of children.
Although parenting might not be for the faint of heart and can be a bit intimidating, people the world over willingly experience this challenge, adding their genes to the future of humanity. Thanks to their sacrifices the human race continues.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity”. Rising above our humanistic survival tendencies, sacrifices allow us to step outside of nature and have a true self-transformation. The Hebrew word for sacrifice korban comes from the root word kariv meaning to bring close. Chassidut explains that sacrificing our selves, our natural selfish attitudes, brings us closer to G-d.
Stressing the virtues of sacrifice, may however lead to disastrous consequences. As an extreme example, Homicide/Suicide bombers make absurd “sacrifices”, yet there is nothing “majestic” or “dignified” about it. Their suicides destroy humanity. Even animals wouldn’t attack others in such a self-defeating and harmful method. Sacrificing oneself, clearly, isn’t always decent and moral.
Humans are capable of some of the most caring and selfless acts; they are also capable of doing the exact opposite. Both require huge sacrifices. It might be easy to differentiate in such stark contexts, however it isn’t always so simple. Should you skip an important work event for your partner’s family reunion? Should you move town for a better school for your children? Where do you draw the line between a good productive sacrifice and a harmful one?
This week’s Parsha of Vayikra discusses the various sacrifices offered in the Temple. In mentioning the grain offering (Korban Mincha) the Torah stresses that it must be made purely of flour. No yeast or honey may be added to the offering. Yeast inflates the dough and makes it bigger and better. Honey adds flavour to it making it taste sweeter. For the offering to be complete it must not have any traces of any other additives, a pure grain offering.
Yet, a mere two verses later, the Torah demands that the grain sacrifice have salt added to it. In fact every offering in the Temple had salt added to it; grain, animals and even the wood offering. We commemorate this whenever we eat bread, by dipping it in salt, especially noticeable on the Shabbat table. If additives and flavours are forbidden in the grain sacrifice then why was salt allowed and even required?
Yeast changes the qualities of the dough itself. Honey and spices give flavour and enhance the taste of the dough. Salt in moderation, however, enhances the natural taste of the dish it’s put on. Salt brings out the many natural tastes and aromas that lie dormant in the dish otherwise.
If you need to gauge the sincerity of your sacrifices look to the outcome; will you be forfeiting what you hold dear to your life or will it contribute to your deepest values. The grain offering teaches us the correct attitude when making a sacrifice. Sacrifices involving salt may be hard and bitter but they bring out the true purest self. Yeast, honey and other additives represent the transformation of our innate nature trying to be somebody else. We must stay strong, work hard but stay true to ourselves.
Ari Rubin is the Rabbi of the Cairns Jewish Community, together with his wife Mushkie they run the Chabad Centre for jewish Life in North QLD a division of Chabad of RARA.
More information on Chabad RARA of FNQ is available at www.Chabadnorthqueensland.com