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Remembering Lot’s Wife with Every Offering

Sodom is being destroyed. Lot and his family are fleeing, and they have been strictly instructed to not look back. But Lot’s wife, for one reason or another, cannot control herself, and she is famously turned into a pillar of salt.

It sounds like a tragic but odd, and perhaps even irrelevant, story. After all, what can we learn from this vignette?

Quite a lot, it seems. Much later in the Torah, G-d instructs:

עַ֥ל כׇּל־קׇרְבָּנְךָ֖ תַּקְרִ֥יב מֶֽלַח׃ {ס}         with all your offerings you must bring salt.

Why salt? With every single offering? What possible meaning is there in it?

The story of Lot’s wife gives us the answer: she looked back. And therein is our answer, because every sacrifice is always about finding a way to move forward – whether in thanksgiving or in atonement or for any of the other reasons we bring sacrifices. The G-d of the Torah is always interested in the future, and commands us to do similarly: it is one reason, for example, we are barred from marking mark ourselves for the dead.

We can only grow if we are able to put the past behind us, focus on doing better, and keeping our eyes focused on the goal. And to do that, we have salt present at every offering, to remind us of what happens when we decide to copy Lot’s wife by looking back at where we come from, instead of staying focused on where we need to go.

Remember, of course, that sacrifices are not for G-d – they are for us. To G-d, sacrifices are mere gestures, symbols of what we are feeling. The purpose of a sacrifice is to be able to grow from the past, to build a relationship going forward. And for that, we need to be reminded to keep our eyes on the future. We have salt present at each offering to help us remember that when we instead choose to live in the past, we are choosing what is ultimately a dead end.

[an @iwe and @blessedblacksmith work]

Comments are welcome!