Serve God with Our True Essence

Yael Eckstein  |  March 8, 2022

Yael Eckstein sitting next to her son during Passover.

You are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the LORD. … Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings. Leviticus 2:11,13

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra, which means “and He called,” from Leviticus 1:1–5:26.

As a mother, one of the most important messages I can teach my children is to be themselves. All of us feel the pressure to conform, to be like everyone else, but kids feel it even more. I teach my children that when we try too hard to conform, we suppress our own special qualities. And God made each of us with unique gifts that it is our duty to develop and use for the good.

There is a Jewish story that really illustrates this idea. Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli lived in Ukraine during the 18th century. The story is told that when Rabbi Zusha was on his death bed, he was sobbing uncontrollably and no one could comfort him. Finally, one of his students asked, “Rabbi, what are you so worried about?  Surely you will be accepted by God into the Kingdom of Heaven!”

To this the saintly rabbi replied, “I’m not worried that God will ask me: ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as great as Abraham?’ And I’m not concerned that He will ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as great as Moses?’ I’m worried that He will ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as great as Zusha?’ and what will I reply?”

Serve God with Our True Essence

In this week’s Torah portion, among the instructions for the sacrificial offerings, the Bible states that no offering to God may contain honey. And then two verses later we are told that all offerings must include salt. Honey is prohibited. Salt is required.

There is a beautiful message here. Honey and salt are both are used to enhance flavor. But they enhance flavor in opposite ways. Honey adds sweetness and conceals other flavors. Like Mary Poppins said, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” If you use honey or sugar, you won’t taste the medicine.

Salt is different. Salt doesn’t conceal the flavor of the food; it helps to bring the flavor out. Salt draws out the inner essence of the food and stimulates the tastebuds, making them more able to taste the food itself. It doesn’t mask the flavor like honey.

When we think about this Bible verse and the requirement that all offerings must include salt, we learn that we must serve God with our own true essence. Our worship must be “salted” to bring out our unique gifts. Honey, which masks and conceals, should have no place in our relationship with God.

Your Turn:

Think of your own particular strengths that God has given you. Are they in need of a bit of salt? Or do you need to remove some honey in order to serve God more authentically?

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