leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men, and they confronted Moses. They assembled against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, "You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, everyone of them, and the Lord is among them. So why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?"" [Num. 16:1-3] By now, assuming you’ve been reading along with me in the Torah week after week, you must be quite familiar with Israelite rebellion against God and His servant Moshe. After all, we have been reading about it time and again since Moshe came down to Egypt to deliver them from bondage to freedom, and Pharaoh made their departure a little difficult... Surely you recall reading just last week: the fiasco of the scouts/spies that went out to survey what God almighty had guaranteed to deliver. Could they report anything but how great the land God will deliver is? Yes, they most definitely could. "And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had spied to the people of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to spy, is a land that eats up its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the Nefilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nefilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight." {Num. 13:32,33] The Israelites chose to accept the evil report and presume that God wished to see harm come to them - and in so doing, doubting God’s promise, they raised God’s ire, and brought about a fate of suffering and mourning for generations and ages of Judaism yet unborn.
As if this was not enough, we arrive at the open rebellion of Korakh, Datan and Aviram. These rebels go beyond the limit of civilized behavior. Moshe is willing to put his leadership to God’s test of approval. We read that he accepts a challenge,"Tomorrow the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near to him; him whom He has chosen will He cause to come near to him. This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; And put fire in it, and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow; and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses, he shall be holy." [Num. 16:5-7]
God’s swift judgement follows, "the ground split beneath them; And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men who belonged to Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that belonged to them, went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation." {Num. 16:31-33]
So, of course, the Israelites learned their lesson. Right? No, they did not, as we read on, “But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, You have killed the people of the Lord. And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the Tent of Meeting; and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared.” [Ibid. 17:6,7] God was ready to annihilate the whole congregation of Israel, and only the word of Moshe and the action of Aharon saves them from the wrath of the Almighty.

Once this rebellion is ended, God recognizes the priesthood of Aharon by making his staff bloom and by giving him a special covenant. “All the offerings of the holy things, which the people of Israel offer to the Lord, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, by a statute forever; Brit melakh hi le’olam – it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord to you and to your seed with you.” [Ibid. 18:19] This “Brit melakh - covenant of salt” is intriguing and deserve a moments study.
There are only three references in the entire Tanakh to a “Brit melakh - covenant of salt” – two beside this week’s. The first came in Leviticus, where we read, “And every sacrifice of your meal offering shall you season with salt; nor shall you allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meal offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” [Lev. 2:13] The last is found in the last book in our Scriptures, second Chronicles, “Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?” [II Chron. 13:5]
I believe that this covenant of salt is related to the importance of salt in the ancient world. It is not for naught that we speak of “good people” as being “the salt of the earth.” Without salt we would not last long on this earth. Salt rocks were used as currency for payment of the wages of Roman soldiers, and were sought by people to preserve foodstuff, particularly meat, before the invention of refrigeration. The “triple injunction in Leviticus informs us of the manner of preparing the sacrificial meat – which was continued in the “kashering” of meat that if proper for mitzvah-observing Jews to use. The passage from Chronicles suggests that a “Brit melakh - covenant of salt” was also a promise of continuity of the anointing of the Royal House of David.
It is interesting to discover that Judaism uses the natural gift of God, salt, as a high mark of fidelity and steadfastness. I am reminded of the famous story of the king who had three daughters. He wished to test their love for him, and asked each to bring him “the most precious gift.” One brought a huge diamond mounted in a crown; the second brought a scepter of gold with precious stones to add sparkle to its handle. The youngest, and the king’s favorite, brought him a bag of salt. The king loved the crown, and was impressed by the scepter. He became furious at the sight of the bag of salt. “Is this all you could bring me?” He asked. “Shame on you! I expected more from you. You shall be banished from my presence.”
The princess accepted her fate, asking only that the king foreswear the use of salt. After a short while, the king found his food tasteless; he was getting weak and feeble and could not stand the summer heat. The doctors told him that if he does not return to a diet of salt he would soon perish. The king understood, a little late, that his youngest daughter was not only the one who loved him “best” – she was also the wisest of his three children. He brought her back to the palace, begged her to forgive him, and gave her the crown and the scepter when he made her the one to reign after him.
God blesses us in the most rudimentary way, establishing a covenant of salt, making us consecrate out food with salt, making us “the salt of the earth.”





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