Torah Thoughts on Parshas Vayera by Rabbi Moshe Schecter
”וַיֹאמֶר ה‘ זַעֲקַת סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה כִּי רָבָּה וְחַטָאתָם כִּי כָבְדָה מְאֹד“ בְּרֵאשִׁית י“ח:כ‘
“And God said: ‘Because the outcry of Sodom and Amora has become great, and because their sin has been very grave.” Bereshis 18:20
Rashi cites the Gemara (Sanhedrin 109b) which states that the cry was that of a certain girl who had been killed by the people of Sodom and Amora because they discovered that she had given some food to a poor person. It had been a torturous death. They covered her with honey, which attracted swarms of bees, which stung her until she died. Obviously, in choosing this type of death, the people were sending a specific message. Just what was that message?
Let us also consider that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. Rashi says that this punishment was measure for measure for her refusing to give even a pinch of salt to guests. Thus we have incidents in Sodom involving both honey and salt.
There is another place in the Torah where honey and salt are mentioned together. In reference to a korban, the Torah says that every korban requires salt. However, the Torah states that no korban can have leaven or honey. How does this relate to our question?Honey represents the delicacies and extras of life – the indulgences. Salt, on the other hand, represents simplicity, the opposite of indulgence. “A pinch of salt” tells us that a person can suffice with the minimum – the basic necessities of life. We dip our bread in salt to demonstrate that when it comes to physical activities, such as eating, we try to remember the lesson of salt. On the altar, which is Hashem’s table, the message of salt goes with everything. The message of indulgence, however, is banned from the altar.
Some of the commentaries explain that the lifestyle of Sodom was one of total emphasis on materialistic gains and over-indulgences. They lived with the message of honey and disdained the message of salt. That is why Lot’s wife refused to give salt to the poor, and why the people of Sodom chose to use honey to kill the girl who gave to the poor, since giving to the poor is unacceptable in a society that places all its emphasis on material gain. They covered her with honey to demonstrate that here we live with the message of honey, but in the end, Hashem punished Sodom with גַפְרִית וָמֶלַח – sulphur and salt – (see Devarim 29:22) as if to say that what Sodom lacked was the message of salt.
Rabbi Moshe Schecter has been a rebbi in FYHS for 23 years. He grew up in Montreal. He learned in Israel at Brisk Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, then continued his learning in Kollel at BMG in Lakewood for 10 years, receiving Semicha there. He moved to Chicago in 1998, and started Beis Medrash Mikor Hachaim, a night Beis Midrash for young professionals which eventually became a family Shul. Rabbi Schecter loves teaching at the Yeshiva and has developed close relationships with his talmidim.