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Eliyahu Yaakov: Salt & Suffering

Eliyahu Yaakov: Salt & Suffering

Salt is unique in that it is bitter on its own, yet becomes sweet and brings out the taste of that which it is added to.  Therefore, while bread is the staple of man’s sustenance, salt is the staple of man’s suffering.

To explain this further, we must understand that there are two perspectives of suffering that a human being can experience – Purposeless Suffering and Purposeful Suffering.  (While the truth is that there only really is Purposeful Suffering because, as mentioned, all is from God and for the best, however, the discussion here is based on one’s initial experience and perspective.)

Purposeless Suffering is suffering without reason, value, or an end-goal, and is therefore completely bitter.  It is based on a keyhole view of life that what is right in front of one’s eyes is all there is and there is no grander scheme of things. In fact, the Kabbalists explain that it is for this reason that the reaction of a person who is in pain or undergoing suffering is to close his or her eyes since the physical eyes don’t see the spiritual purpose.  Just as a person squints, which is a partial closing of one’s eyes in order to focus on something in the physical distance, a person closes one’s eyes completely in order to focus on that which is in the “spiritual distance”.

Purposeful Suffering is suffering one experiences when he understands the greater context, i.e. that all is from God and for the best.  While this form of suffering may still be difficult, it has been sweetened at its root by the internalization of the bigger picture and the understanding of God – who only does good – is as its source. In fact, the Talmud teaches that when we read from the Torah about difficult times that may befall the Jewish people, we are to read quickly so as to not stop in the middle and see the suffering as something independent from the greater message of journeying towards actualization that the Torah is all about.  Rather, we are to quicken up the pace of our reading, indicating that difficult times are something we may have to go through but only exist part-in-parcel to the greater context.

Similarly, the Hebrew words for bread and salt – LeCHeM and MeLaCH respectively – are made up of the same letters since, just as a person’s “bread” (i.e. sustenance) facilitates his capacity to move forward on his ongoing journey towards actualization, a person’s “salt” (i.e. suffering) is also seen to be a contributing element to his ongoing journey towards actualization when viewed correctly.  It is for this reason that, according to Judaism, when breaking bread, the bread is to be dipped onto the salt rather than the salt being sprinkled onto the bread.  By placing the bread on top of the salt, one expresses the statement and reinforces the reality that the bread concept of seeing God as the provider of our sustanence is dominant and the salt concept of suffering is to being included within the bread concept.

Thus, dipping the bread onto the salt, as states to do, is to embody the reality of Purposeful Suffering – i.e. that while one may have an element of suffering in one’s life, it is within the context of the bigger picture that all is from God and for the best.  It is to see suffering as a surgery for one’s ultimate betterment rather than meaningless torture.

We experience these two sides of salt first-hand at the Dead Sea.  The Dead Sea, due to its large amount of salt, contains no life within it yet has an incredible capacity to heal.  That is, on its own, the Dead Sea is “bitter”, but when a person dips into the Dead Sea is “sweetened”.


Eliyahu Yaakov

Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a renowned speaker, presenting internationally on Kabbalah, relationships, and self help. His books Jewish By Choice and The Case for Judaism were both #1 Amazon Bestsellers.

the case for judaism

The Case for Judaism
by Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov

This book addresses the question “why be Jewish”. The response to such a question has got to be powerful, internal, and motivational. It must get to the core of the Jew who is asking; and it has to be thought out, sensible, relatable, and well presented. The Case For Judaism is just that. Drawing on master teachers of our time, Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov – an orator of note himself – flows from one foundational Jewish tenet to the next, providing fresh and convincing basis for the Jewish belief system. By examining and elucidating key core issues, such as how we can know there is a God, how we can posit that God gave the Torah, and why we believe the Oral Tradition to be legitimate and relevant, The Case For Judaism constructs a working model of what Judaism is and why we ought to take another look at it in a real way. Other topics include: -How is Judaism to be brought to life in modern society? -Why consider the possibility of a realm beyond the physical? – Why are the Jews so hated? -Isn’t it enough to be a good and moral person? -Is there more than one way to “do” Judaism?

jewish by choice

Jewish By Choice
by Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov

Jewish By Choice draws up an all-inclusive picture of Judaism and Jewish belief by which we come to understand the world, its purpose, and our place in it. Weaving together classical Jewish thought and Kabbalistic wisdom, Jewish By Choice examines the realities of existence and the meaningfulness of life. By clearly defining and exploring concepts such as God, Free Will, the Soul, the Male-Female Dynamic, Suffering, Death, Reincarnation, and Unity, Jewish By Choice constructs a practical model of the Jewish take on reality and what we are doing here as it is seen through the eyes of Kabbalah.



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