The Torah in Parashat Vayikra, amidst its discussion of the mincha offering (which consists of grain, rather than an animal), establishes that salt must be added to every mincha (2:13). The verse then adds – at first glance, redundantly – “you shall offer salt with all your sacrifices.” Rashi, citing Torat Kohanim, explains that this phrase instructs that salt is required not only for the mincha, but for animal sacrifices, as well. Every sacrifice offered on the altar in the Beit Ha-mikdash must include salt.
Rabbeinu Bechayei cites the following explanation from the Midrash for why salt must be included with every sacrifice:
The entire world is one-third desert, one-third inhabited territory, and one-third ocean. The ocean stood before the Almighty and said to Him: Master of the world! In the desert – the Torah was given; in the inhabited territory – the Beit Ha-mikdash was built. What about me?
He said to it: In the future, Israel will offer salt [from the ocean] upon the altar.
The Midrash explains that salt is offered on the altar as the representative of the ocean, so-to-speak, as the ocean would otherwise not have any connection to sanctity. The desert regions of the world received their connection when God revealed Himself in the Sinai desert to give the Torah, and the inhabited regions of the world are connected to God through the divine presence in the Beit Ha-mikdash, in the heart of the city of the Jerusalem. The third of the world’s domains – the sea – is linked to sanctity through the offering of sea salt on the altar.
Dry land represents stability and familiar routine. Sometimes that routine can be challenging and difficult – represented by the desert – but even such aspects of life are familiar to us. The sea, by contrast, represents the fear of uncertainty, the experience of being unanchored and unstable, drifting helplessly into unfamiliar territory and not always knowing where one is headed. The Midrash here teaches that even in tumultuous times, in periods of uncertainty, when we feel anxious and lost, we can and should endeavor to connect ourselves to the Almighty. The offering of sea salt upon the altar points to the fact that even when we find ourselves “at sea,” when life becomes unstable and uncertain, when we are thrust into unfamiliar and unpredictable circumstances, we have the ability to reach the “altar,” to serve God. And just as salt is not readily visible in the ocean, likewise, our opportunities for kedusha might not be apparent during times of crisis and instability. But the Midrash urges us to find the “salt” hidden in the stormy “ocean waters,” to seek and seize the opportunities for growth presented during difficult periods when we feel vulnerable and insecure. Even when our routine is disrupted and we feel as though we are “lost at sea,” we can and must strive to reach the “altar” and devote ourselves to the service of the Almighty.