Salt is perhaps the most important commodity in the world. It provides taste to our food, keeps our roads safe, and generally makes life better. And, while oil may be in short supply, the land of Israel is filled with salt deposits. No more so than in the Negev desert where the primary geographic location is called in Hebrew “yam hamelach,” the salt sea, or as we more commonly know it, the Dead Sea. This is the location Cleopatra was gifted by Mark Antony, and that Herod used to store a hundred years’ worth of food up on his palace on Massada. It is also the location known in the Torah for the housing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These were places of ill repute where Abraham’s nephew Lot ended up and where God is forced to destroy in this week’s Torah portion Vaerah. They are also where Lot’s unnamed wife was left as a statue in salt, for the grievous sin of turning around during the destruction; salt taking on a ghoul like specter, death frozen in time, like the volcanic remains of Pompeii.
But, what Sodom and Gomorrah are really known for is an argument between Abraham and God, God wanting to destroy the two cities and Abraham wanting to save them. Abraham asks God to consider the righteous citizens living there and whether their lives would be enough to save the two cities. He bargains God down from a minimum of one hundred righteous, all the way to ten. But, alas Sodom and Gomorrah do not even have a minyan of righteous human beings presumably including Abraham and Lot. This story demonstrates the power of even one righteous person in changing the fate of the world for the better. In Judaism, a tzadik, a righteous human being, is the highest ideal. Like salt, tzadikim are necessary ingredients for sustained life and definitely worth their weight in salt.