At every Shabbat meal, we bless the challah and salt it before giving it to our family and guests. This custom harks back to the Temple rite. The Torah commands us, “With all your offerings, you must offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13).
Sages debate the significance of salt for Temple sacrifices. Some say it is a matter of enhancing the flavour and preserving the meat. Others say that salt symbolises our passions and adding it to a sacrifice shows our readiness to channel them toward God.
The Talmud declares that in Temple times, the altar atoned for our sins, but these days, our table does (Berachot (156). How? Through eating with the consciousness that everything we have is from God and should be consumed carefully and with gratitude and sharing meals with the needy.
Salt on the table reminds us of the holiness of the family table and of its potential as a sacred space.