A Grain of Salt


Dear Rabbi,

Every Friday night after at the Shabbat meal, we say the blessing on the challah and dip it in salt before taking a bite. I don’t know how this tradition came to be. Please enlighten me.

Thank you



  1. There are two main reasons for dipping bread in salt after saying the blessing on the bread.

    One reason is that people sometimes put salt on their bread to give it flavor. This is a matter of taste – not necessarily a reason based on Jewish law. However, Judaism also wants us to eat tasty and enjoyable foods. So, if you are going to dip your bread in salt throughout the meal for taste, you should certainly dip the first piece in salt since this is a way of honoring the blessing by making sure the piece of bread you first eat after the blessing is delicious. This follows the Torah idea that physical pleasure can be used as a vehicle in the service of God.

    Another reason we dip our challah in salt is that when we had the Temple and brought offerings there on the altar, it was a mitzvah that salt accompany every offering. The significance of salt is that it completes other foods and enhances their taste. Also, it preserves things which would otherwise spoil. This symbolizes that our offerings help enrich and preserve our relationship with God.

    Alas, we no longer have the Temple’s altar to atone for us. Now, our table is our “altar” because we share our food with the needy, and this helps atone for us. Since our table is like the altar, we try to keep salt on the table all the time. And we dip our bread in salt the entire week, not only Friday night. Lot’s wife turned into salt because she was stingy towards the needy. Lot himself was a generous person, always inviting guests. His wife resented guests and discouraged them. One trick of hers was to not provide salt, a small thing that made a big negative difference to guests. Therefore, she was punished by means of being turning into a pillar of salt, a punishment that was “measure for measure.”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team