Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Daf Yomi - Beitza 39 - A SAGA OF TWO SALTS

I found this interesting piece here.
By Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
From Ohr Samayach

Sodom-salt is a mysterious ingredient which keeps popping up throughout the Talmud. In Mesechta Chulin (105b) it is described as a salt which can cause blindness if it contacts the eyes. This is why we wash our fingers before saying the blessings after a meal.

Rashi here describes this salt as being very thin and therefore capable of clinging to the fingers without being detected. Our gemara distinguishes between two kinds of salt regarding whether they become part of the food they flavor (and thus can be carried on the holiday only as far as the food can). Rashi concludes that the one which is considered assimilated is the thinner, more soluble Sodom-salt. (Maharim Shif points out that this apparently contradicts Rashi's commentary in Bava Batra (20b) where he describes Sodom-salt as "thick and hard as a rock.")

The salt with which Sodom-salt is contrasted both here and in Bava Batra is Astrokhanite salt. This name - explains the early Talmudic dictionary-type commentary Rabbi Natan the "Aruch" - is based on the area where this salt is found. Rashash suggests that this area is Astokhan (near the Asian part of Russia where the Volga River flows into the Caspian Sea) whose salt is distributed throughout Russia by way of the Volga River.