Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 5 May 2012 / 12 Iyyar 5772

Salting With Sugar?!

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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One of the main topics discussed in Sefer Vayikra is that of Korbanos (loosely translated as sacrifices). Due to their complicated nature and exacting minutiae, as well as the relevant Parshiyos falling out during the hectic “Arba Parshiyos” Purim - Pesach season[1], they sort of get lost in the shuffle. But the most common reason why many do not appear so well-versed in this topic is the general feeling that the subject of Korbanos doesn’t really “speak” to us, as it just does not seem that relevant to our daily lives, in view of the fact that our daily Tefillos have replaced them ever since the Beis HaMikdash’s destruction[2].

Yet, there are some aspects of Korbanos that do have more of a noticeable effect on our everyday lives. For example, the Mitzva to have salt on the table when having a meal[3] is directly based on the requirement to have salt on every Korban[4], as our tables are compared to the Altar and our food to a sacrifice[5].

Another practice based on Korbanos is the proper size of salt needed to salt our meat and chickens when Kashering them. The Shulchan Aruch rules that medium-sized salt should be used (not too big, not too small, just right!)[6]. Rabbeinu Bachaye famously comments[7] that this can be inferred from the verse regarding Korbanos, “b’melach timlach[8], “that you should salt them with salt”. The fact that the Torah uses the same word twice to describe this action shows that it should be done with medium-sized salt. This affects everyone’s lives (even if many think their kosher chickens are magically grown on the supermarket shelves), as the proper way to remove the blood from a slaughtered chicken, and thereby rendering it fit for kosher eating, is via this salting[9].

However, over the years, there are some who have stretched this Korbanos connection even more. The Mahar"i Chagiz[10] addresses the issue of whether sugar can be used as a substitute to “salt” a Korban. He maintains that it is indeed permissible to use sugar, as, although sugar is sweet, nevertheless, since it can be used as a preservative, it is considered a true salt. Rav Daniel Tirani, the famed Ikrei HaDa”T[11], takes this comparison a step further, noting that sugar in his time was in fact called by many “Indian salt”. Interestingly, he concludes that just as sugar may be used to salt a Korban, so too, if one has no salt available to kasher his meat, he may use sugar instead!

Several authorities ruled similarly, allowing sugar as a substitute for kashering their chickens[12]. The Avnei Nezer[13] even testified that the Gaon from Lisa, the great Chavas Daas, once used sugar to salt his meat!

Opposition was not long in coming, though. Many decisors vehemently argued against permitting sugar for salting. Their main objection was that the jump in logic equating Korbanos to salting our meat was tenuous at best. Even if sugar fits into the salt category as a preservative to allow it to be offered on the Altar[14], nevertheless, in order to be used as salt to kasher our meat and chickens, its proficiency in drawing out blood on an equal level as salt would have to be proven! The Yad Yehuda[15] even recorded that when he asked scientists whether sugar can draw out blood as salt does, he was laughed at.

Due to this, the majority of Halachic authorities through the ages, including the Divrei Chaim, the Maharshak, the Ksav Sofer, and the Ben Ish Chai[16], forbade salting meat or chicken with sugar. Many contemporary poskim as well, including Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, the Kaf Hachaim, Rav Moshe Feinstein, the Klausenberger Rebbe, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, the Tzitz Eliezer, and Rav Ovadiah Yosef[17], write very strongly that salting with sugar is not a viable option. Several authorities maintain that if one transgresses, he might even be required to kasher his utensils used[18].

Nowadays, most of us would consider this whole issue to be moot. However, there have been those who allowed this scenario in extremely extenuating circumstances[19]. Rav Moshe Halberstam zt”l told this author that during the 1948 Israeli Independence War, in the former Arab village now known as Har Nof, the Jews there were cut off from supply lines and were forced to rely upon sugar for salting!

So, the next time we add a “spoonful of sugar” (or a “salt substitute” substitute) into our coffee, we can remind ourselves of the intricacies of the Korbanos that are woven into our daily lives and hope we will soon merit to actually bringing them in the rebuilt Bais Hamikdash.

[1]See earlier article “Configuring The Arba Parshiyos Puzzle”.

[2]See Gemara Taanis 27b and Megillah 31b. According to the Talmud, these prayers that are in lieu of Korbanos,are currently “holding up the world!”

[3]Shulchan Aruch and Rema O.C. 167, 5.

[4]Vayikra Ch.2, verse 13.

[5]Gemara Brachos (55a), Beis Yosef (O.C. 167, quoting the Shibolei Leket 141), Rema (ibid), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 30). See also Shla”h (Shaar HaOsiyos, Eimek Bracha 66) and Halachic World (vol. 2, pg. 151, “Table Salt”).

[6]Y”D 69, 3 and relevant commentaries.

[7]Well, actually not so famous, but it should be. This astounding comment of Rabbeinu Bachaye’s (a Rishon!) was first shown to this author way back when, during his Semicha Test from Rav Moshe Halberstam zt”l, member of the Badat”z Eida Chareidis and author of Shu”t Divrei Moshe.

[8]Vayikra Ch.2, verse 13. Another aspect of modern day salting inferred from this verse is how long the salt must stay on the piece of meat to do its job (Shiur Melicha) - approximately 18 minutes me’ikar hadin - as ‘b’melach’ has the same Gematriya as ‘Mil’ (80), the distance that takes approximately 18 minutes to walk. (Issue V’Hetter 1, 9, cited in Baer Heitiv Y”D 69, 21).

[9]Gemara Chullin 113a, in the statement of Shmuel’s; Tur/ Shu”a Y”D 69, 4. This is done in order to remove the blood, as eating blood is prohibited - see Vayikra (Parshas Acharei Mos) Ch.17, verses 10 - 14 and Tur / Shulchan Aruch Y”D 65 - 68.

[10]Shu”t Halachos Ketanos (vol. 1, 218). The Ya’avetz (Mor U’Ketziah 318, s.v. kyotzai) appears to accept this as fact, that sugar is considered a type of salt (by bishul on Shabbos).

[11]Ikrei Dinim (O.C. 14, 36). This widely quoted commentary was standard in all older versions of the Shulchan Aruch. He writes that if salt is unavailable, one can use sugar instead without a second’s hesitation. See also Darchei Teshuva (69, 328).

[12]Including the Minchas Chinuch (end Mitzvah 119), the Ma’aseh Avraham (Shu”t Y”D 30), the Misgeres Hashulchan (Y”D 69, 21), the Mizmor L’David (116) and the Mei Noach (Shu”t 29).

[13]Shu”t Avnei Nezer (O.C. 532). However, the Piskei Teshuva (pg. 71) posits that it is possible that he wasn’t referring to our commercial sugar which “obviously cannot be considered salt”.

[14]Which is also not so clear cut, as honey is also a great preservative, yet is banned from being considered a salt substitute on the Altar - Vayikra Ch.2, verse 11. It is worthwhile to read Rav S. R. Hirsch’s commentary to this verse.

[15]Yad Yehuda (69, Pih”A 97).

[16]Including Shu”t Divrei Chaim (vol. 1, Y”D 25), Shu”t Tuv Taam V’Daas (Mahadura Kamma, 111), Shu”t Ksav Sofer (Y”D 37), Ben Ish Chai (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim vol. 2, Y”D 4; Ben Ish Chai - Year 2, Parshas Tazria 22), Shu”t Chessed L’Alafim (72), Rav Chaim Falag’i (Ruach Chaim Y”D 69, 5), Arugas HaBosem (Y”D 69, 17), and Shu”t Maharam Brisk (vol. 1, 7). It should be noted that the Mahar"i Chagiz himself was unwilling to make that much of a jump in logic, and only would allow sugar-salted meat if it was nullified with 60 against it.

[17]Including Shu”t Salmas Chaim (vol. 2, 3 - old print), Kaf Hachaim (Y”D 69, 322), Shu”t Igros Moshe (Y”D 3, 23), Shu”t Divrei Yatziv (vol. 2, 14 - 15), Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 2, 24 & 26), Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 9, 35), Shu”t Yabea Omer (vol. 4, Y”D 2 & 3), and Sefer Bris Melach (8, 6, pg. 69a).

[18]Including Shu”t Kol Mevasser (vol. 2, 15), Shu”t Rav Pe’alim (ibid.), Arugas HaBosem (ibid.) and Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (ibid.). See also Shu”t Yabea Omer (vol. 4, Y”D 3), and Rabbi Yaakov Skoczylas’ Ohel Yaakov (on IV"H, expanded edition pg. 22 - 24) on this topic.

[19]See Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 7, 388) who allows salting with sugar for a sick person who can not have salt. However, the Shevet HaLevi (ibid.) sharply disagrees and instead allows chalita (sort of flash-searing; which ordinarily is not permitted for kashering purposes - see Shulchan Aruch Y”D 73, 2; Rema Y”D 67, 6; Shach Y”D 67, 13 & 73, 10; R’ Akiva Eiger Y”D 73, 2; and Mishna Berura 454, 11 & Biur Halacha 454, s.v. layka). This is also the opinion of the Minchas Yitzchak (Shu”t vol. 9, 73) and the Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (Ch. 40, 87; - new print Ch. 40, 100; quoting the Shu”t Yeshuos Moshe 47). See also Shu”t Yad Yitzchak (vol. 2, 164, 1), Shu”t Maharash Engel (vol. 3, 121, 2), Shu”t Tirosh V’Yitzhar (178), Shu”t Har Tzvi (vol. 2 - Y”D, 66), and sefer Darchei Halacha (on IV”H 69, 3, s.v. b’davar) for various scenarios of mixtures that some allow if sugar was substituted. See also Rav Y. S. Elyashiv’s Ha’aros B’Meseches Chullin (113a) who does not rule conclusively on this topic.

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Disclaimer: These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halacha discussed in this article. This is by no means a complete comprehensive authoritative guide, but rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issue. One should not compare similar cases in order to rules in any real case, but should refer his questions to a competent Halachic authority.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.

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