Parashat Ki Tisa (When you lift up) Exodus 30:11-34:35
Shabbat Parah (Cow, as in the Red Heifer)
Maftir: Numbers 19:1-22
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-38
With Passover less than a month away, Shabbat Parah served as a reminder to the people that in order to offer the Passover sacrifice one would have to purify himself first. The ashes from the Red Heifer were used for the purpose of purifying one from spiritual contamination.
In this week’s Torah portion, the sages point out that teaching concerning the Shabbat comes immediately before the passage dealing with the sin of the Golden Calf. The view of the sages is that this order is for the purpose of revealing that observing the Shabbat guards against one falling into idolatry.
It is quite surprising that those who desecrate the Shabbat are to be put to death,
“For Holy is it (the Shabbat) for you all, the ones who are profaning it (the Shabbat) shall surely die, for everyone who does on it work that soul shall be cut off from his people.” Exodus 31:14
This fact reveals how important the Shabbat is to HaShem.
This verse has some difficulties which need to be explained. I translated the Hebrew to simply say that one who profanes the Shabbat will surely die. Many translations state “shall surely be put to death“. Both translations are possible. The issue is whether the punishment is to be administered by the elders or by HaShem. The latter speaks of an early death rather than by execution. The fact that one who violated the Shabbat was indeed put to death (See Numbers 15:32-36) is strong evidence that the phrase should be rendered “shall surely be put to death“. If indeed this is correct, then another difficulty presents itself. The verse continues and says, “For everyone who does on it work that soul shall be cut off from his people.” The matter is if one is put to death then there is no need for the latter phrase that the violator shall be cut off from his people. Rashi infers that the death penalty is only administered when there are witnesses who warn the violator that such behavior is transgressing the Shabbat and he continued, while the latter is one who did in fact profane Shabbat, but did not know that what he was doing was prohibited.
Perhaps the intent of the phrase “For everyone who does on it work that soul shall be cut off from his people” speaks not of an alternate punishment, but the intent behind the death sentence being administered. In other words, the reason why the one who profanes Shabbat is put to death is in order that he cannot influence others to behave similarly. One thing is for sure, Shabbat has great significance and each individual should study G-d’s revelation concerning the Shabbat and why Yeshua said,
“The Shabbat was made for man, and not man for the Shabbat.” Mark 2:27
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