Friday, March 09, 2007

Parshas Ki Sisa

וְאַתָּה דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמר, אַךְ אֶת-שַׁבְּתתַי, תִּשְׁמרוּ: כִּי אוֹת הִוא בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם, לְדרתֵיכֶם--לָדַעַת, כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם.

“And you speak to the B'nei Yisrael, saying, BUT You must still preserve My Shabbos, for it is a sign between Me and yourselves for your generations to know that I Ad-noy am making you holy.” (Sefer Shemos, 31:13)

Chazal teach us that any time the Torah uses the word “Ach/but” it is coming to exclude something from the statement in which it occurs. Rashi, on this Pasuk, comments that it is excluding work for the Mishkan on Shabbos; meaning, you might think that the work of the Mishkan can be done on Shabbos, but since we have the word “Ach”, it is excluded. The Ramban, however, disagrees. He doesn’t understand how the word “Ach” in a verse which is talking about Shabbos can possibly seem to exclude work from the Mishkan – a separate topic altogether. It can only make sense that the word “Ach” in a verse discussing Shabbos can come to limit or exclude certain restrictions on Shabbos. As such, the Ramban says that the word “Ach” in our verse teaches us that melacha/work for a Bris Milah and Pikuach Nefesh (to save someones life) can be done on the Sabbath, even though we may think that Shabbos trumps both of these.

The Chasam Sofer points out that really Rashi agrees with what the Ramban says (that we do a Bris and Pikuach Nefesh on Shabbos) and that the Ramban agrees with what Rashi says (that there was no work of the Mishkan done on Shabbos). Where they differ, however, is where each of these ideas is learned out from. What follows, says the Chasam Sofer, is a very important hierarchy. The Mishkan, which we view as one of the holiest things to the Jews, is on a lower level of Kedusha than is Shabbos. Sometimes we may take this for granted, being that we have Shabbos 1 out of every 7 days. Nevertheless, we see that it is holier than the Mishkan, for even the work on the Mishkan ceased on Shabbos. And then, trumping both the Mishkan and Shabbos is the value of a human life, for we do whatever possible to save a human life, even if it means violating Shabbos. Kedushas Yisroel on both an individual and communal level is something that cannot be overrated.

We also learn the importance of Kedushas Yisrael elsewhere in the Parsha; specifically, regarding the Ketores/spices. The Gemara in Krisus notes that any Taanis Tzibbur/public fast day in which the “sinners of Israel” don’t join in is not considered a true Taanis Tzibbur. Interestingly, the proof brought by the Gemara is from the Ketores in our Parsha. The explanation is as follows: not every spice included in the “cocktail” of spices burnt in the Mishkan smelled good by itself – it was only when they all came together did they produce the fragrant aroma. So too is the case with the Jewish people. True, certain individuals may not be acting in the proper way; true, an individual may not be living up to his/her expectations. Nevertheless, it’s the sum of its parts that makes the Jewish people who they are. If one lives life with the constant recognition that they are holier than two central items in Judaism (the Mishkan and Shabbos) and that they are part of something larger than themselves, it becomes much harder to become depressed when one’s situation isn’t as they want it.

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