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The Crown of Halacha

Ki Sisa 5777 – Keeping Shabbos: Emunah in Action

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Shemos

Keeping Shabbos: Emunah in Action

Therefore, keep the Sabbath, for it is a sacred thing for you. Those who desecrate it shall be put to death, for whoever performs work on it, that soul will be cut off from the midst of its people. (Shemos 31:14)

What Values Will You Sacrifice to Keep Your Job?

During the decade of the 1930s, the Great Depression was well rooted in the United States. Large numbers of people lived in poverty, desperately in need of food, clothing, and shelter. For Jews that were Shomer Shabbos, being fired was a weekly event and for many, it was a huge test of Emunah: were they willing to impoverish themselves even more, in order to uphold the Shabbos?

Should One who Breaks Shabbos be Punished as a Murderer? 

In this week’s Parsha, Am Yisrael is warned that breaking Shabbos is punishable by death. One may think, “I understand why murder, adultery and even idol worship deserve the death penalty. But why would the desecration of the Shabbos merit such a severe punishment?

R’ Shimshon Raphael Hirsch answers our question with a mashol:

Remember Who’s the Boss Around Here

The owner of the successful business decided to retire and hired a new manager to take over. However, the owner made one stipulation. Every so often he would come in and run the company for a day. As the years passed the new manager grew more and more resentful of the boss’s “meddling.” He wanted total control all the time.

Finally one day, the manager changed the locks and announced to the owner, “I’m the boss here now! I know what’s best for the business.  Stay home and let me run things!”

The owner called for two of his strongest employees and quickly hustled the manager of the premises.

Being Properly Employed is Better Than the Other Option

R’ Hirsch explains that some people make the mistake of thinking that Shabbos is a day of rest in the sense that we “take it easy”.  If this were true then we would be able to do whatever it takes to make our day more relaxed, including using electricity or going for a drive. However, the purpose of Shabbos is to acknowledge that Hashem is the Ultimate Boss, the sole Creator, and Owner of the world.  And if we do not acknowledge that then we will be evacuated from the premises – we will be fired!

Drawing Strength From Working for Hashem

The answer to how those Jews who were God fearing accepted that it was better to look for a new job every week than to desecrate the Shabbos. They drew their strength from a deep understanding that a Jew is first and foremost employed by God.  He is the “Boss” and the source of everything we receive.


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