Saturday, June 09, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Shlach Lecha (You don't really want to get stoned...)

Boy, what a fun parasha. We are damned to wander the desert for 40 years until all of us die out because of the foibles of ten spies. Too cliche and I already covered it last year. How about the laws of Shabbat? There is this guy who remains unnamed, though the Rabbis identify him as Tzlopchad, the late father of five daughers who will soon ask Moses for a legal ruling. His story involves two of the three times Moses doesn't know the answer to a question.

Anyway, the issue here is that there is a guy who is caught gathering wood after God declares some of the laws of the Sabbath. In a vary rare use of Capital Punishment in Judaism, God orders him stoned outside the camp (also known as lapidation). Why would such a severe penalty be applied here? Sure, the law for violating the sabbath is death by stoning (unless you were important such as the relative of a prince or priest; then it would be death by burning, molten lead poured down one's throat). The Rabbis said that a court that sentenced even one person to death in 70 years is "a bloody court". The modern State of Israel, possibly for this reason, does not have a death penalty. The only person ever executed by the Israeli court system was Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for the trains that led millions of our people to their murders in the Holocaust, so there was good reason for this.

Another example in the Torah of violation of Shabbat after being warned not to violate came when God told the people to take a double portion of Manna on Fridays so that they would have a single portion remaining through the sabbath (the source of TWO Challot for Shabbat). It was the only case that the leftovers would not rot. Besides Moses not being too happy, those who went out to gather manna on the Sabbath got off scott-free. But as for stick-guy, why does this guy get punished by forfe? Why nobody else? Was this guy to serve as an example? An effigy? Would he represent the expiation for anyone else who would violate the sabbath in the future? He is nameless as it could be anyone who committed this egregious felony. Don't fret, anonymous Ploni, according to legend your daughters brought about the biggest revolution for women's property rights for the ancient world, so you have that going for you...

Shabbat Shalom

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