Kee tissa

Special Selection: Shabbat Parah Numbers 19.1-22. Ezekiel 36.16-38

Hashem wants Israel to be respectful to itself. When it comes to counting how many people make up the total amount the commandment is to not count the people but to count the items each one gives to the people as a whole. The value is the same for everyone, rich and poor, namely a half shekel. As if to express that everyone is equal in value. People are to give and to care for the community. That way they are accountable.

By giving you will make the community prosper and that way you prosper. You also grow out of the inclination to keep things for yourself. Perhaps that is why it says in the first verse of this parasha: When you lift up a head (take the sum) of the children of Israel, every man shall give … (Exodus 30:12). In other words, if you aim at lifting people’s morale and spiritual quality, each man needs to be involved in giving.

The “breaking of bread” we read about in the New Testament – see e.g. Acts 2:42 and 20:7 – is a term for the prayer we say before each meal. In contrast is the breaking of the bread Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 10:16, where wine and bread are clearly the ingredients of a Shabbat celebration. Before we break the bread we wash our hands. And this washing ceremony stems from the more extended washing ceremony with the Laver (Exodus 30:17-21), where the priests also washed their feet. If they did not they would die. Because the spiritual “dust of the world” is too filthy to get mixed with the breath of heaven.

In this parasha the Shabbat is underlined once again. Also there the rule goes: who does not celebrate Shabbat will die. It is given to Israel. And people who choose to becoming soul mate of us choose to celebrate Shabbat. Changing that sacred day of rest to a day which a Roman emperor chose to connect with his sun-god (hence: Sunday) is some choice people should reconsider. Celebrating Shabbat is not only resting from our weekly activities on the Saturday. It is also confirming that Torah is still valid. From the moment Hashem gave it to us.

In this parasha the second set of Luchot Habrit (Two Stone Tablets) are prepared by Moshe in order to be inscribed with the Asseret Hadibrot (Ten Words). And the Matan Torah (Giving of Torah) by Hashem is accompanied by G-d’s proclamation of the thirteen expressions of His grace. Torah is still valid. Hashem created the world and rested from His work on that very same day of Shabbat, the day on which we are to come together for a holy convocation. With all the joy and peace that goes along with it.

Shabbat shalom,
Lion S. Erwteman, rosh kehillah of Beth Yeshua
Amsterdam, Holland