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   by Jacob Solomon

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'You shall observe My Sabbaths… it is a sign between Me and you… to know that I am G-d, Who makes you kadosh' (translated as 'holy') (31:13).

The word kadosh is usually rendered as 'holy'. However, the use of the word is wider in scope, covering anything that is 'separate' - from society, from routine, from the normal way people relate to people and objects. It is used in reference to the High Priest: 'For I am G-d 'mekadesho' who makes him 'holy' - he has separate rules in, for example, being required to marry a woman who is a virgin (Lev. 21:13-15). It is also used more mundanely (kadesh, kedeisha) to refer to prostitutes of both sexes (Deut. 23:18) - those who practice that calling being seen as 'separate' from right-thinking society. And indeed the wider interpretation of the word kadosh supports the following insight into Shabbat:

The Shabbat is a day out of time and worldly routine. Observing Biblically-ordained rest is an act of faith. As the Torah promises in the context of Shemitta - the seventh year when 'the Land shall rest - a Sabbath to G-d' (Lev. 25:2), and Yovel (Jubilee) (Lev. 25:11-12) which is also described as kadosh:

You might say: 'What can we eat in the seventh year? We neither sowed nor harvested our produce.'

(G-d replies) 'I will command my blessing in the sixth year, and it will make produce for three years… until the ninth year' (Lev. 25:20-22)

So despite the Israelites elsewhere being forbidden to 'put G-d to the test' (Deut. 6:16), G-d Himself promises to 'deliver the goods'. Even though the Israelites abstain from agriculture within the Holy Land, they are assured that they will not suffer if they keep His Commandments.

This idea may not only be applied to Sabbath of the Seventh Year, but also to the weekly Sabbath. Not being allowed to work appears to imply a drop in income, production, and achievement.

But the Torah declares and assures otherwise. The reason for the observance of the Shabbat in this Parasha is 'it is a sign between Me and you to know that I am G-d who makes you 'kadosh'. He assures His People that they will be treated as kadosh - separate. Separate from the expectations of economics that more time equals more income. Like with Shemitta, he assures the Israelites that their economic needs will be taken care of - in His act of 'separating' you - making you holy. That, repeated week after week, is the 'sign between Me and you' - that you continue to prosper despite (or actually because) of the Shabbat…

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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