Your Rules or Mine?
For the last few Torah portions we have been reading and learning about the construction of the Tabernacle and everything that needed to be done for it to function properly. Over the last several chapters Hashem has been dictating to Moses the exact instructions for the Tabernacle and its furnishings, as well as the garments for the kohanim (priests). This week’s parashah concludes these instructions. However, immediately upon giving the last instruction regarding who was to be in charge of all of the craftsmanship, Hashem gives the Children of Israel a stern and detailed warning that none of these things were to be done on Shabbat:
Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the LORD have consecrated you. You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you. He who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time: it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:12–17)
This admonition is the first time we learn of the severe consequences of breaking the Sabbath. Willful transgression of the Sabbath day while living within a theocratic, Torah-based community results in the death penalty.