Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To Violate the Sabbath or not to Violate the Sabbath; What Kind of Question is That?!

Exodus 16:22-30 (Torah) and Matthew 12:1-8 (Christian Bible) are the verses in discussion here.

According to the English Standard Version of the Christian Bible, Matthew 12:1-8 reads, "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of G-d and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The Torah allows one to violate a commandment in order to save his life, and is usually applied to a situation such as eating on Yom Kippur and violating Shabbat. The text of 1 Samuel 21:1-7, to which the verse in Matthew refers, indicates that David was hungry, having escaped due to Saul's intent to kill him. According to Rashi, David needed to eat in order to survive, so the Kohen, Ahimelech, after being assured that David and his attendants were in a state of ritual purity (because the show-bread had to be kept in such a state), gave him the bread. In Jewish Law, this is known as "mesirat nefesh," or saving someone's life, which allows the trangression of six hundred and ten out of the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Torah. Therefore, David's consumption of the bread was proper in the eyes of the Law, which G-d gave.

Second, Exodus 16:22-30, when the Children of Israel are wandering in the desert and receiving the manna, reads, "It happened on the sixth day that they gathered a double portion of food, two omers for each; and all the princes of the assembly came and told Moses. He said to them, 'This is what Hashem had spoken; tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Sabbath to Hashem. Bake what you wish to bake and cook what you wish to cook; and whatever is left over, put away for yourselves as a safekeeping until the morning.' They put it away until morning, as Moses had commanded; it did not stink and there was no infestation in it.
Moses said, 'Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Hashem; today you shall not find it in the field. Six days shall you gather it, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, on it there will be none.'"

That was the background context, this is the verse of emphasis;

"It happened on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, and they did not find. Hashem said to Moses, 'How long will you refuse to observe My commandments and My teachings? See that Hashem has given you the Sabbath; that is why He gives you on the sixth day a two-portion of bread. Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day.' The people rested on the seventh day."

Deuteronomy 4:2 reads, "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor shall you subtract from it, to observe the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, that I command you." This commandment was given to the Jews before entering the Land of Israel, when G-d informs them that their (willful) violation of the Law will cause the surrounding nations to remove them from the Land. The time in which Jesus and his disciples violated the Sabbath (in Israel) was about 3,000 years after the entrance to the Land, and although the Talmud gives its own reasons as to why the Jews were exiled from Israel, it is interesting to note that Jesus lived a matter of thirty years before the destruction of the Temple and subsequent occupation and exile, by which time his words had already spread and began turning into Christianity.

The Christian Bible states that the Pharisees told Jesus, "
Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." It seems that Jesus responded by citing "mesirat nefesh," the commandment to violate a commandment in order to save one's life. The Gospel says that "his disciples were hungry," so the point is that they were right in eating from the field. However, could they not have gotten their food from some other place? Surely they knew that to violate a commandment was allowable, but the last resort.

Matthew says, "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat," but the Torah says, "Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day." Jesus and his disciples, per his own command, did exactly as the Children of Israel did in the desert, they refused to observe G-d's comandments and teachings!

Furthermore, even though Moses himself was not collecting food on Shabbat, G-d chastized him
because he was the leader of the Jewish people, and Moses was not exempt from the Law in any way. Is it not fitting to say that since Jesus was a Jew, and he was a leader, that he led Jews away from proper observance of the Law and actually had them violate G-d's commandments? The point is that Jesus and his disciples had another option that citing mesirat nefesh. Why hadn't they prepared food during the week, as the verse in Exodus commands? If they were hungry, wouldn't the Pharisees had given them some of their food, or invited them over for a nice Shabbos meal rather than chastizing them for violating the Sabbath?

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