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    Breaking Shabbat – Sh’lach L’cha

    Chapter 15 of B’midbar reports that a man was found gathering sticks on Shabbat.

    It was probably the second Shabbat in the wilderness since the Torah has already told us that the people rested on the (first) Sabbath day (Ex. 16:30).

    Because it was not yet clear what to do with the man who broke Shabbat he was incarcerated.

    Why was there a doubt about his punishment, when we are aware that such a person should be put to death?

    The doubt, as Rashi says, was not whether the death penalty applied, but which type of death penalty was appropriate.

    Apart from the legal aspect of the story, we see that there was no guarantee that the people were spiritually strong enough to abide by God’s laws for more than about a week. The reason was not that they were by nature a fractious and disobedient nation but that it took time to educate them in morality.

    The man was treated so harshly in relation to Shabbat because, as was the case throughout history, it was more tempting to break Shabbat than many other laws.

    Looked at from the opposite angle, those who started living by the Sabbath law always found that it was the most meaningful and enjoyable time of the week.

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