Parashat Ki Tisa- The Sanctity of Every Jew
The Torah in Parashat Ki-Tisa reiterates the command to observe Shabbat, explaining that Shabbat makes us realize "Ki Ani Hashem Mekadishchem" – "that I am the G-d who makes you sacred" (31:13). Somehow, the institution of Shabbat demonstrates that Hashem has made us a sacred nation. In what way does Shabbat show us our sanctity?
The Or Ha’haim (Rav Haim Ben-Attar, 1696-1743) explains by making a simple calculation. Rashi writes that the Torah reiterates the Misva of Shabbat in this context, immediately following the commands regarding the construction of the Mishkan, to teach that the work to build the Mishkan is suspended on Shabbat. As vitally important as the Mishkan is, and as much as Beneh Yisrael were to work on this project with zeal and energy, the Shabbat restrictions override the construction of the Mishkan, and so the work came to a halt when Shabbat began. The Mishkan is exceedingly sacred, but the day of Shabbat is even more sacred than the Mishkan. And yet, although Shabbat is exceptionally sacred – holier even than the Mishkan – there is something even more sacred than Shabbat: a Jew. As we know, the Shabbat prohibitions are overridden for the sake of saving the life of even a single Jew, regardless of who he or she is. When any Jew’s life is potentially threatened, we may – and must – violate Shabbat to protect that Jew.
It emerges, then, that the Mishkan is very sacred – but Shabbat is even more sacred than the Mishkan, and a Jew is even more sacred than Shabbat.
This, the Or Ha’haim writes, is the meaning of the phrase, "La’da’at Ki Ani Hashem Mekadishchem," which establishes that Shabbat observance demonstrates that Hashem has made us sacred. After commanding Beneh Yisrael to build the Mishkan, G-d reminds us that as holy as the Mishkan is, every Jew is considerably holier than the Mishkan – as evidenced by the fact that Shabbat overrides the construction of the Mishkan, and the life of a single Jew overrides the prohibitions of Shabbat.
There was a Hassidic Rebbe who had the practice during weddings to spread his arms and bow on the dancefloor as the men were dancing. When he was asked about this seemingly peculiar practice, he explained that he was not bowing, but rather immersing. Every Jew is sacred, and when Jews assemble together, they create an entity so pristine and pure that it resembles a Mikveh, which brings purity. And so on the dancefloor, this Rebbe would "immerse" to attain purity from this sacred entity.
Every time we see a Jew, we must recognize that we are beholding Kedusha, that we are in the presence of something more sacred than the Bet Ha’mikdash, and more sacred than Shabbat. While we might be very different from this Jew, and we might have strong disagreements with him or her, or may even have reason to be upset with that person, nevertheless, we must appreciate the holiness within this individual, and within each and every one of our fellow Jews. Recognizing the Kedusha of every Jew can help us transcend our differences and disagreements, and live together in peace and harmony as G-d wants us to.