In this week’s Torah portion of Devarim, Moshe tells the Jewish people:
|And Hashem said to me, “Behold I have begun to deliver Sihon and his land before you; begin to drive him out, that you may inherit his land.”||לאוַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֵלַ֔י רְאֵ֗ה הַֽחִלֹּ֨תִי֙ תֵּ֣ת לְפָנֶ֔יךָ אֶת־סִיחֹ֖ן וְאֶת־אַרְצ֑וֹ הָחֵ֣ל רָ֔שׁ לָרֶ֖שֶׁת אֶת־אַרְצֽוֹ:|
The Maharz”u point out that the following medrish has difficulty reading this pasuk in it’s simple translation because why does the Torah use a language of starting; Hashem also finished the job by giving them all into the hands of the Jews? Rather, the medrish darshans [explains] the word as referring to weekday (or mundane). That the gentiles don’t merit the holiness of Shabbos, as we say in our Shabbos morning prayers, “You did not give it (referring to Shabbos), Hashem, our G-D, to the nations of the land, nor did You make it the inheritance, our King, of the worshipers of graven idols. And in its contentment the uncircumcised shall not abide, for to Israel, Your people, have you given it in love, to the seed of Yaakov, whom You have chosen.”
The Medrish Rabba (Devarim 1:21), which the Maharz”u is going on, says, “It’s a Jewish law that if a Jew was traveling on the eve of Shabbos and it got dark, and he had money or something else in his hand, what should he do? This is what our Sages have taught us (Shabbos 17b and 153a): One whom nightfall came when on the way should give his wallet to a gentile. Why is it permissible to give it to a gentile? Rebbe Levi said that when the children of Noach were commanded to keep some mitzvos, it was only 7 of them which Shabbos was not included as one of them. Therefore, it is permitted to give it to a gentile. And Rebbe Yossi bar Chanina said, A gentile who observes Shabbos before he receives a bris milah (upon conversion) is liable for execution. Why? Because he is not commanded to observe it. Why is it right that a gentile is deserving execution for observing the Shabbos? Rebbe Chiya bar Abba says in the name of Rebbe Yochanan that it is the way of the world that if a king and queen are having a private conversation with each other, and one comes and rudely interrupts their conversation, wouldn’t they surely be executed?! So too, Shabbos which is between the Jews and Hashem, as it says (Shemos 31:17) ‘Between Me and the children of Israel’, therefore if any gentile comes and butts in between them before he accepts to get a bris milah (upon conversion) is liable for execution. The Rabbis said, that Moshe said to Hashem, ‘Master Of The World, because gentiles aren’t commanded to keep the Shabbos, one might say that if they do it anyways [voluntarily] then You will be favorable to them.’ Hashem replied to him, ‘I swear that even if they fulfill all the mitzvos in the Torah they will fall before you’ How do we know this? From that we see from this pasuk, ‘Behold I have (begun) [profaned] to deliver… before you.’”
The Anaf Yosef, explaining this medrish, adds that the mitzvah of Shabbos teaches us about the nuance of the world, and that there is a Creator that created the world with His will and wisdom. This is accepted by the Jews and is part of their faith. It is not some trick, and only those of faith who cling to Hashem admit to this. This is what is referred to as accepting the yoke of Heaven, and this is why it is a sign between Hashem and the Jewish people. Shabbos is also a hint to The World to Come, as it says in a Mechilta, ‘to know for I sanctified them for The World To Come, for example with the holiness of Shabbos which is kind of like The Word To Come.’ Therefore, Shabbos is a sign between Hashem and the Jews that we are His nation and His servants. Indeed, every man has a signet on his body of the sign of the holy covenant (a bris) just as slaves are branded with the sign of their master. This is a sign of acceptance of the yoke of His kingship. Therefore, a gentile when he does not come with a bris, but he is observing the Shabbos, he appears to be giving pointless behaviors for the reason of this Shabbos. Since he doesn’t have a bris, he does not admit to the concepts of clinging to Hashem and The World To Come or accepting the yoke of The Kingdom In Heaven. Therefore, his observance of Shabbos is for some outside reason, as some people say that it is good for people to rest from their hard work once a week. Or it is because the constellation of Shabsai which controls this day, and there is no success for any actions done on this day. This is aptly compared to a king intimately speaking with his queen and someone comes and interrupts their conversation, for so too this gentile who is observing Shabbos is as if he is interrupting the acceptance of faith which was handed over to us from Hashem. (See Yefeh Toar Shemos Rabba 25:16).” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Just paint a picture in your head. Even the wealthiest and most influential person, who might even know the king and queen, if he or she would interrupt their private conversation, it would be treason. He or she would deserve to be executed because, bottom line, he or she isn’t the king or queen, and it is rudely improper conduct displayed on the highest level towards his or her majesty. So too, even the most righteous gentile who, for some reason, observes every mitzvah in the Torah even though he never decided to convert, if he observes the Shabbos, without desecrating one prohibition of Shabbos, is deserving of the death penalty. But why? What if he says he is doing it for all the right reasons? The same way and reasons of why any Torah observant Jew would?
The answer is that since he refuses to convert and accept upon himself the yoke of The Almighty, on His terms, then the gentile is still only an outsider who is undeserving and in fact ruining the unique relationship a Jew has with Hashem. That is why it is treachery, deserving of execution.
As a Jew, we should take this message to heart, and realize how special we are. Everyone wants to feel important and special. If we truly contemplated and appreciated the unique status we have, and the relationship with the King Of All Kings, then every single Jew would feel honored and invigorated to observe and enjoy Shabbos properly each week. And if two Shabbosim in a row would be kept by every single Jew, Chaza”l say we are assured the Final Redemption immediately, may it come peacefully and speedily in our days.