This week's mailing is sponsored by a former student of mine, Dov Wasserman. Thank you Dov, may Hashem provide you with all that you need! "TORAH FROM THE INTERNET," by RABBI MORDECAI KORNFELD, is available now at a HEBREW BOOKSTORE near you, or from the publisher JUDAICAPR@AOL.COM ============================================================ PARASHAT YITRO 5758
"ZACHOR" AND "SHAMOR"
Remember ("Zachor") the Shabbat day, that you may sanctify it...
for in six days Hashem created the heavens and the earth, the sea
and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; that is
why Hashem blessed and sanctified the Shabbat.
So appears the commandment to observe the Shabbat in the Ten Commandments, in this week's Parasha. In Parashat Va'etchanan, the Torah presents a second record of the Ten Commandments, surprisingly with a number of significant changes:
Observe ("Shamor") the Shabbat day, that you may sanctify it... and
you shall remember that you once were a servant in the land of
Egypt and Hashem took your from there with a mighty hand and an
outstretched arm; that is why Hashem commanded you to observe the
The glaring contradiction between the two reasons given for observing the Shabbat is one of the most notable differences between the two accounts of the Decalogue. Why do we observe the Shabbat -- as testimony to the fact that Hashem created the world and all that is in it; or as testimony to the fact that Hashem took us, His chosen people, out from the Land of Egypt? And why does the Torah begin the first account with the word "Zachor," and the second with the word "Shamor?" (In another mailing, now printed in "Torah from the Internet," Parashat Va'etchanan, I discussed the broader issue of why there are differences at all between the two accounts, and why and how all of the differences stem from a common theme. Here, we shall limit our discussion specifically to the issue of Shabbat, and expand on the lessons that may be learned from this two-pronged description of the Shabbat.) II Rav Yitzchak Arema, in his renowned Akedat Yitzchak (ch. 55, s.v. "ha'Ikar ha'Rishon) explains that there are indeed two distinct themes in the observance of the Shabbat, and that the words "Zachor" and "Shamor" encapsulate those two themes.
There are two sides to not working on Shabbat -- the passive (i.e. the *lack* of accomplishment), and the active (i.e. what *is* accomplished). On the one hand, work is not performed; on the other, an inner relaxation and calm is achieved. Shabbat was intended to bring about both of these results. Through the achievement of inner repose, we are able to momentarily take ourselves out of the rote of our daily lives and consider the more ethereal aspects of life. We spend our Shabbat contemplating the wonders of Hashem's creation and His Torah.
The passive aspect of Shabbat is meant to serve another purpose entirely. The theme of many Mitzvot is that Hashem redeemed the Jewish People from Egyptian bondage, the single most important event in Jewish history. Such Mitzvot serve as constant reminders of Hashem's love for the Jewish People, and of His full control over all that happens to mankind. Shabbat, too, is a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt. By not working, we are reminded that Hashem brought an end to our slavery and made us free men.
Our Sages revealed to us that the word "Zachor" reflects a positive commandment, while the word "Shamor" reflects a negative prohibition (Shavuot 20b). The Ten Commandments as recorded in Parashat Yitro refer to the *active* theme of the Shabbos -- the achievement of inner calm, which allows us to reflect on Hashem's Creation of the heavens and the earth. That is why the Mitzvah of Shabbat begins with "Zachor" (remember, consider) and continues with an account of the six days of Creation. The Commandments of Parashat Va'etchanan, on the other hand, refer to the passive theme of the Shabbat. That is why they begin the Mitzvah of Shabbat with the word "Shamor" (observe, do not do work), and continue with a description of the Exodus from Egypt.
We may add, based on the Akeidah's insightful analysis, that this serves to explain a number of differences between the laws of the Shabbat and those of the other Jewish holidays. Both Shabbat and the holidays have the same dual theme described above. However, on Shabbat the *primary* theme is that of inner rest, and of considering Hashem's creation of the heavens and the earth, while on the other holidays the main theme is clearly that of the Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent, related events. The accomplishment of inner rest serves as a secondary theme.
On Shabbat, we are told, the soul of one who works "will be cut of from the rest of Israel" (Shemot 31:14). Shabbat is meant to preserve the most basic tenets of Judaism. One who profanes it, displays a lack of regard for the fact that Hashem is the Creator of all. His soul deserves to be cut off from Israel. Secondly, the observance of the "active" part of the Shabbat is connected to the mind, or soul, rather than the body. The punishment for desecrating it must also involve the soul. Thirdly, since the desecration of the Shabbat involves a negative act (i.e., *not* accomplishing what was supposed to be accomplished), its punishment is negative. The desecrator's soul is "cut off" from its expected portion.
In contrast, one who desecrates the other Jewish Holidays is only punished with lashes. The primary theme of the festivals is not the existence of a Creator, but the Chosenness of the Jewish People. Denying that is not as blasphemous as denying the existence of the Creator altogether. Secondly, passively not working on Jewish holidays is an act (or rather, lack of action) of the *body*, rather than the soul. The punishment for their desecration is likewise one of the body. Thirdly, desecrating the holidays by working involves an active transgression. Its punishment is therefore also an active one.
We also find that it is permitted to work on the preparation of food on Jewish holidays, while on Shabbat even this is prohibited (Shemot 12:16). Since the primary theme of the holidays is that we are free men, it is not necessary to prohibit acts which are done regularly by the free man; only the more exhausting and taxing acts are prohibited. On Shabbat, on the other hand, Hashem wants us to keep our minds entirely free to ponder the spiritual.
The Torah tells us that the Jewish nation was actually first commanded to observe the Shabbat *before* the giving of the Ten Commandments (Shemot 16:5; Rashi 15:25). In general, the Mitzvot that the Jews were given before reaching Mt. Sinai were meant as reminders of the miracles of the Exodus. The Mitzvot of Pesach, Tefillin, Nisan being the first of the months, and attributing holiness to the first-born, are all examples of this concept. It is therefore plausible to suggest that the Mitzvah of Shabbat which preceded the Giving of the Torah, was meant to commemorate the Exodus, rather than Creation.
If we are correct in this assessment, another variant between the two accounts of the Decalogue falls into place. In Va'etchanan, the Torah adds a few words: "Observe ("Shamor") the Shabbat day, that you may sanctify it, *as Hashem has already commanded you*." The Gemara (Shabbat 87b) explains this to mean, "as Hashem commanded you before you received the Ten Commandments, in Marah (Shemot 15:25)." In Va'etchanan, where the Torah dwells on the theme of "Shabbat = an end to servitude," it mentions that the Jews already were observing the Shabbat with that theme in mind. In Parashat Yitro, on the other hand, there is no reference to the Shabbat of Marah. That Shabbat was not related to the creation of the world.
Another difference between the two records of the Ten Commandments involves the commandment against perjury. In Yitro (Shemot 20:13), we are commanded "Do not provide *false* testimony against your friend." In Va'etchanan (Devarim 5:17), on the other hand, the Torah tells us "Do not provide *worthless* evidence about your friend." The Mechilta (Shemot ibid.) teaches as follows:
How were the Ten Commandments given? Five on one tablet, and five corresponding commandments on the other.... The verse says, "Remember the Shabbat," and corresponding to it on the other tablet was written "Do not provide false testimony." This teaches that whoever desecrates the Shabbat is as if he is testifying before the
Creator of all that He did not create the world in six days and rest on the seventh.
Perhaps this is why the Torah expressed the prohibition against false testimony differently in the second description of the Ten Commandments. One who desecrates the *active* theme of not working on the Shabbat, indeed appears to shed doubt on the story of Creation. However, one who denies the *passive* theme of the Shabbat, denies a secondary tenet of belief, that of the chosenness of the Jewish People. Although he does believe in the story of creation, his testimony in the Creation is "worthless," for, as we know, the world was only created for the purpose of serving the Jewish People and performing the Mitzvot (Rashi, Bereishit 1:1). Of him it is appropriate to say, "Do not provide *worthless* evidence about your friend."
It is interesting to note that, according to the Yerushalmi (Shavuot 3:8), the words "false" and "worthless" [testimony] were uttered by Hashem in one utterance, just as we are told that the words "Zachor" and "Shamor" were uttered in one utterance (ibid.). (This may be the conclusion of the Talmud Bavli as well, Shavuot 20b, except that the Bavli adds that there is a *reason* why Hashem uttered these both in one utterance.) Just as "Zachor" and "Shamor" reflect twin themes in the Mitzvah of Shabbos, their corresponding terms in the prohibition of giving false testimony, "false" and "worthless," reflect twin themes in its desecration! (See also Be'er Yosef, Yitro 20:8, who mentions a similar idea.)
May Hashem grant us a fuller appreciation of the Shabbos, that we may find each and every one to be an uplifting spiritual experience!