Volume 6 Issue 18
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
This week we read the Aseres HaDibros, known throughout civilization as the
Ten Commandments. Most of the commandments are well known, and even
observed, albeit in varying degrees by manifold societies. One command,
however, begs for correct observance by the Jewish nation, "Zachor es yom
haShabbos l'kadsho -- Remember the Shabbos to keep it holy." This
commandment has a sister command stated in the second set of Luchos in
Deuteronomy, "Shamor es yom haShabbos l'kadsho, Observe the Shabbos to keep
The laws of Shabbos observance fills an entire tractate and myriad pages of
commentaries. There are 39 melachos, categories of creative work, that are
prohibited on Shabbos. That is observance. But what does "remember the
Shabbos to keep it holy" mean? Obviously if one observes the Shabbos, he
Though the Talmud derives from this verse the mitzvah of kiddush, at which
we remember the Shabbos with an open declaration of its sanctity, it seems
to be telling us something more than declaring its entry over a cup of
wine. But how does the command of remembering Shabbos add to the mitzvah of
The next verse reads: "Six days shall you work and accomplish all your
work: but the seventh day is Shabbos to Hashem" (ibid 20:9)
Shouldn't the order of the two p'sukim be reversed? First the Torah should
tell us to accomplish our work in six days, then tell us that the seventh
is Sabbath, and only then tell us to sanctify it by remembering it? After
all, we stop work before we say kiddush?
The prophet Isaiah tells us, "If for Shabbos you restrain your feet (from
going) and if you honor it by not doing your ways, or seeking your needs,
or speaking the forbidden, then you shall be granted pleasure from Hashem.
The Talmud derives that Shabbos talk, like Shabbos action, should be
distinguished from weekday actions or speech. Just as one does not perform
business on Shabbos, he should not talk about doing business either.
Thus some Jews who unfortunately are unable to contain themselves from
discussing the mundane on Shabbos, preempt their mundane banter with the
useless caveat, "nit oif Shabbos geredt," meaning, "this really should not
be discussed on Shabbos." Unfortunately some do not heed their own
precursory and continue their irreverent discussions.
A fable I heard years ago, personifies a sad state of spirituality, but,
perhaps shines a meaningful explanation for our question.
It was amazingly quiet, during the laining in the small shul on 43rd Street
one Shabbos, when Cohen sauntered over to Finkelstein and in a hushed tone
asked, "Nit oif Shabbos g'redt, do you know anybody who has a car for sale?
My old clunker died on Thursday."
Finkelstein was surprised. "You know," he admitted, "Nit oif Shabbos
g'redt, I am thinking of selling my '96 Chevy!"
"Really?, responded Cohen in delight, " Nit oif Shabbos g'redt, how does it
Nit oif Shabbos g'redt, it runs great! It has only 43,000 miles and I just
put in a new transmission!
Suddenly, they heard a klop on the bimah. They turned to see the icy stares
of the gabbai.
They nuzzled their noses into the chumashim as the Ba'al Koreh continued to
read from the Torah.
A few minutes later, Cohen crept back toward Finkelstein. "Nit oif Shabbos
g'redt what color is it?"
As the stares began anew, Cohen answered in a low whisper, "Nit oif Shabbos
g'redt, its blue."
Cohen realized that he forgot to ask a most pertinent question. "Nit oif
Shabbos g'redt, how much do you want for it?"
Finkelstein responded, "Nit oif Shabbos g'redt, $4,200. Cash."
A few minutes later Cohen countered, "nit oif Shabbos g'redt, how about 3,500?
'Finkelstein snapped back. "Nit oif Shabbos g'redt nothing less than 4,000!"
Cohen was quiet. "I'll think about it."
Cohen was the first one in shul for Mincha that afternoon. The moment
Finkelstein walked in Cohen ran over to him.
"Nit oif Shabbos g'redt, you know the car you told me about this morning,
It's a deal! I'll take it for four thousand!
Yankel, shrugged. "Too late. Nit oif Shabbos g'redt I sold it during musaf!"
Perhaps with the words, "remember the Shabbos to keep it holy," the Torah
tells us more than just to make kiddush. It qualifies our Shabbos by
defining the proper approach to its observance! Shabbos was created for
sanctity! Remember it, and speak about it in holy terms. Shabbos should not
be a frame of reference in which we set our mundane plans. Rather it should
be the central focus of holiness.
Often we hear people use Shabbos as a reference point for their weekly
activities. "After Shabbos we are going to a party." "I have a great stock
tip, I'll tell you about it after Shabbos!" "What time is Shabbos over? I
have to catch a plane."
Shabbos, and remembering it should be mentioned and remembered in the
context of sanctity and appreciation! It must be associated with all the
wonderful benefits we derive from it! That is what the Torah means by the
words, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy!" We should cherish the
Shabbos, prolong it, savor it, and bask in its holiness. Therefore the
Torah follows its charge with the formula, "Six days shall you work and
accomplish all your work," When one feels that his work was accomplished
during the previous six days, then Shabbos will not be just a stepping
stone in planning the next six! He no longer will associate the Shabbos
with what he can not do, but rather he will associate Shabbos with the
amazing spirituality that it bestows upon Israel.
Dedicated by Michael & Rikki Charnowitz in memory of Ephraim Spinner
Ephraim Yitzchak ben Avraham ob"m -- 17 Shevat
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Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
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