Shabbat: Physically and Spiritually
In this week's parsha the Torah records for us the revelation at Sinai and a
restatement of the Ten Commandments. The text of the Ten Commandments as
recorded in this week's parsha differs somewhat from the text of the Ten
Commandments as they appear in parshat Yitro. These differences are
commented upon and explained to us in the Talmud, Midrash and in the later
commentaries to the Torah.
The major discrepancy in text concerns the description of Shabbat. Whereas
in parshat Yitro we were commanded zachor - remember – the Shabbat to
sanctify it, here in parshat Vaetchanan we are told to safeguard – shamor –
the Shabbat and not to desecrate it by performing forbidden acts of work.
The Talmud teaches us that these two words – zachor and shamor - were
uttered at Sinai, so to speak, simultaneously in one breath.
There are a number of lessons to be learned from this explanation of the
rabbis as to why there are two different texts advanced in the Torah
regarding Shabbat. One of the lessons is that words, no matter how holy and
precise they may attempt to be, are still insufficient to convey the breadth
and scope of eternal values and spiritual holiness.
Again, words, no matter how beautiful and varied they may be, constrict us
and always leave room for misinterpretation and ambiguity. There are truly
no words, which by themselves can convey the concept of the serenity,
holiness and spiritual and physical uniqueness of Shabbat. So we are forced
to say that different words have to be said and heard in a simultaneous
fashion in order for the listener to begin to grasp the true value in
Another important lesson to be learned from the duality of expression
regarding Shabbat is that there is an intrinsic combination of values in
the holiest day of the week. The serenity and spiritual quality of the day
cannot be achieved simply by discussing it or spiritually and theoretically
identifying with it. It is the forced abstention from the mundane activities
of the every day week – the restrictions, if you will – that contribute
mightily to the positive feeling and emotional peace of the day of Shabbat.
Without shamor, zachor remains an unachievable goal. And without zachor –
the wine of kiddush, the special bread and meals of the day, etc. – shamor -
become very burdensome and unattractive.
So therefore these two facets of Shabbat must be enjoyed and enforced in a
simultaneous fashion in order for the true meaning of the day to take hold
within the body and soul of the Jew. The observance of Shabbat therefore is
a matter of intellectual and emotional sophistication. A Shabbat without
restrictions is meaningless. It is just another Tuesday. A Shabbat without
prayer, Torah study, proper dress, food and physical pleasure and relaxation
lacks vitality and negates the holy spirit of the day.
It is the dual nature of Shabbat that gives it its special character and
holy demeanor. Therefore the rabbis correctly taught us that zachor and
shamor werecommunicatedtousatSinai as one statement and package. Therein
lies the magic of the holy day of Shabbat.
Rabbi Berel Wein