Va’Eschanan: The Sanctity & Beauty of Shabbos

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Va’Eschanan, Moshe Rabbeinu reviews the Aseres ha’Dibros, the Ten Commandments (lit. ‘the Ten Declarations’), with the nation.  The Aseres ha’Dibros, which were given to the first generation at the foothills of Sinai forty years prior, are now repeated for the sake of their children, who would hear the truisms of the law from Moshe, prior to his demise, and prior to their entry into the Holy Land.

In the fourth commandment, we are commanded regarding Shabbos.  In Yisro (Shemos 20:8), the pasuk says: זָכ֛וֹר֩ אֶת־י֥֨וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖֜ת לְקַדְּשֽׁ֗וֹ, Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Rashi tells us: תְּנוּ לֵב לִזְכֹּר תָּמִיד אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, שֶׁאִם נִזְדַּמֵּן לְךָ חֵפֶץ יָפֶה תְּהֵא מַזְמִינוֹ לְשַׁבָּתpay attention always to remember the Sabbath day, for if a special item of food comes your way during the week, prepare it and set it aside for Shabbos (ibid).

When Moshe repeats the Aseres ha’Dibros in our parsha, the lashon is amended slightly and the pasuk reads: שָׁמ֛֣וֹר אֶת־י֥וֹם֩ הַשַּׁבָּ֖֨ת לְקַדְּשׁ֑֜וֹguard the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Devarim 5:12).

Here Rashi teaches: וּבָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת הוּא אוֹמֵרזָכוֹר“, שְׁנֵיהֶם בְּדִבּוּר אֶחָד וּבְתֵבָה אַחַת נֶאֶמְרוּ, וּבִשְׁמִיעָה אַחַת נִשְׁמְעוּand in the first set, the pasuk says ‘zachor’ (remember), for both zachor and shamor were said in one declaration and as one word, and were heard simultaneously (ibid).

This comes to teach us that both the zachor (remember) aspect of Shabbos and the shamor (guard) aspect of Shabbos are of equal importance and relevance.

Furthermore: zachor – we must remember and keep the mitzvos asey in regard to Shabbos, and shamor – we must be on guard not to transgress the mitzvos lo sa’asey in regard to hilchos Shabbos.

An additional insight of the Ohr HaChaim ha’Kadosh into the meaning of שָׁמ֛֣וֹר אֶת־י֥וֹם֩ הַשַּׁבָּ֖֨ת לְקַדְּשׁ֑֜וֹ teaches us of the importance of longing and waiting for Shabbos.  The Ohr HaChaim writes that Shabbos should not be viewed as a burden, but rather, we must rejoice in Shabbos and desire it, and to be “shomer Shabbos” means that one must constantly wait and anticipate the arrival of Shabbos, longing for it and wondering “when will it come?” so that the mitzvos of Shabbos can be fulfilled (Ohr HaChaim to Shemos 31:16-17).

Perhaps we can also derive another lesson from the duality of zachor – remember the Sabbath – and shamor – guard the Sabbath.

Zachor, we as shmorei Shabbos Jews, must remember the Shabbos day to keep it holy.  And furthermore, Shamor – we have to guard Shabbos and try to ensure that other Jews appreciate her beauty and holiness as well.

Rav Yisrael Meir Lau shlita records the following narrative in his masterful book, Out of the Depths.  In the early days of the State, Ha-Shahar bus company (which later merged with Egged) decided that its buses would drive through Kiryat Motzkin en route to the Galia beach.

“The bus route was to begin operation on the first Shabbat after the opening of the swimming season.  On that day, following the Torah reading in the main beit knesset in Kiryat Motzkin, Rabbi Vogelman (Rav Lau’s uncle) led the congregants into the streets.  The rabbi announced that they would pray the Mussaf service outside.

“I was about twelve years old, and I stood in prayer along with the crowd that had gathered from synagogues all around.  Ashkenazic and Sephardic, new immigrants and old timers, elderly and youth, we all gathered in the neighborhood streets.  Bus #52 approached from Kiryat Bialik going west.  My sensitive uncle did not dare stand in its path, but he removed his (talit) prayer shawl from his shoulders and spread it over the road.  I remember his lovely prayer shawl with the silver border, spread in all its glory on the black asphalt.  Then the rest of the crowd followed his lead, carpeting Ha-Shoftim Avenue with prayer shawls until not an inch of asphalt was visible.  With a screech of brakes, the bus stopped beside the rabbi, just in front of the prayer shawls.  The driver got off, shaking all over, and pleaded to my uncle:

“‘Why is your Honor, the rabbi, doing this to me?  Am I not a Jew?  How can I run over a prayer shawl?’

“The rabbi answered, ‘My son, just as it is forbidden to trample a prayer shawl, so is it forbidden to trample the holiness of the Shabbat!  We are all Jews standing here around you.  We have come to live as Jews here in this neighborhood, in which Shabbat has never been desecrated in public.  Please, do not break the tradition of Shabbat in Kiryat Motzkin, and do not break the chain of generations.’

“The driver listened silently.  Then he got back onto his bus, put it into reverse, made a U-turn, and went back the way he came.  I do not know what the situation is in Kiryat Motzkin today, but as long as I lived there, public transportation never again ran on Shabbat or on Jewish holidays”  (Out of the Depths, p.126-127).

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav zt’l, teaches, “While we have survived almost 2,000 years without the Beis HaMikdash, we would not have survived one week without Shabbos” (Darosh Darash Yosef).

May we merit to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”, as we all “to guard the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” for us, our families, and all of Klal Yisrael.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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