VE’ESCHANAN (Deuteronomy, 3:23-7:11) — “Double Talk”

Did you ever wonder why we place two Challahs (breads) on our Sabbath table? Or why we light two candles on Friday night? One of the reasons is based on a discrepancy in verses in the Torah.

The Book of Deuteronomy is, to a great extent, a review of the Torah. Moses, in the closing weeks of his life, addressed his beloved nation, pointing out to them the high and low points of their relationship with G-d over the years. One of the items in his review was the Revelation at Mt. Sinai.

Moses repeated the Ten Commandments that G-d had given to the nation. Before I quote to you what Moses said, I have (you should pardon the expression,) a “Trivia” question for you:  Fill in the blank: “________ the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

If you said, “Honor the Sabbath…” you correctly quoted Exodus, 20:8. However, that is not what Moses told them.

In this week’s Torah Portion, we read a rendition of the Ten Commandments that differs considerably from what it says in Exodus: “GUARD the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” (Deuteronomy, 5:12)

Why did Moses misquote the Ten Commandments? A simple reading of Exodus shows us that G-d said “Remember.” Why did Moses say “Guard?” Could he possibly have forgotten what had happened a mere 40 years ago on the holiest day in history?! Could he have been confused and not realized what was a) written on Torah scrolls that were in his possession, and b) engraved on the (second) Tablets that he had brought down from Mt. Sinai?

Or, perhaps we should look at it the other way. Could it be that Deuteronomy is correct and Exodus is wrong?! What did G-d actually tell us at Mt. Sinai? Did He tell us to REMEMBER the Sabbath, or did he tell us to GUARD the Sabbath?

According to the Talmud (Mechilta, on Exodus, 20:8), He told us both. As we say in our Friday night prayers, “Shamor v’Zachor, b‘dibur echad – ‘Guard’ and ‘Remember’ were said in one word.” Among the many miracles that took place at Mt. Sinai was the fact that G-d said two words at the same time. He told us “Zachor – Remember the Sabbath day,” and “Shamor – Guard the Sabbath day.” These two concepts, Shamor and Zachor Guard and Remember, are the source of the custom of two candles and two Challahs on the table.

What does this “double talk” mean? How do we remember Shabbos and how do we guard Shabbos?

There are two components to Sabbath observance. How do we remember the Sabbath? The Talmud (Pesachim, 106a) says that the Mitzvah of “Zachor – Remember” is to “Remember it over wine;” i.e., recite the Kiddush, the prayer said while holding a glass of wine. “Kiddush – Sanctification” is, in a sense, our way of proclaiming a “toast to the Sabbath.” In other words, the Torah is telling us to verbally proclaim the Sabbath as a holy day. Some authorities maintain that by the simple greeting, “have a good Shabbos,” one fulfills the Biblical Commandment of remembering the Sabbath.

What about “Shamor – Guard?” How does one fulfill the commandment to guard the Sabbath? The obligation of “Shamor” means that one must refrain from the prohibited activities of creative work on the Sabbath.

Remember” refers to the positive Sabbath commandments, the “Thou shalts.” “Guard” refers to the negative commandments, the “Thou shalt nots.”

To fully fulfill the Fourth Commandment, one must “Remember,” honor the Sabbath with prayers, special clothes, and good food. One must also be a “Shomer Shabbos,” a “Guardian of the Sabbath,” a person who doesn’t violate the negative commandments of the Sabbath.

Many people appreciate the “positive” side of Sabbath observance. After all, who can argue with the idea of wearing nice clothes and singing songs at a festive dinner table with wine and good food?  Everyone loves Jewish culture.

The Torah’s message to those individuals is “Shamor!” “Guard My Sabbath! It’s more than simply Jewish culture; it’s Jewish Law!  Don’t just enjoy it; observe it! Don’t go to work! Don’t go to the movies or the golf course! I worked for six days and rested on the seventh. So must you!”

On the other hand, there are many people who are very scrupulous when it comes to the minutiae of Sabbath Law. They will carefully avoid any act that bears any similarity to work on Shabbos. But it is possible to get so caught up in the legalities, that it can sometimes become a burden.

A religious person I know once confided in me that the fulfillment of a particular Mitzvah was very difficult. “I do it because I have to do it, but it’s a real pain in the … (neck!)”

To such a person, the Torah says, “REMEMBER the Sabbath! Celebrate the Sabbath! Enjoy Mitzvah observance. Learn to appreciate the precious gift of Torah!”

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When my children were very young, we were concerned as to how to give them a positive feeling about the Sabbath. It’s a real challenge when a 2-year old child sees his mother light candles, and is then told, “No, sweetheart, you can’t listen to your ‘Uncle Moishie’ tape, because it’s Shabbos…No dear, you’re not allowed to play with that toy on Shabbos.”

How do you inculcate your child with a love of Shabbos? How do you teach him that it’s more than a day of restrictions?

Every Friday, my wife used to gather the children together to watch her light Shabbos candles. Immediately after lighting the candles, she sang songs with them and distributed sweets. Shabbos became a time of fun and family togetherness.

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Why were “remember” and “guard” said simultaneously?  Why didn’t G-d make two separate statements?

The reason, I believe, is that they are NOT two separate statements.  You can’t have one without the other. There are two parts to every commandment. If we observe without appreciating, or appreciate without observing, we end up doing neither.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives

“I Understand Exactly How You Feel” (2013) 

In my line of work as a rabbi, I find myself involved in lots of lifecycle events.  Since I am a chaplain for senior citizens, these events are, all too often, sad ones.

What does one say to a mourner who is sitting Shiva for a loved one?  Something I was taught early in my career was to never, but never, say, “I know how you feel.”

Because you don’t.  No one does…

I prepared to leave.  I offered them the traditional farewell to a mourner…

Then I paused.  “Today,” I said, “…

Read more.

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“Thou Shalt Not Pray?!” (2007) 

Moses wanted to enter the Land of Israel … G-d said no.  But that didn’t stop Moses from trying.  He prayed, he entreated, he begged.  He even tried to negotiate… 

G-d made it very clear to Moses that the case was closed; there was nothing more to talk about.  The answer was a clear, resounding, “NO!”  Moses would not be permitted to enter the Land… 

Let him ask if he wants!  He’ll eventually get the message when he sees that G-d won’t let him in… 

Read more

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“Do as I Say, Not as I Do!” (2005) 

… I often hear and read criticisms of religious Jews for not being willing to be open to other people’s opinions.  Case in point…  I respectfully requested that they remove my congregation from their letterhead… I later heard that when my request was discussed at their board meeting, I was raked over the coals as a dogmatic ideologue.  Why is he so intolerant, they demanded…

Read more

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“Sheepskin or Cheapskin?” (2004)

Overheard conversation: 

“I bought an absolutely gorgeous Mezuzah for my apartment!”

“Great!  I can’t wait to see it!”

“Oh, yes, it’s really beautiful.  Ornate, hand-carved mahogany, inlaid with cherry, and sterling silver trim.  It’s a one-of-a-kind!  Now all I need is the little paper that goes inside!”… 

Read more

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“Why are we Whispering?  What’s the Big Secret?” (2003) 

… Jacob was lying on his deathbed.  His twelve sons stood by his bedside, awaiting his blessing.  He was concerned.  “How do I know,” he asked, “that you will continue to worship the One G-d after I’m gone? How do I know you will not become idol worshippers?”… 

Read more

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“Double Talk” (2002)

 … A religious person I know once confided in me that the fulfillment of a particular Mitzvah was very difficult. “I do it because I have to do it, but it’s a real pain in the … (neck!)” … When my children were very young, we were concerned as to how to give them a positive feeling about the Sabbath. It’s a real challenge when a 2-year-old child sees his mother light candles, and is then told, “No, sweetheart, you can’t listen to your ‘Uncle Moishie’ tape, because it’s Shabbos…No dear, you’re not allowed to play with that toy on Shabbos.”

How do you inculcate your child with a love of Shabbos? How do you teach him that it’s more than a day of restrictions?  …

Read more.

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“The Devil Made Me Do It!” (2001) 

…  We see in this week’s Torah reading that there is a Mitzvah to safeguard one’s health.  We all know that it’s not healthy to overeat.  We understand that the Torah requires us to lower our cholesterol and triglycerides.  Yet, that third slice of cheesecake beckons.  Just as our resolve is about to melt, our deliverance comes from an unlikely place…

Read more

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2013 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on July 19, 2002 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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