Kollel Beis HaTalmud
Yehuda Fishman Institute's

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

Parshas Yisro

Shabbos - A Day to Remember
Rabbi Yosef Levinson

"Remember the day of Shabbos to Sanctify it (Shemos 20:8).

The Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, are mentioned twice in the Torah. The first time the mitzva of Shabbos begins "Zachor" - "Remember" - the day of Shabbos. However when they are repeated, it is written "Shamor" - "Guard" - the day of Shabbos" (Devarim 5:12). Which word was actually said by Hashem? Rashi answers "Zachor v'Shamor b'dibbur echad" - remember and guard were said simultaneously by Hashem.

Why it was necessary for us to hear both mitzvos together? Rashi explains by citing other examples in which two mitzvos were given simultaneously. In all these instances there is an apparent contradiction between the two. For example, it is forbidden to slaughter on Shabbos and yet we are commanded to bring the Korban Mussaf (Mussaf sacrifice). One might think that the second mitzva is coming to retract the first. However, the fact that they were heard together, teaches that the second mitzva was from the very beginning intended to be an exception to the otherwise binding first prohibition. In the case of Shabbos, what contradiction is there between zachor and shamor?

There are two ways in which Shabbos could be described. One might characterize it as a day of rest and relaxation or alternatively as a day of restrictions - we are forbidden to work. Both descriptions are similar on a physical level but in essence they are poles apart. One who feels imprisoned by the curtailment of his actions is far from relaxed. What then is the true nature of Shabbos?

The Ramban explains that zachor is a positive commandment; to remember the day of Shabbos and shamor is a negative commandment; to guard it from desecration. So both are true. Shabbos is a day of rest, a positive mitzva, and at the same time it is a negative mitzva, we are forbidden to work. Even though they might at first seem to contradict each other they are in fact complementary. This is why zachor and shamor were said together. This is what Rashi is telling us.

On Shabbos we rest. When we are relaxed and all is calm we can reflect on all the good that Hashem has bestowed upon us, and properly thank Him. The Shir Shel Yom (daily psalm) for Shabbos begins "A psalm, a song for Shabbos" (Tehillim 92). However there is no actual mention of Shabbos in this psalm. So why is it a Song for Shabbos? David Hamelech continues - It is good to thank Hashem and to sing praise to Your name Exalted One. During the week, it is difficult to find the time and peace of mind to appreciate what we have and to praise Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Shabbos, when we are free and relaxed is the time to sing His praise.

On Shabbos work is forbidden. After toiling the entire week and bringing home a pay check, it is tempting to think "My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth" (Devarim 8:17). But when we refrain from work it serves as a potent reminder that Hashem controls our affairs and both we and all that we have are His.

We verbally remember Shabbos by saying kiddush, and in so doing, we sanctify the day. This mitzva is derived from the word zachor. On the other hand, we must be shomrei Shabbos, guard the day from desecration, because it is inherently kodesh (holy). Can both be true? Do we introduce sanctity to the day or are we merely guarding the pre-existing holiness of Shabbos lest it be desecrated? Again, Chazal teach, "Zachor v'Shamor b'dibbur echad" - they were said together - they are indeed both true. Even though the Kedusha of Shabbos is inherent and does not need any sanctification, nevertheless by our observance of the mitzvos of Shabbos in thought, word and deed, we add to its holiness.

Let us guard the Kedusha of Shabbos and remember its lessons throughout the week.

To comment on this article e-mail the author at

Back to this week's Parsha

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel