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Va’etchanan (And I Beseeched) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Remember the Sabbath Day

Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av Fast Day) is over and we look ahead. There is a spirit of optimism in the air, regardless of anything else that may be happening in the news or elsewhere. After the weekly Torah portion, we read Chapter 40 of Isaiah, which begins with the words “Comfort my people, comfort them.” And we, indeed, feel comforted.

The Torah portion is uplifting as well. For in this week’s portion, we read the Ten Commandments, as repeated by Moses in Deuteronomy. For this section of the Torah reading the entire congregation stands, as if to relive that incredible experience at Mt. Sinai so many centuries ago.

Much has been said about the differences between the wording in both versions of the Ten Commandments — this one and the one that is recorded in Exodus 20. I would like to focus on one difference and an ancient traditional interpretation that guides so much of what we do to this day.

The commandment regarding the Sabbath, Shabbat, begins in Exodus 20:8 with the words: “Remember the Sabbath Day.” In Deuteronomy, the verse reads: “Keep the Sabbath Day.” The Midrash states that both of these first words, Keep and Remember, were actually uttered by G-d simultaneously, but the human ear is incapable of hearing this. Therefore, as Moses repeats the Ten Commandments he says each word separately, once in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy.

Our sages carried this idea further and explained the inherent difference between these two words. Remember is a positive word and in fact, refers to all those acts that we do on the Sabbath day to remind us of the meaning of the day. Foremost among these is the Kiddush ceremony. Friday night and Saturday noon, we say a special blessing on a cup of wine before beginning the festive meal. The actual blessing is preceded by reciting Scripture. In the evening, we recite Genesis 2:1-3. The following day, we recite the verses regarding the Sabbath from the Ten Commandments in Exodus. Through the Kiddush, we sanctify the day and remind ourselves of its significance.

Another set of customs that are derived from this special commandment to remember is the idea of “onegShabbat”, literally, the pleasure of Shabbat. Oneg Shabbat encompasses the family meals that we share together, complete with singing, laughter and telling of stories. As a teenager growing up in the US, I well remember the Friday evening gatherings through our youth group that we referred to Oneg Shabbat. We met in someone’s home and spent hours singing songs from Scripture, listening to a teaching from the weekly Torah portion, and enjoying the cake and munchies that our hosts put out for us It was truly a pleasurable way to spend the Shabbat! 

The word “observe” and particularly the Hebrew “shamor” implies a negative — preserve the day, watch it so that it not be desecrated. It is this word that reminds us of the commandments to refrain from work (Deuteronomy 5:14), to refrain from cooking (Exodus 35:3) and so many other commandments.

But the fact that these words were said together, that both messages were communicated by G-d to His people in the Ten Commandments indicates that both are key to observance of the Shabbat. On the one hand, we refrain from doing so many of our normal everyday activities. If this were all that Shabbat was about, it would end up begin a day of restrictions, of “don’ts” and “better nots”. But it is a day of remembrance of G-d as the creator, and of the special day He has given to us to celebrate. By the same token, just remembering is not enough either. Without setting ourselves apart from our business concerns, we cannot possibly create the atmosphere necessary for the remembrance.

Shabbat Shalom From Samaria,



Sondra Baras
Director, Israel Office
CFOIC Heartland

The Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:6-18)

1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

2. You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

4. Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

5. Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

6. You shall not murder.

7. And you shall not commit adultery.

8. And you shall not steal.

9. And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10. And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

2 thoughts on “Va’etchanan (And I Beseeched) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11”

  1. The progressive absence of keeping/remembering Shabbat is damaging our life style much more than we currently realise in the western post civilisation of 21st century ‘ab-normalities’ stupidities. My great memories of volunteering in Israel recalls the real ‘therapeutic’ value of Shabbat, and continually looking forward to the day each week. All the commandments are important and each have their own imperatives, but Shabbat here has a particular emphasis.

  2. This is SO much better to be able to opt in for Torah Portion emailing list … or not …at the end of your teaching rather than the persistent and somewhat annoying ‘pop up’ before Been be able to ‘read more’ it.
    Thank you so much for changing it. I always enjoy your teachings .

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