by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"Remember the Sabbath, to sanctify it." [20:8]
Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, quotes the Talmud Shavuos [20b]: "'Remember'
[as above] and 'guard' [the Sabbath to sanctify it..., Dev. 5:12] were said
in one statement." According to the Talmud, G-d said both commandments in
the same instant - one of very few such instances found in the Torah.
The Leket Bahir notes that there are many places in Devarim [Deuteronomy],
aptly called "Mishnah Torah" or "review of Torah," where the Torah repeats
that which was said earlier, and changes or adds to the previous version.
Indeed, there are several other changes within the "10 commandments"
themselves. So why in only a few cases, such as this one, did our Sages
explain that both verses were said together?
The answer is that as we all know, not everything which is said is written
down - and in those other cases, our teacher Moshe provided further detail
in his "review" in Devarim. But "remember" and "guard" are contradictory
statements: "remember" is a positive commandment, to perform
'rememberances' and thus sanctify the Sabbath, whereas "guard" is a
negative commandment, to withhold oneself from actions which would disturb
the sanctity of Shabbos, and thus sanctify the day. Therefore one cannot
say that the latter version merely adds on to what was said previously,
because if there was really only one statement, then the "sanctification"
could only come about through one means.
There must be, then, two commandments, so the sanctification comes about
through both "remembering" and "guarding" the day. Just as the positive
commandment is designed to recall G-d's dominance over all Creation and our
special connection to Him, so too the negative is supposed to facilitate
Someone once asked me why everyone else takes a break from their jobs on
Shabbos - but the Rabbi just gets busier! He delivers a sermon, gives
classes, and certainly doesn't stop his Torah learning for the day. And on
the other hand, someone also asked me why, if someone's idea of rest and
relaxation is driving down to the beach, that isn't an appropriate Shabbos
Both of these questions stem from the same misunderstanding, and it has
less to do with the definition of "rest" than the definition of "work." The
Torah doesn't say that "avodah," or "work," is forbidden, but rather
"melachah," or "creative labor." Any activity which is physically (rather
than mentally) creative is forbidden, including cooking, sewing, planting,
building, and 35 other basic categories (all of which were part of building
Taking a vacation, or a day at the beach, is indeed the opposite of working
at a job, but Shabbos is the opposite of all _physically_ creative
activity. The intent is to force us to step back from our own efforts to
mold the world, in order to recognize He who is ultimately in charge. In
other words, the goal of our physical rest is not inactivity, but - to the
contrary - spiritual activity and growth! This is how the negative
commandment ultimately works together with the positive, in order to bring
us to the same spiritual goal.
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis,
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.