Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vaetchanan - 5776

Dear friends,

After the sad events we marked last Sunday when we observed Tisha B'Av, the Fast of the Ninth of Av, this Shabbat is a happy one - Shabbat Nahamu, the Shabbat of comfort and consolation.

In this Parasha, we find two very important passages from the Torah that we are all familiar with - the Ten Commandments and the Shemah.

There are several differences in the Ten Commandments listed in the Book of Exodus when they were given on Mt. Sinai, and in this Parasha when Moses reminds the people of what happened forty years ago when they stood at Mt. Sinai and received the Torah. A very obvious one is in the fourth Commandment about Shabbat. In Exodus it states, "Remember the Shabbat" - "Zachor et Yom HaShabbat". In this Parasha it says, "Keep the Shabbat" - "Shamor et Yom HaShabbat". In Exodus we are told to keep the Shabbat because G-d created the world in six days and rested on the Shabbat. In this Parasha we are told to keep the Shabbat to remember the Exodus, and that everyone deserves a day of rest, including our employees and working animals.

Which was the right word - Zachor or Shamor - Remember or Keep?

Our sages answer that Zachor and Shamor were said simultaneously, in one word. We humans can only say one word at a time, and we can also only hear one word at a time. But at Sinai, there was a miracle - two words were pronounced at the same time and they were heard at the same time - a miracle in itself.

What is the message? Yes, it's a Mitzvah to keep, observe, Shabbat. But already from Sunday, we begin to remember Shabbat. We look forward to the arrival of Shabbat.

The purpose of remembering is to observe - to keep. Therefore, when we keep Shabbat in any form, we are fulfilling two Mitzvot - remembering **and** keeping the Shabbat. Shabbat is universal, and we connect it to the Exodus because, in a way, it is a liberating day for us and for all humans and animals.

Shemah is followed by "Veahavta et Adonay Eloheicha, bechol Levavcha . . . " - the declaration that G-d is ONE, followed by the Mitzvah of loving G-d with all our heart. Loving G-d is shown by the way we observe His commandments. By looking forward to Shabbat throughout the week, and observing Shabbat by enabling our employees, even our working animals, to rest, shows love to G-d's creation and to G-d.

Today, the 15th day in the month of Av, is known as Yom Ha-ahavah, the Day of Love. Going back to Temple days, this was a day when many Shiduchim - marriage matches - were made; thus, the name Yom Ha-ahavah, the Day of Love.

May your Shabbat be filled with love, rest and enjoyment.

Shabbat Shalom,