Zachor & Shamor – Weekly Words of Torah, Va’Etchanan 5773

Insights into Parshat Va’Etchanan of Rav Moshe Ganz, ram emeritus of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, from the Pnai Shabbat volume, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.

Parshat Va’etchanan contains the Aseret HaDibrot (10 Commandments). There are several differences in the Aseret HaDibrot recorded in Parshat Yitro and in Parshat Va’etchanan. In reference to the mitzvah of Shabbat, in Parshat Yitro the Torah employs the command to remember- Zachor- the day of Shabbat. In Parshat Va’etchanan the Torah commands us to observe- Shamor- the day of Shabbat. In addition to this difference, in Parshat Yitro the Torah records the creation of the world as the reason for Shabbat. In Parshat Va’etchanan, the exodus from Egypt- Yetziat Mitzrayim- is mentioned.

Chazal state that Zachor and Shamor were uttered by Hashem simultaneously (Masechat Shavuot, 20b). Why was Zachor recorded in Parshat Yitro in Sefer Shmot, with Shamor written in Parshat Va’etchanan in Sefer Devarim? The Maharal explains that Parshat Yitro represents the side of the Giver (Hashem)- thus the creation of the world is mentioned. Parshat Va’etchanan- as part of Sefer Devarim- represents the side of the receiver- the Jewish People. We personally experienced Yetziat Mitzrayim, thus that is mentioned (Tiferet Yisrael, Chapter 44).

Shabbat constitutes a foundation in Judaism as it testifies that Hashem is the Absolute Ruler of the world. This control is manifested in a general sense via the creation of all; and in a particular sense- yet more direct- by the Yetziat Mitzrayim of the Jewish People.

Rav Yehuda HaLevi asked the Ibn Ezra (in the introduction to the Aseret HaDibrot in Parshat Yitro) why the Torah records in the Aseret HaDibrot that Hashem took us out of Egypt and not that He created the world? The Ibn Ezra responded that only a select few recognize (on their own) that Hashem created the world, while for the masses, the experience of Yetziat Mitzrayim is easier to comprehend and to identify with. Thus “I Am Hashem your G-d” hints towards the creation of the world and suffices for the select intellectual elite; “Who has taken you out of Egypt” refers to the general public.

Why do the two motifs of Shabbat- Zachor (creation) & Shamor (Yetziat Mitzrayim) have to emanate from one sound?

At first there appears to be a contradiction. How can the Great & Mighty G-d, who creates all, choose one tiny nation and lead them via signs and wonders? The simultaneous voice indicates that there is no contradiction. The Ruler of all, is recognized by the nation who He chooses. We sing His Praise, and function as His mezuzah in this world.