GOOD MORNING! For the past several thousand years Jews -- and the majority of the world's non-Jewish population -- believed that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai 3,311 years ago. Almost the totality of Jews during this time believed that God dictated the Torah to Moshe who wrote it down word for word, letter for letter. This means that what is written in the Torah is precise and meant to convey a specific meaning.
The Torah is an instruction book for life. We study it and the commentaries, particularly the Mishna and Gemara, to understand those lessons. This week's Torah portion, Va'etchanan, contains the listing of the Ten Commandments (not the "Ten Suggestions" as some might think....) The Ten Commandments were previously listed in the Torah portion of Yitro in the Book of Exodus. It is fascinating to note that there are many differences in the wording of the Ten Commandments in the two sections. Sloppy editor? Not if you believe that God dictated the Torah and that Moses wrote it down exactly word for word, letter for letter. So, what can we learn from these differences?
The following piece compares the differences regarding the Commandment of Shabbat. It is adapted from a piece which originally appeared in another Aish list, "Ask the Rabbi" or "Shraga's Weekly" (you can subscribe via the internet at www.aish.edu). Note the differences which are CAPITALIZED.
Q & A: WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM DIFFERENCE IN THE TEN COMMANDMENTS REGARDING SHABBAT?
In the Book of Exodus (chapter 20, verse 9) the Commandment is stated:
"REMEMBER the Day of Shabbat to sanctify it. Six days you should work, and do all of your craftsman-type-work. And the Seventh Day, should be a Shabbat to the Almighty your God, you should not do any craftsman-type-work you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maidservant, YOUR ANIMAL, or your convert that is in your gates. BECAUSE SIX DAYS THE ALMIGHTY CREATED THE HEAVENS AND EARTH, SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN IT, AND HE RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY, therefore the ALMIGHTY BLESSED THE SHABBAT AND MADE IT HOLY."
In the Book of Deuteronomy (chapter 5, verse 12) the Commandment is stated:
"OBSERVE the Day of Shabbat to sanctify it, LIKE THAT THE ALMIGHTY YOUR God COMMANDED YOU. Six days you should word and do all of your craftsman-type work. And the Seventh Day, should be a Shabbat to the Almighty your God. You should not do any craftsman-type-work you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maidservant, YOUR OX, YOUR DONKEY, AND ALL YOUR ANIMALS, and your convert that is in your gates, FOR THE SAKE THAT HE SHOULD REST YOUR SERVANT AND HAND MAID LIKE YOU. YOU SHOULD REMEMBER BECAUSE YOU WERE SLAVES IN EGYPT, AND THE ALMIGHTY YOUR God TOOK YOU OUT FROM THERE WITH A STRONG HAND AND OUTSTRETCHED ARM, THEREFORE, THE ALMIGHTY YOUR God COMMANDED YOU TO DO THE DAY OF SHABBAT."
Here are explanations of two differences:
1) "REMEMBER" vs. "OBSERVE"
The commandment to REMEMBER means that one should remember Shabbat throughout the week. Buying something special for Shabbat can fulfill this commandment. Also, the Song of the Day, which is part of the morning service, also fulfills this commandment seeing that its introduction always mentions Shabbat. Even merely reciting the day of the week in Hebrew can fulfill this commandment since the name of the days in Hebrew are "First Day", "Second Day", "Third Day" ... as they count towards the Shabbat!
The mitzvah of REMEMBERING also includes the positive commandments of the day -- to make Kiddush, have special meals. The word "OBSERVE" means to not transgress the prohibitions forbidden on the Sabbath -- i.e., lighting a fire. (There are 39 Categories of Creative Acts which one refrains on Shabbat.)
2) "THE ALMIGHTY CREATED" vs. "YOU WERE SLAVES IN EGYPT"
The Torah tells us in Exodus that we should keep Shabbat as a testimony to God's creation of the world. In Deuteronomy it says we should keep Shabbat because God took us out from Egypt.
If a person were to keep Shabbat only because God created the world, he would miss an important point -- that God didn't merely create the world and step out of the picture. God has a personal relationship with every human being and constantly involves Himself with the world that He created.
Keeping Shabbat because God took us out of Egypt, is testimony that God is involved in our lives. That is because God stated, "I took you out of Egypt to be your God" (Numbers 15:41). In other words, "I TOOK YOU OF EGYPT on condition that we should have a relationship. You will be My nation and I will BE YOUR God." God not only created the world, but has a living relationship with us.
If you are interested in learning more about Shabbat, read "Sabbath Day of Eternity," by Aryeh Kaplan (published by Moznaim.) If you are interested in the evidence that God dictated the Torah to Moses who faithfully transcribed it, read Permission to Receive by Kelemen (you might as well order Permission to Believe by Kelemen, too. It gives the evidence for God's existence.) Available by calling toll-free: 877-758-3242.
Portion of the Week
Moshe pleads with God to enter the Holy Land, but is turned down. (Remember, God always answers your prayers -- sometimes with a "yes," sometimes with a "no" and sometimes with a "not yet".) Moshe commands the Children of Israel not to add or subtract from the words of the Torah and to keep all of the Commandments. He then reminds them that God has no shape or form and that we should not make or worship idols of any kind.
The cities of Bezer, Ramot and Golan are designated as Cities of Refuge east of the Jordan river. Accidental murderers can escape there to avoid revengeful relatives.
The Ten Commandments are repeated to the whole Jewish people. Moshe then expounds the Shema, affirming the unity of God, Whom all should love and transmit His commandments to the next generation. A man should wear Tefillin upon the arm and head. All Jews should put a Mezuzah upon each doorpost of their home (except the bathroom).
Moshe then relays the Almighty's command not to intermarry "for they will lead your children away from Me." (Deut. 7:3-4)