Devarim Five: Shamor v’Zakhor

Moses continues his prelude to the laws and statutes that the people will need to follow. He reminds the people how special their position in history is. “Not with our forefathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, we, all of whom are here alive today. Face to face, the Lord spoke with you at the mountain out of the midst of the fire: and I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to tell you the word of the Lord, for you were afraid of the fire, and you did not go up on the mountain, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Deuteronomy 5:3-6).'” Then, he recaps the giving of the Ten Commandments, with a few differences from the first version. One famous example of this is the commandment regarding Shabbat. “Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord your God commanded you (Deuteronomy 5:12).” This differs from the original iteration of these words. In the Exodus version of the Ten Commandments, the Shabbat commandment is to remember the day in order to sanctify it. Much has been written and explored about this difference. Why both? Why was one not enough? Was one more important? Which is accurate?

In the classic Shabbat evening song, Lecha Dodi, the first verse says, Keep and Remember were uttered as one. Somehow, in one moment, we were given a dual commandment, to both keep and remember Shabbat. Both the action and the intention are necessary in order to fully fulfill the commandment and do the appropriate honor to Shabbat. By having two versions of the Ten Commandments in Tanakh, we see the multiple layers of their messaging, something that God could convey in one breath, but that we need to completely understand their meaning.

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