The observance of Shabbat is the fourth of the Ten Commandments, listed in both Exodus and Deuteronomy. One would expect to find no difference in the wording of the Ten Commandments from one Biblical Book to the next. However, the wording of the Fourth Commandment differs in two major ways.

In Exodus, the Jews are commanded: “Remember (zachor) the Sabbath day” because “in six days God created the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested.” In Deuteronomy, they are instructed to “Guard (shamor) the Sabbath day” because “you were a slave in Egypt, and God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.”

On the whole, however, the two commandments are the same–whether remembered or guarded, Shabbat is to be made holy and no creative work (m’la’cha) is to be done on it. Indeed, according to Jewish tradition, when God told the Jewish people the Ten Commandments, He spoke the words zachor and shamor at the same instant (Rosh Hashanah 27a), illustrating the fact that there are two important aspects to the observance of Shabbat.

Guard the Sabbath, shamor, refers to the prohibited acts which serve to ensure that the day remains holy. These are “creative labors” known as m’la’chot, which includes such acts as cooking, planting, and writing.

Zachor (Remember) refers to the positive commandments: reciting Kiddush (the blessing over the wine), having three meals, lighting the candles, etc. Remembering Shabbat also refers to the constant focus on Shabbat–represented in the fact that the Hebrew names of the days of the week are the First Day to Shabbat, the Second Day to Shabbat, the Third Day to Shabbat….Shabbat. The days count up to Shabbat, just as Jews spend their week looking forward to and preparing for Shabbat.

By wearing nice clothing, drinking wine, eating a full sit-down meal, inviting guests, etc., Jews around the world transform the seventh day into Shabbat on a weekly basis.

This Treat was last posted on February 25, 2011.

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