Hitching the Shabbat Chariot by Alexander Kalb


Parashat Yitro begins with the commandment to sanctify the Shabbat. The Pasuk states, “Zachor Et Yom HaShabbat LeKadesho,” “Remember the day of the Shabbat to sanctify it” (Shemot 20:8). This Pasuk is the source of the commandment to recite Kiddush on Shabbat. The word Zachor is interpreted not as an instruction to merely hold Shabbat in one’s mind, but to actively speak of it—to recite Kiddush. This is the said “sanctifying” of the Shabbat.

 However, the second time that the Aseret HaDibrot are mentioned, the fourth commandment begins with the words, “Shamor Et Yom HaShabbat LeKadsho,” “Guard Shabbat to sanctify it” (Devarim 5:12). Rashi (ad loc. s.v. Shamor) tells us that when giving the Torah, Hashem said both “Zachor” and “Shamor” at the same time which was a miracle that could be performed by only Hashem Himself. The commandment to guard the Shabbat is expressed in refraining from acts that would desecrate the Shabbat, such as doing forbidden labor. Conversely, the commandment to remember Shabbat refers to a positive action that establishes the sanctity of the day.

 We may ask that if the commandments to remember and to guard Shabbat are fundamentally different, then why did Hashem express them at the same time? The Gur Aryeh answers that the two are actually intrinsically connected. Reciting Kiddush clarifies the reason we refrain from labor on Shabbat. Without an official statement, it would be easy for one to view the day as simply a break from the exhaustion of the workweek, and to ignore any special holiness or inherent Kedushah that exists in the day. However, the recital of Kiddush makes it clear that we are stopping our labor in order to commemorate the fact that Hashem rested on Shabbat after creating the world; therefore, the fulfillment of the commandment to remember the Shabbat helps us to properly fulfill the command to guard the Shabbat.

  The Dubno Maggid once said that on the surface, Shabbat might seem like an extremely oppressive and restricting day. However, this feeling reflects a succinct lack of faith in Hashem. If we were to truly believe that Hashem will take care of all of our needs, Shabbat becomes not restrictive—but liberating! He explains this idea with a Mashal, parable:

 Once, a poor man was walking down the road, bent almost double under his heavy pack. A wealthy merchant passed by in his fine carriage and kindly offered the poor man a ride. The poor man gratefully accepted, and climbed up into the back of the wagon with his heavy pack on his back.

 A bit later, the merchant looked into the back of the wagon to see how his passenger was doing. To his great surprise, he saw that the poor man was sitting in the wagon with his pack still on his shoulders. He asked in amazement, “Why are you still carrying your pack?! Put it down on the seat beside you and relax!” The poor man looked at him and replied, “My master! You are doing me a great service by offering me a ride; I would not presume to make you carry my pack as well!” The merchant laughed and said, “Dear man! You are being foolish. It matters not whether your pack is on your shoulders or on the seat; both are being carried by the wagon in any case!”

 The Maggid explains that Hashem “carries” us all and provides for all of our needs. During the week, it is our responsibility to work in order to provide for ourselves, but on Shabbat, He takes us onto His wagon and tells us that we don’t need to worry. If we take our ordinary worries with us into Shabbat, we are no different than that poor man, who failed to realize who “truly” takes cares of all of his needs. We should not be like the man who keeps his sack on his shoulder and we should place all of our worries on the seat next to us. This will allow us to sanctify Shabbat in the proper way so that we can truly perform the beautiful Mitzvot of Zachor and Shamor.

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