03 Aug Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Parashat Va’etchanan/Shabbat Nachamu 5777
This Shabbat we read Parashat Va’etchanan, a weekly portion full or wonderful things to speak about and to spark about. On this occasion of Va’etchanan, I’d like to draw attention to the section in which the Ten Commandments are repeated to B’nei Yisrael, the People of Israel, as they prepare to enter the promised land. Of the several differences that exist between the two versions of the Ten Commandments – the first in Exodus and the second here in Deuteronomy – the most blatant is the change in the basic command regarding Shabbat. Whereas in Exodus the people were commanded to “remember” the Sabbath day, in this instance, they are commanded to “observe.” While on the one hand, it is more than possible to read this as a simple reminder to observe Shabbat, I see it as a reminder to all the household of Israel that it is our responsibility to protect the Sabbath as a holy day to our people. It is something that we must continually claim for ourselves. If we choose to give up Shabbat, no one will ever give it back to us. For that reason, we are instructed both to remember and to observe.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik