by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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As we prepare to read about Matan Torah on Chag Hashavouth, we will depart from our regular feature of analyzing Rashi. Our focus has always been on understanding p'shat in Rashi. This time let us understand p'shat in the Chumash itself. P'shat, I define, as any interpretation based exclusively on what is written in the Torah (not on midrashic information) and on common sense.
A frequent issue brought up about the Ten Commandments is the differences between the Ten Commandments as written in Parashas Yisro and the Ten Commandments as written in Parashas Va'eschanan (in Devarim). One of the more well known differences is found in the fifth commandment about keeping the Sabbath. In Yisro it says:
Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it. ….For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Hashem blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it.
But in Va'eschanan it says:
Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it as Hashem has commanded you. ……And remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and that Hashem your G-d brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an out stretched arm. Therefore Hashem your G-d commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deut. 5:12-15).
See the differences ?
1) Remember vs Keep
2) Two different reasons for the Sabbath are given: Because G-d created the world vs Because we were slaves in Egypt and were redeemed by G-d.
How can we understand these differences, on a p'shat level ?
Understanding the Torah.
An answer has been given based on a close analysis of the Torah's words. Notice a third difference:
3) The first version says: Therefore Hashem blessed the Sabbath day
The second says: Therefore Hashem you r G-d commanded you to keep the Sabbath.
As background to this answer we would point out that there are two questions that can be asked about the Sabbath. One is: Why is the Sabbath a holy day. A second question is: Why were the Jews alone commanded to keep it? If it commemorates the Creation of the world, then all peoples should be equally obligated to keep the Sabbath, not just the Jews?
In light of these questions we can now see that he first version relates to the first question: why the Sabbath is holy. Because G-d created the world in six days etc. And it reasonably ends with the words "Therefore G-d sanctified the Sabbath." Clearly this explanation gives us the reason why the Sabbath is a holy day.
The second version emphasizes why the Sabbath was given only to the Jews. Because we were slaves in Egypt and thus we owe a special debt to Hashem for redeeming us. And so it says: Therefore Hashem your G-d commanded you to keep the Sabbath. Clearly this is the explanation why this universal mitzvah was given to the Jews exclusively.
We can see as well that the first "universal" version mentions only remembering the Sabbath, while the second "Jewish" version mentions Keeping the Sabbath. For the Jews it is a mitzvah to keep the Sabbath, and only for the Jews because of their special, relationship with Hashem.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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