While the Israelites are encamped in the plains of Moav east
of the Jordan, we learn about those sacrifices that would be offered only
after they would cross over into the land of Israel. These are the additional
sacrifices (musafim) for all the special occasions of the year, the first of
which is Shabbat:
And on the Shabbat day, two lambs (KEVASIM) of the first year
without blemish, and two tenths of fine flour as a meal offering mingled with
oil, and its libation. This is the burnt offering of each Shabbat, in addition
to the continual burnt offering and its libation (Bamidbar 28:9-10).
Few themes are as central to the Torah as Shabbat. And few are as ubiquitous. It
is found in every book of the Torah:
• Bereishit 2:1-3
• Shemot 16:22-30, 20:8-11, 23:12, 31:12-17, 34:21, 35:1-3
• Vayikra 19:1-3, 23:3, 26:2
• Bamidbar 15:32-36, 28:9-10
• Devarim 5:12-15.
The prophets and sages also exhort the people about the sanctity of Shabbat:
• Yeshaya 56:1-7, 58:13-14, 66:23
• Yirmiyahu 17:19-27
• Yechezkel 20:10-13, 46:1-5
• Nechemia 9:13-14, 10:29-34, 13:16-23.
At least 6 commandments are directly related to Shabbat (Sefer HaMitzvot of the
Rambam, Positive Commandments 41, 154, 155 and Negative Commandments 320, 321,
322). Violation of Shabbat can even carry the death penalty.
In view of all this, it is surprising how modest is the Shabbat musaf offering:
two lambs of the first year without blemish, and two tenths of fine flour as a
meal offering mingled with oil, and its libation.
Why isn’t the Shabbat sacrifice more elaborate?
Perhaps, rather than thinking of the sacrifice as meager, we should focus on the
significance of the number two. After all, there are two dynamically
interdependent dimensions of Shabbat. There is the enhancement of Shabbat
through positive acts such as Kiddush, candle lighting and Havdalah, which are
all included in the verse in the first version of the Decalogue:
Remember (ZACHOR) the Shabbat day to sanctify it (Shemot 20:8).
Then there is the protection of the sanctity of Shabbat through refraining from
melachah (work), exemplified by the parallel verse in the second version of the
Observe (SHAMOR) the Shabbat day to sanctify it (Devarim 5:12).
Both elements of Shabbat, ZACHOR and SHAMOR are crucial, and this is reflected
in the paired elements in the Shabbat musaf.
Abravanel (Don Yitzchak Abravanel, 1437-1508), attributing the above explanation
to unnamed “recent commentaries,” nevertheless rejects it. This is because, as
the Sages taught (Shavuot 20b), Hashem uttered ZACHOR and SHAMOR at Sinai
simultaneously, so these pronouncements cannot reflect the dual nature of
Instead, says Abravanel, Shabbat’s duality is found in the two pivotal events
that it recalls:
“One, that it is a reminder of the creation of the universe and its generation,
as it says in the commandment, “For in six days Hashem made the heavens and the
earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Shemot 31:17). And
the second, that it is a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt, as it says, “And you
shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Hashem, your G-d,
took you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore
Hashem, your G-d, has commanded you to celebrate the Shabbat day (Devarim
The origin of this idea is in Rambam’s Guide of the Perplexed
(III, 31). Abravanel adds that the two lambs (KEVASIM) of Shabbat symbolize
Hashem’s two instances of subjugation (KAVASH):
“One corresponds to the Creation, when the Holy One, Blessed be He subdued the
world and bounded it by His Creation. And the second lamb corresponds to the
Exodus from Egypt when He conquered Pharaoh and Egypt with trials, signs and
wonders (Devarim 4:34).”
Abravanel suggests an additional “conceptual and scientific” approach, based on
Rambam’s Guide (I, 71):
“That Hashem in His arranging the universe is both the active Cause and the
preserving and perpetuating Cause, since it is He Who created and generated it
out of absolute nothingness, and it is He Who preserves and perpetuates it.”
Thus the twofold offering of Shabbat demonstrates that Hashem
not only created the universe, but also maintains it.
An experiential perspective is found in Da’at Zekenim Miba’alei HaTosafot (a
collection of Torah commentaries taken from the Tosafists, disciples of Rashi
from the 12th-14th centuries). Quoting the Midrash Shochar Tov, Da’at Zekenim
says that the double sacrifice is perfectly suited to Shabbat:
“The Shabbat complained before the Holy One, Blessed be He, regarding this. Said
the Holy One, Blessed be He, to her, ‘Behold, this is the musaf that is
appropriate to you. Everything associated with you is twofold. You have a
twofold song: “A psalm, a song for the Shabbat day” (Tehillim 92). You have
twofold delight, as it says, “And you shall call the Shabbat a delight, and to
the holy one of Hashem honored” (Yeshaya 58:13). Your punishment is twofold:
“Whoever profanes it shall surely be put to death” (Shemot 31:14). Your bread (lechem
mishneh) is twofold. Therefore, it is fitting that your sacrifice be twofold.”
The Midrash continues with an allegory:
“A king told his servants, ‘Prepare a meal for my sons.’ They prepared two types
of food for them. After they dined, the king commanded that they prepare him his
meal. His servants said to him, ‘What shall we prepare for you?’ and he asked
them, ‘What did you serve my sons?’ When they told him, he said, ‘The same for
me. Do not prepare for me any more than you did for my sons.’”
According to this, the offering to Hashem on Shabbat consists of two lambs… and
two tenths of fine flour as a reflection of the redoubled distinctiveness of the
day, and because Hashem, as it were, celebrates Shabbat together with His
The simplicity of the Shabbat offerings is the key to its beauty, holiness and
joy. We are truly privileged to have been given this gift.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
In Parshat Pinchas we meet the remarkable daughters of Zelophehad who
present and ultimately prevail in their claim for an inheritance in Eretz
Israel. The Tanchuma explains that they were so righteous and wise that
the Torah goes out of its way to trace back their lineage five generations
to Joseph, "in order to give glory to their ancestors."
All we really know about them is that they wanted the portion of the land
that would have been allotted to their deceased father. This action might
be labeled, at best, shrewd. Why then do our Sages attribute such
greatness to these women?
The Sfas Emes explains that when one acquires a physical place in Eretz
Yisrael one also acquires a corresponding aspect of Torah. The Torah and
the land are bound together and are interdependent.
Such wise and righteous women did not care about material gains - had they
married they would have lived on their husbands' physical portions of the
land. However, they did not want to lose their unique share in the Torah.
They wanted their Torah inheritance!
When we choose to make aliyah and live in Eretz Israel, we do not simply
move to a Jewish land and acquire a new home. We also claim our
inheritance in the Torah - that portion which is bound to the land. Come
and "claim it and do not let go of it." (Rashi, Devarim 33:4).
Rabbi Professor Steven Ettinger
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Roness , Exec. Dir., Aloh Naaleh,
At the OU Center, 22 Keren HaYesod
Tel.(02) 566-7787 ex. 254