Veshamru Bnei Yisrael Et Hashabbat
The concluding verse in Yismach Moshe states: Ushnei Luchot Avanim…. Vechatuv Bahem Shemirat Shabbat
– Vecheyn Katuv Bitoratecha – Moshe descended from the mountain and brought forth the Stone Tablets with
the Guarding of Shabbat carved into them; as it states in scripture Exodus 31:16 Veshamru Bnei Yisrael Et
HaShabbat Laasot Et Hashabbat Ledorotom Brit Olam… The People of Israel shall guard the Shabbat and keep
Shabbat for all generations.. it is an eternal sign between Israel and ME, since for six days G-d constructed the
world and on the seventh He rested.
Veshamru is one of the most well known passages in the Torah. It is recited Friday nights before the Shabbat
Amidah and it is also the opening passage of the Kiddush we recite Shabbat morning after services and before
the meal. Over the centuries, beautiful nigguim / melodies have been composed to express the grandeur of these
verses (for your listening pleasure click on the following) – http://youtu.be/1lBeUK3Vojo
Careful observation of this Tefillah enables us to ask some compelling questions.
1. At Mt. Sinai, we are taught in the Talmud that G-d stated both Zachor – Remember the Shabbat as well
as Shamor – Guard the Shabbat. Why does our prayer only state Shamor – Veshamru Bnei Yisrael….?
2. The prayer invokes the awe inspiring transmission of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, but quotes
from a completely different passage in the Torah 31:16 from Ki Tisa – Why?
The Anaf Yosef states that since the first set of Tablets said Zachor and were broken, and the second set of
Tablets that remained forever whole had the phrase Shamor et Yom HaShabbat. It is therefore appropriate that
the Tefillah we recite today reflects the unbroken version – Veshamru Bnei Yisrael Et Hashabbat.
The Iyun Tefillah explains that the reason for including Shamor is because the Torah stresses Shamor with
much greater frequency than Zachor. Shamor – Guard the Shabbat – commands us to maintain and protect the
sanctity of Shabbat by abstaining from prohibited labors. On the other hand, Zachor-Remember, teaches us the
positive Mitzvoth on Shabbat; like Kiddush and eating three meals. We see that Shamor is emphasized by being
written seven times while zachor is only mentioned once.
The Iyun Tefillah also reasons that the Mitzvah of Shabbat is quoted from Exodus 31 and not from the Ten
Commandments so that one could not claim that the Ten Commandments have more significance then the other
603. Additionally, while the Ten Commandments’ mention of Shabbat is presented in a universal fashion,
Exodus 31:16 emphasizes the seamlessly close relationship between G-d and the Jewish people – Veshamru et
Bnei Yisrael Et Hashabbat – The nation of Israel alone is commanded to observe the Shabbat.
Take Home Tip: Shabbat is our weekly reminder of the eternal relationship we share with our Creator. Oht Hi –
it is an eternal sign. It’s our task to read the sign each week and celebrate the gift of Shabbat.