This week’s Torah portion, V-etchanan, contains the second iteration of the Ten Commandments in the Torah. There are differences between the different texts of the Ten Commandments; most notably, in Exodus, we read “Remember the Shabbat,” and this week we read, “Observe (or keep, or guard) the Shabbat.”
Much has written about the differing verbs, and the first verse of L’cha Dodi combines them: “Shamor v’zachor.” I’m no scholar, but I will tell you that V-etchanan uses the verb “shamor,” in many variations, to mean guard, keep, and observe 19 times and twice more in the Ten Commandments themselves.
The Book of D’varim is chock full of the verb “shamor” in many variations to mean guard, observe, or keep. The iteration of the Ten Commandments in V-etchanan (“Observe [or keep, or guard] the Shabbat”) is especially important nowadays. For most of us, one day looks exactly like another day. In April and May, at the height of the pandemic in New Jersey, I joked that every day looks like Easter Sunday, because fewer stores and other organizations, institutions, or venues are open on Easter Sunday than any other day of the year. The point, for most of us, it is hard to distinguish Shabbat from the other days of the week. We must make an effort to celebrate Shabbat, whether we mark Shabbat by attending virtual services, making a festive dinner, or any other way of making Shabbat distinctive, because every day is the same as the next.
Now, more than ever, we need to distinguish Shabbat from the other days of the week. I don’t care how to distinguish it, but we should read a book, watch movies, play board games, take a walk and, maybe, we should light candles and make Kiddush on Friday night. If we don’t observe Shabbat, we are destined to forget it, especially if one day blends to another.