Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Yisro) Getting Back At!

This past summer, the Ice Bucket challenge to raise awareness and funds towards research for treating the dreadful ALS disease swept the country.

There was a different Ice Bucket challenge that the Nazi’s employed upon innocent women. Alisa Shaffer, a 92 year old Auschwitz survivor, recently passed away and her daughter, Edna Friedberg, related that while in the camps, the SS humiliated the women and girls by making them stand outdoors, undressed for hours on end. The SS would ‘play’ the Ice Bucket challenge. They would randomly splash cold water on them while warning, “If you move your bodies while being splashed, we will shoot someone else in the group.” How barbaric!

Alisa survived and until her last day, her response to the Nazi’s torment and humiliation was to always carry herself with dignity, respect and modesty.

Last week marked the 70 anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Can we say that the world has learned a lesson from the unspeakable human torture? Look around today and unfortunately we see its ugly head reemerging.

How do we fight it? We can say, “Never again!” But then again, it is happening anyway. The year 1942 occurred during the Holocaust. A Sage pointed out that the letters forming that Hebrew year were, Shabbos, and he felt that by strengthening our appreciation and adherence to the blessed day of Shabbos, it would serve as a great protection.

This week’s portion is host to the narration of G-d’s Revelation at Mount Sinai and His proclamation of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments appears a second time in the Torah, when Moshe, at the end of his life, reminisced to the Jews about this awesome event that had happened 40 years earlier.

The words of the Ten Commandments in the two places in the Torah are almost identical. A blatant variation is the introduction to the command of Shabbos. In our portion it states the word Zachor – remember, and in Deuteronomy it switches to the word Shamor – observe.

So which word did G-d pronounce? The answer offered in the Talmud is that G-d proclaimed both words – simultaneously! Something that a human being cannot do!

The question is, why was this fusion of words necessary? Perhaps we can explain as follows: Within the Shabbos command, it states, “It is a Shabbos for G-d.”

Is the Shabbos for G-d and not a treasure for ourselves? After all, the Talmud teaches us that G-d endowed us, the Jewish Nation, with His treasured gift of Shabbos. The Talmud explains that, “It is a Shabbos for G-d,” means that just as G-d created every aspect of the world through the utterance of His statements and on the Shabbos of creation G-d rested not uttering a creative statement, so too, we emulate the Shabbos of G-d by refraining from speaking about productive business matters and plans that pertain to after the Shabbos. Our speech on Shabbos is to be different and more refined than the rest of the week.

This past weekend, we spent Shabbos with our children and grandchildren and with my son-in-law Reuven’s parents, Ben and Sandy Epstein. Ben is a CPA (Reuven just passed his CPA!) and during the course of conversation I mentioned to him something about a new tax form. He looked at me and smiled, “It's Shabbos, how can we speak about things related to business?”

It was essential for G-d to creatively combine the words Shamor and Zachor to show us that in regards to Shabbos there is a special sensitivity for words of creativity.

On Shabbos we are to emulate G-d’s power of creativity and restrain ourselves as well. We are to curb our creative speech pertaining to the ordinary weekday vocation and elevate our speech by using it to create a holy and inspired atmosphere. We set a tone creating an ambiance of Shalom – peace – within our homes by using our speech for prayer, song, discussion of Torah, and good wholesome conversation.

Through this sensitivity, we give honor to the Shabbos. We inherently feel different and uplifted by the day and the inspiration energizes us to infuse more of the delight of Shabbos into our lives. The goal of Shabbos is to be unified by a common purpose displaying our total dependency and reliability on G-d. This is done by refraining from Torah prescribed creative actions.

The Talmud assures us that if we all simultaneously keep the Shabbos – it will bring our Redemption and thus, the threats, hatred, terror and evil of the world would vanish, and peace and tranquility will prevail!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family