The fourth commandment
Remember the Sabbath Day
And keep it holy
Parashah Yitro includes our first look at the Decalogue – “Ten Commandments” is not an accurate translation, although I took poetic license with this week’s haiku. In Deuteronomy these passages are repeated with some differences, most notably in the section about Shabbat.
Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy … For in six days God created heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and God rested on the seventh day; therefore Adonai blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it
Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy … Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Adonai your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm
In Exodus, the instruction is to “remember” Shabbat, with creation given as the reason. In Deuteronomy, the command is to “observe” Shabbat, with redemption provided as the reason. Why the differences?
One possible explanation:
In Exodus – just three months after the end of their enslavement – the people were not ready for the arguably more difficult command that is made later to their born-in-freedom descendants. In Deuteronomy the words are being spoken to the children of slaves, forty years after redemption. For the newly freed slaves in Exodus the escape from Egypt is their own story, they don’t have to be told to remember. For their children in Deuteronomy, it is history to be remembered as a critical part of the Covenant – their relationship with God – even if they didn’t experience it first hand.
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