"'Zakhor' And 'Shamor' Were Uttered As One Word"

  • Rav Yoel Bin-Nun


 A. The Reasons for Shabbat in the Ten Commandments in Sefer Shemot and in Sefer Devarim

In comparing the language of the Ten Commandments as they appear in Sefer Shemot and as they appear in Sefer Devarim, we find only a few slight differences, except for the mitzvah of Shabbat where the differences are very clear. The principal difference is not the introductory word - 'shamor' or 'zakhor' - (despite the fact that we interpret 'zakhor' as referring to the positive mitzvot of Shabbat, and 'shamor' as indicating that we should be careful not to transgress the negative mitzvot), since the clause 'to keep it holy' is the same in both cases, as is the prohibition to perform 'any melakha'. The main difference lies rather in the reasons presented for the mitzvah of Shabbat. In each case the reason is stated absolutely, as though it represents the sole basis for the holiness of Shabbat and its prohibitions. In Sefer Shemot the source and reason for Shabbat are in the context of the Creation, while in Sefer Devarim the mitzvah commemorates the exodus from Egypt. The presence of two exclusive reasons would seem to contradict common sense; moreover, it is patently impossible for them to be recited simultaneously, as Chazal explained, except of course by the Holy One, Blessed be He, in a Divine utterance.

Shemot: "You shall perform no melakha, you, your son and your daughter, your man- and maid-servant, and your beast, and the stranger in your gates; For six days God made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in it, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, God blessed the Shabbat day and sanctified it."

Devarim:"You shall perform no melakha, you, your son and your daughter, your man- and maid-servant, and YOUR OX AND YOUR DONKEY AND ALL YOU BEASTS, and the stranger in your gates; IN ORDER THAT YOUR MAN- AND MAID-SERVANT REST LIKE YOU. And you shall remember that you were a servant in Egypt, and Hashem your God took you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, Hashem your God has commanded you to keep the Shabbat day."

The reason for Shabbat provided in Sefer Shemot presents God as Creator of the Universe, and those who remember and sanctify Shabbat as servants standing before God - as a created person stands before the Creator of all, himself included. Shabbat testifies to the works of Creation, and is an expression of the negation of a person's will, needs and aspirations in the face of the absolute will of the Creator which is revealed in His creation and in the weekly framework of time. Creation ex nihilo had no cause; it was not the result of any phenomenon or event, power or law. It was itself the event and the law. Shabbat itself is also an arbitrary timeframe; it is not the result of any natural phenomenon, any other time-related calculation, power or event. The absolute will of the Creator is that one should rest on the seventh day, just as it was His will to create and to perform during the six preceding days. A person who observes Shabbat testifies thereby to the fact that he knows his limitations as a creature, before the Creator of the world. This is a religious perception which is especially revealed among Am Yisrael, although it is not limited to Israel alone. In essence it can also express itself in a natural-universal religion which believes in a God who created the world and man (a possibility raised by Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Levi in his Kuzari, part 1, 11-13), and as it is indeed expressed in religions which drew their inspiration from Judaism (with well-known changes and adjustments).

The reason presented in Sefer Devarim presents God as the Redeemer and Savior of Israel, He Who brought the nation out of Egypt to eternal freedom. Those who observe and sanctify Shabbat stand before God as a free Israelite stands before the Master and Ruler of the world Who breaks the yoke of servitude imposed by human dictators - those kings of flesh and blood who presume in their pagan pride to assume themselves masters of the world. Shabbat bears testimony to the exodus from Egypt, and to freedom in general. It is the flame of freedom borne by the redeemed Israel (and, in fact, anyone redeemed) who can thereafter stand before God, Lord of Israel, as a free nation and accept upon itself Torah and mitzvot.

The prohibitions of melakha on Shabbat here are testimony to human freedom and equality, which came about at the time of the redemption from Egyptian slavery. A person is forbidden to enslave himself, his household members, his workers and servants or the stranger within his gates; even his ox, his donkey and his other beasts are deserving of rest. An Israelite who observes Shabbat testifies thereby to his limitations as a free man - he is forbidden to enslave himself or others. This is a special socio-moral perception. Am Yisrael has a special obligation to observe Shabbat in light of our record of more enslavement and greater redemption than any other nation throughout history. The mitzvah of Shabbat is a central pillar of the Torah which was given to Israel and whose values and principles are dispersed throughout the world by the power of Israel.

Is it really possible for these two concepts to be sounded simultaneously - even when each of them is an absolute justification: "Therefore God blessed.../Therefore God commanded..."? (See Moreh Nevukhim, II, 31)

We have no choice but to return to the formula of Chazal mentioned in the title, which uniquely succeeds in rising above the obvious contradiction and sees the two reasons as two sides of one coin. Each side appears and sounds to many people as representing the entire story, leaving no room for the other. Various groups build their philosophy on one of these two perceptions. The supreme sanctity of the Divine Torah rests precisely on this: that these two perceptions (each complete and absolute as it may be) are simply two sides of the same coin. Only man is unable to comprehend both sides simultaneously! But the Divine utterance included both 'zakhor' and 'shamor' - both the Creation and the exodus; both "metaphysical religiosity" and "social morality" - at once.

B. Reasons for Shabbat in Sefer Shemot

Actually, both these perceptions of Shabbat have appeared in Sefer Shemot itself, where the reasons for Shabbat are repeated six times, in four distinct groups: In Eilim in the wilderness of Sin, at the time when the manna fell (16); in the ten commandments (20); at the end of Parashat Mishpatim (23:12) and in the parallel renewal of the covenant following the sin of the golden calf (34:21); at the conclusion of the commands regarding the building of the mishkan (31:12-17); and again as the construction of the mishkan gets underway (35:1-3). A detailed comparison of the Shabbat commands in Sefer Shemot (looking first at Eilim [16] and the Ten Commandments [20], and then at Mishpatim/Ki Tisa [23:12, 34:21] and the two accounts concerning the building of the mishkan [31:12-17, 35:1-3]) reveals the following picture:

The crux of Shabbat:

Eilim- Shabbat for ISRAEL; idea of Shabbat already known.

Ten Commandments- Shabbat already known.

The purpose:

Eilim- Rest: "Rest every man in his place".

Ten Commandments- Shabbat unto God.

Prohibitions and Commands:

Eilim- Preparation from Friday; two helpings of manna.

Ten Commandments- Prohibition of all melakha - profane work.

Detail of Prohibitions:

Eilim- Prohibition of household work - baking, cooking - from Friday; prohibition of gathering and going out.

Ten Commandments- Prohibition is on every Israelite and on all those subject to his authority.

Source and Reason:

Eilim- Exodus from Egypt and manna in the desert (Divine Providence)

Ten Commandments- Creation (absolute reason)


Eilim- No punishment mentioned but God tests the nation regarding both the manna and Shabbat.

Ten Commandments- No pmentioned.

The crux of Shabbat:

M/Ki Tisa- Positive commandment: you shall rest.

Mishkan- Holy to Israel and holy to God, 'shabbat shabbaton'.

Prohibitions and Commands:

M/Ki Tisa- Rest from all work of the field ("You shall rest from ploughing and harvesting", "Your work" - "that which you sow in the field")

Mishkan- Absolute prohibition of all melakha, including for the sake of heaven (mishkan). Special prohibition of fire as example of prohibited melakha which is easy to do.


M/Ki Tisa- No punishment mentioned.

Mishkan- "karet" and death penalty.

Source and Reason:

M/Ki Tisa- Exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom (n.b. 23:9,15)

Mishkan- Creation


M/Ki Tisa- "In order that your ox and donkey will rest and that the son of your maidservant and the stranger will be refreshed."

Mishkan- Significance: eternal covenant, a sign forever between God and Israel, absolute sanctity (overrides even the building of the mishkan).

It is clear that the perception of Shabbat in Sefer Devarim already exists in Sefer Shemot, at the end of parashat Mishpatim, as proved by the expression "in order that your ox and donkey will rest". It is equally clear that the reason and command regarding Shabbat are based on a two-fold source - the Creation and the exodus, which appear alternately: at Eilim, in the parasha of the manna, Shabbat is connected with the exodus, while in the Ten Commandments it is connected to the Creation. At the end of Mishpatim we return to the concept of the exodus, and the conclusion of the command regarding the mishkan once again makes mention of the Creation; at the end of Ki Tisa we find the exodus again, and at the beginning of parashat Vayak'hel we return to the Creation.

In the parasha of the manna Shabbat is bound up with the concept of miracle and Divine test: "And God said to Moshe, behold I shall rain down bread for you from the sky, and the nation shall go out and gather daily each day's portion, in order that I may test them to see whether they will walk in the ways of My Torah or not. And it shall be on the sixth day and they shall prepare that which they bring, and it shall be double that which they gather each day" (Shemot 16:4-5). The test here refers to the actual descent of the manna and to the prohibition of leaving any over until morning (as a test of faith) (16:19-20), as well as to the gathering of a double portion on Friday, and the command not to go out to gather on Shabbat. All of these are bound up with mutual tests: God tests the nation with the waters of Mara ("There He made them a law and a judgment and there He tested them" - Shemot 15:25), and Israel tests God at Refidim ("And he called the place Massa u-meriva for the argument [riv] of the children of Israel and for their testing of God saying, Is God among us or not?" - 17:7).

God's commands here have, aside from the idea of a test, the promise of reward, as we read at the conclusion of the "law and judgment and test" at Mara: "And He said, If you will indeed listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is upright in His eyes and hearken to His commandments and observe all His statutes, all the illness which I placed on Egypt I shall not place upon you, for I am the Lord your Healer" (16:26). In Sefer Devarim, too, the manna is explained in a general sense as a test: "In order to humble you and to test you, to know what was in your hearts, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and made you hungry, and He fed you the manna which you had not known and which your fathers had not known, in order to tell you that man does not live on bread alone; man lives rather on everything that comes forth from God's mouth" (Devarim 8:2-3, 16). The mitzvot of Shabbat appear here as part of the difficult task of addressing questions of faith in Divine Providence and of religious consciousness. The absolute command of Shabbat, devoid of any connection to being tested, to Providence or to reward and punishment actually appears only in the Ten Commandments, and then again while the mishkan is being built.

In the first understanding of Shabbat in the parasha of the manna, HOUSEHOLD melakha is prohibited (Shemot 16), and in the second understanding in parashat Mishpatim we find the prohibition of melakha in the FIELDS, which is usually the domain of various types of laborers. In both cases we have principally a positive mitzvah, out of which the various prohibitions arise. The second understanding, at the end of parashat Mishpatim, stands at the root of the Ten Commandments in Sefer Devarim. The mitzvot of Shabbat in the parasha of the manna are connected to the home, not to work in the fields, because the manna represents the very opposite of the produce of the field ("bread from the sky" - Tehillim 105:40). The only aspect of the manna which involves the outside of the home at all is the gathering and bringing it in - in other words, transferring from one domain to the other. The rest of the melakhot mentioned in connection with manna concern preparation, baking and cooking.

In contrast, the mitzvot of Shabbat at the end of parashat Mishpatim are concerned principally with the field, where the laborers and animals - "your ox and your donkey, the son of your maidservant and the stranger" - are usually to be found. The same idea arises from two comparisons in the same chapter: "And six years shall you sow your land..." (23:10) in contrast to "Six days shall you perform your work..." (23:12), as well as "Six days shall you perform your work..." (ibid.) in contrast to "...and the festival of the ingathering at the end of the year, when you collect your work from the field." (23:16)

We find the same idea in comparing this parasha to the corresponding parasha in Ki Tisa: "Six days shall you do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, in order that your ox and your donkey will rest and that the son of your maidservant and the stranger may be refreshed" (23:12), "Six days shall you work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, in the ploughing and the harvesting shall you rest." (34:21).

It arises from the above that there are two commands concerning the mitzvah of Shabbat as a positive commandment: Resting at home - prior to the receiving of the Torah, and resting in the field - thereafter. In the Ten Commandments given at Har Sinai the Torah includes "all melakha", with no distinction, and an absolute prohibition, "lo ta'aseh", applies to all types of melakha.

The perception of Shabbat against the backdrop of the Creation also has two aspects in Sefer Shemot: In the Ten Commandments we find an absolute prohibition of all "melekhet chol" (profane work), while in the command concerning the mishkan there is an absolute prohibition of all melakha whatsoever, including melakha performed for the sake of Heaven (such as the construction of the mishkan). It is only the second aspect which determines the absolute sanctity of Shabbat, a shabbat-shabbaton which overrides any type of melakha, and "anyone who desecrates it shall surely die." Therefore the punishment for desecrating Shabbat appears only in the parshiot of the mishkan.

C. The Innovation of Sefer Devarim Concerning the Reasons for Shabbat

In light of the connection which we have found between Shabbat at the end of Mishpatim and in the Ten Commandments in Devarim, we are faced with the question of what, if anything, is new and different about the latter rendition.

It seems that the innovation is to be found in three principal areas: firstly, at the end of Mishpatim (Shemot 23:14) there is no "lo ta'aseh" (negative command). In Sefer Shemot, the exodus from Egypt gives rise to the obligation of a Shabbat of rest for laborers in the field as a positive commandment, but without any corresponding negative command, since an absolute prohibition arises only from the idea of the Creation. In Devarim the source of the command as arising from the exodus is connected to the absolute prohibition of "You shall do no melakha...".

Secondly, the word "like you" defines the rest which comes with freedom from subjugation to labor on Shabbat on the basis of the equalityof worth of all humanity, which goes beyond individual status or the value of any labor. For this reason, in Sefer Devarim the ox and the donkey are separated from the stranger and the maidservant and are inserted in their proper place, immediately prior to "and all your beasts".

In Shemot (23 and 34): "Six days shall you perform your work (in chapter 34, "shall you work") (in the field) and on the seventh day you shall rest, in order that your ox and donkey may rest (physical rest) and that the son of your maidservant and the stranger shall be refreshed (veyinafesh -physical rest)."

In Devarim (5): "Six days shall you work and perform all your melakha, and the seventh day is a Shabbat unto the Lord your God; you shall not perform any melakha - you, your son and your daughter, your man- and maidservant, and your ox and your donkey and all your beasts, and the stranger who is within your gates - in order that your manservant and maidservant will rest like you."

Freedom and rest are arranged from the bottom upwards according to the various hierarchical positions enumerated at the end of Mishpatim: animals first and then man; servant and then stranger - like the hierarchy which exists in a large portion of the mishpatim (social laws) themselves. (See principally chapter 21 from verse 12 in decreasing status: man-servant-embryo-animal.) In Sefer Devarim there is a change: the ox and the donkey are not to perform any melakha, as part of the all-encompassing prohibition, but the manservant and maidservant and the stranger are to rest "like you".

The third - and most important - innovation of Sefer Devarim is that the presentation of the exodus as the source for the commandment of Shabbat becomes generalized and absolute: "Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the day of Shabbat."


It is specifically Sefer Devarim which places Shabbat absolutely against the backdrop of the exodus as the source of freedom and the equality of Bnei Yisrael before their God Who brought them from slavery to eternal freedom.

The ideals of freedom and equality which have become so popular in our generation are based, without any doubt, on the exodus, and they are written in the Divine Torah given to Israel by Moshe's hand - especially in Sefer Devarim. (It is only idolatry and its attendant phenomena which are given no freedom or leeway in Sefer Devarim - since true freedom comes only from God!)

[This article originally appeared in Hebrew, in Megadim Vol. 9, pp. 15-26. Translated by Kaeren Fish.]


Further study:

1. The distinction between labor of the field and labor of the home can help explain the prohibition of melakha on Yom Tov. The manna, with its prohibition of labor of the home, does not appear in the Torah in the context of Yom Tov. Explain.

2. The distinction between a social context for Shabbat in Devarim and a theological one in Shemot is reflected in the laws of Shemitta as well. See Shemot 23,10-11; Vayikra 23,1-3; 25,1-7; Devarim 15,1-6, though the themes are interrelated in a more complicated manner.