Yom Rivii, 24 Tishri 5780
Isru Chag Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Parashat Beha'alotecha 2014

Parashat Beha'alotecha
Rabbi Harry Jacobi
6th June 2014

Having given a Shiur on Shabbat Beha’alotcha last year I don’t want to repeat it today.

Instead, as the intention is to give a D’var Torah for a Shabbbat let me give some relevant and interesting commentaries on the most popular biblical passage we chant· with gusto every Shabbat. It is VESHAMRU – Exodus 31,16.”The people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath in every generation as a covenant for all time. “ The following commentaries are taken from a compendium ‘Iture· hatorah’ by Aaron Jacob Greenberg in 1949. I treasure it because it was presented to me by the Rabbinic Conference when I left temporarily for Zurich.

VESHAMRU has the Hebrew root shin, mem, resh meaning to keep, guard, protect, preserve,· watch or observe. Aaron Jacob Greenberg says it can be understood here as it was in Genesis 37,11:: “His father (Jacob) kept, shamar,the saying in· mind.” In other words, keep the Shabbat always in mind, wait and long for it, as you look forward to receiving an important guest.

Observing Shabbat, Aaron Jacob Greenberg continues, is like guarding it as you would guard your precious jewels, lest they are lost or stolen. When serving in the Jewish Brigade, incidentally, one of my duties was ‘Shemirah’, standing on guard.

You can fulfil the Mizvah by simply sleeping. This is what our Sages say: “Sleep on Shabbat is Oneg- delight, and as Shabbat should be Oneg – delight, you can, or even better, should sleep.

Why two expressions, Veshamru and la-asot – keeping and observing with the same meaning? This is how the Talmud comments: (Shabbat 118a) “If Israel kept two consecutive Sabbaths strictly it would at once be redeemed. Why only two Sabbaths? As if to say the Sabbath has two aspects: One to sit quietly and do nothing, the other to get up and do something. Doing something the Talmud says, is something you would not normally do or have time for during a busy week ‘limmud hatorah’ studying Totah. If Israel kept the two aspects of Shabbat Veshamru – keeping – and La-asot – observing then it would keeping the covenant of Shabbat throughout the generations be redeemed and ‘niskey leyom shekulo Shabbat’ which we have translated (Siddur Lev chadash p.558) ‘permit us to see the time that is all good.’

And then we sing ‘ledorotam’ in every generation. Aaron Jacob Greenbrg teaches: “Who wishes his children to continue observing Shabbat must take heed to observe it strictly, not treat it lightly. For instant if the father talks of money and similar matters weighing up his profits or losses. If you observe it you will see future generations observing it also.

Finally. it was noted that here ‘ledorotam’ is unusually written without the letters WAV. So with a slight change of vowels you can, or should, read ‘lediratam’ , in their homes. A Dirah is a flat in Israel to-day! A Jewish home, concludes the commentary· ‘iture hatorah’ is where candles are lit and the table is laid out for Shabbat. In such a Jewish home that is shrouded in holiness of Shabbat the Shechinah, God’s presence, dwells, the angels hover it and bless it.

Let us reflect on these comments and teachings every time we joyfully sing VESHAMRU on Shabbat.