7/19/2013

Shabbat VaEtchanan

Candles Friday, July 19th at 8pm
Havdalah July 20th at 8:55pm

Shabbat Nahamu

Moshe repeats the Torah at the end of his life. This week includes a second statement of the Ten Commandments. It is forty years since they were heard for the first time. In this version there are minor differences from the original in Exodus 20. Some might put them down to ‘senior’ lapses but the fact is that they all add an extra dimension to the original, while preserving the essence.

For example in Exodus it says “Zachor et Yom HaShabbat,” Remember the Shabbat. But here in Devarim it says “Shamor et Yom Hashabbat,” Keep the Shabbat. They are two different words but they supplement each other. To remember something without acting on it is clearly incomplete. To remember the Shabbat, shall we say intellectually as a good idea in theory, but not in action by actually keeping it, would be a sort of contradiction.

But why do we need two words when one might do? Very often human words are inadequate. We need, like coats of paint, to add layers to fully express our meaning. So it is with Torah. The written text often leaves things ambiguous. “Do not kill” for example makes no allowance for manslaughter or self-defense. That is why the Torah sometimes repeats using other words. It is also why the Oral Law fills in the blanks or helps clarify what is meant by the text.

When you read the text in the Torah this week and compare it with Exodus you will find other variations. Each difference between the two versions covers exactly the same ground but in a slightly different way. This all explains why Torah is such a complex text and why for thousands of years we have gone on interpreting and expanding it.