by Rabbi Jay Spero
Spero at 862-9546 or email@example.com
If you are interested in receiving
Rabbi Spero's Dvar Torah in your email each week, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The story line of this week’s portion is the "becoming" of the
Jewish nation. From Avraham and all of his trials and tribulations, through
Yitzchok and Yaakov, the twelve tribes, and the 210 years in Egypt — all lead
to this moment: The receiving of the Torah.
When we received the Torah, we became more than an indigenous group of people
who shared a similar background and culture. We were transformed into
sharers of a common destiny. It is a destiny that relies on striving and growing
to have a relationship with Hashem, and in its highest form, in fact, to imitate
Hashem. To imitate His lovingkindness and His justice. This is done
through keeping the commandments of the Torah.
The Ten Commandments, which Hashem proclaimed to the Jews at Sinai, contain in
them the foundations of all the 613 commandments. In fact, the Maharal (16th
century sage from Czechoslovakia) explains that Hashem uttered the Ten
Commandments at one time to show the unity of the commandments of the Torah. Let
us focus on one of these Ten Commandments as a microcosm of mitzvos
(commandments) in general.
The fourth commandment is: "Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it" (Shemos
20:8). When the Ten Commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy chapter five, there
is one discrepancy. There it states: "Safeguard the Shabbos day."
Why in one place does it say "remember", and in the other
"safeguard"? The sages teach us that when Hashem gave over this
commandment, He said remember and safeguard at the same time (Mechilta, Shevuos
There are two basic components of every person’s soul: the physical aspect,
and the spiritual aspect.
There are two types of mitzvos to correspond to these two parts of the soul.
Positive mitzvos, such as eating kosher and lovingkindness to people, elevate
our spiritual soul. Negative mitzvos are mitzvos of omission, such as not eating
certain things, not mistreating people etc. These mitzvos enable us to
learn self-control and to let our mind control our bodies and not vice versa.
Although our physical side is important and plays a key role in our relationship
with Hashem, as we have seen so many times, if left unchecked it can lead to
lustful, gluttonous and greedy behavior which can only hurt ourselves and
others. "Remember the Shabbos" is telling us to keep the positive
aspects of Shabbos, to make kiddush, light candles and spend time with the
family. "Safeguard the Shabbos" is telling us not to violate the
Shabbos by doing any of the forbidden labors. Positive and negative — the
spiritual and the physical — are both needed to remember and safeguard the
Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac
Synagogue in Buffalo.