June 15, 2024
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Earning the Blessings of Shabbos

During the summer, our yeshiva hosts a Torah Umesorah SEED program with eight yeshiva bochurim from the Yeshiva of Staten Island. These young men spend two weeks of their summer vacation learning with the adults and youth of our community. At the end of last summer, a bochur came over to me and said, “Rabbi, I thought I was coming here to teach, but I feel I actually learned more from the people than they learned from me! I’m so inspired by their dedication and sacrifice to come to learn, and how learning Torah is a mainstay in their lives.”

In life, the more time and effort you invest, the more you receive in return. This is true not only with Torah learning but with Shabbos as well.

The Aseres Hadibros, Ten Commandments, are read in both Parshas Yisro and Parshas Va’eschanan. Both include the mitzvah of Shabbos, but there is a difference between the languages used in each place. In Yisro, the Torah says, “Zachor es Yom HaShabbos, remember the day of Shabbos,” but in Va’eschanan the Torah says, “Shamor es Yom HaShabbos, guard the day of Shabbos.” What’s the difference between remembering and guarding?

There are two different elements to Shabbos. The Ramban1 explains that “zachor” is a positive mitzvah and instructs us to recite Kiddush at the onset of Shabbos. “Shamor,” on the other hand, is a negative commandment and refers to guarding and adhering to all the laws of Shabbos, telling us the activities from which we must refrain. The Ramban elsewhere refers to zachor as the masculine (active) aspect of Shabbos, and to shamor as the feminine (passive) aspect of Shabbos.

Shabbos is referred to both as a bride and a queen. The Gemara2 records that one of the Amoraim would say, “Let’s greet the Shabbos Bride,” and another would say, “Let’s greet the Shabbos Queen.”

Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk3 explains that Shabbos has a dual function. Shabbos night has the feminine aspect of receiving the benefits from all that one invested in preparing for Shabbos. As the Gemara4 tells us, “If we prepare for Shabbos by making delicious food, then we will enjoy delicious food on Shabbos.”

Yet, Shabbos has another dimension. The Zohar5 says that Shabbos gives forth blessing to the entire week. As we say in “Lecha Dodi” on Friday night, it is the “mekor habracha, the source of all blessing.” And in Kiddush on Shabbos morning we recite from Parshas Yisro,6 “…Al kein beirach Hashem es yom haShabbos… Hashem blessed the Shabbos day,” so that it actually gives forth blessing. In this way, Shabbos day represents the masculine aspect of giving.

Rav Dovid Cohen7 elaborates further. We mention in Kiddush on Friday night two aspects of Shabbos: First, “zikaron l’maasei bereishis”; Shabbos signifies our belief that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Second, “zecher l’Yetzias Mitzrayim”; we remember that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim.

Shabbos night separates Shabbos from the work week. We stop doing melacha, work at the onset of Shabbos by keeping the halachos of Shabbos. This signifies our belief that Hashem stopped creating by the seventh day, as we say in Friday night Kiddush, “Vayechulu…”

Shabbos day is different from the previous night, as we already stopped doing melacha from when Shabbos began. Shabbos day has the aspect of zecher l’Yetzias Mitzrayim, in which we must do something positive to remember our exodus from Egypt, when Hashem saved us so we can do mitzvos. Therefore, on Shabbos day we invest our time in davening, Torah learning and spending time with our family.

Although women are obligated in all negative commandments, they are generally exempt from time-bound positive commandments—except for Shabbos. The Gemara8 says that Hashem spoke the words zachor and shamor in one utterance. This means we can’t have one without the other, and that requirement is true for both men and women.

A true experience of Shabbos must have both positive acts to sanctify the day and an observance of the laws where we refrain from work and creating things. We have delicious foods, and we abstain from melacha—together. The blessings of Shabbos affecting our coming week depend on the amount of time and effort we invest in preparing for Shabbos and in keeping its laws and using our time properly.

Hashem says, “Shabbos is a sign between Me and you for your generations;9 a treaty forever.”10 May we merit to reap the blessings of Shabbos each week, both for our families and for all future generations.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged, but contributions are always welcome. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.


1 Yisro 20:8

2 Shabbos 119a

3 Meshech Chochmah Vayikra 16:1-3

4 Avodah Zarah 3a

5 Parshas Yisro

6 20:11

7 Chemdas Yomim Maamar 6

8 Shavuos 20b

9 Shemos 31:13

10 Shemos 31:16

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