The Parsha contains an apparent redundancy — it contains several admonitions to observe the laws taught by Moshe, but later states “and you shall do that which is right and good in the eyes of the Lord”. What new instruction does the latter verse add? Rashi and Rambam explain that this verse contains the additional command to do “right and good” — i.e., to go above and beyond the letter of the law in serving Hashem and aiding one’s fellow man. One who does so shows that he acts not only out of a sense of duty, or to gain rewards, but also out of a sincere desire to do Hashem’s bidding for its own sake. This ideal is illustrated by the following story: A man came to the Brisker Rav before Pesach and asked “Can I use milk instead of wine for the Four Cups?” The Brisker Rav didn’t reply; instead, he removed five rubles from his pocket and gave them to the man. The Rav’s wife asked “Would not one ruble have been more than enough money for him to buy wine?” “Perhaps,” responded the Rav, “but from his question, it was clear that he didn’t have money for meat either, for one can’t eat meat and use milk for the Four Cups. Therefore, I gave him enough money for both meat and wine for his Pesach Seder.”

 

 “See that I have taught you statutes and laws as the Lord, my G-d, commanded me, to do so in the midst of the land.” Some philosophers advocate that if a person wants to live a life of sanctity and purity, he must flee from inhabited places and live alone in the wilderness. This is not, however, the path of the Torah. We are told to live an elevated life among other people. True sanctity and perfection is to live among other people and behave towards G-d and your fellow man in a manner consistent with Torah values (Arvai Nachal). The ideal of Torah is to bring sanctity and idealism into all aspects of  human endeavor. If you live alone, you will be free from anger, envy, causing others pain, etc.; but, you will also be missing opportunities for  kindness, compassion, charity, etc. Only when you are in the company of  others can you fulfill all aspects of the Torah.

 

“And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and G-d delivered you from there . . . therefore he is commanding you to make the day of Shabbos.” Rabbi Avraham Twerski comments: Several times, the Torah refers to Shabbos with the word “to make,” as though there were something active about Shabbos, although it would seem that the salient feature of Shabbos is complete rest or lack of activity. In the repetition of the Ten Commandments, there is a marked change from the original recitation. There it says that we must observe Shabbos because G-d created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh.” Yet, here it says that we should observe in remembrance of our enslavement in Egypt, Hashem is commanding us to make the day of Shabbos. Why does the Torah give a different reason for Shabbos here? Perhaps it is because that here the Torah is not telling us why to observe Shabbos, but how not to observe it. The idea of a “day of rest” is essentially a secular concept. One rests so that he/she can “recharge” the batteries in order to increase one’s work efficiency for the following week. The day of rest is a means rather than an end. The Torah concept of  Shabbos is just the reverse. One works six days in order to be able to have a Shabbos. Exhaustion is not the reason for Shabbos any more than it was for G-d’s resting on the seventh day. Shabbos is a day of spiritual growth  and development. It is a day when through prayer and the study of Torah, one should be able to create a new self, a person more refined than one had been heretofore. Shabbos is passive only in the sense of abstinence from work, but that abstinence is not sufficient. It must be used to enable  oneself to make oneself into something finer and more spiritual person. This is what the Torah means by repeatedly using the expression “to make” the Shabbos. Make the Shabbos an active day of spiritual achievement and creation.

 

Prepared by Devorah Abenhaim

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