Torah Study- Parashat Yitro: Be Prepared

Parashat Yitro: Be Prepared

(A Torah study led by Rabbi J.B. Sacks on Saturday, February 3, 2024)

We read the Ten Commandments today. There is so much to say, so much to unpack, so much to explore. Time, however, does not permit that. So let’s focus on the Shabbat commandment. Here it begins by commanding us to “remember” the Sabbath day. Is this really a commandment? It’s rather puzzling. What is it we are to remember? When will that memory be triggered? How do we show that we remember? In fact the vowel under the first letter is a kametz and not a sh’va. I don’t know if you can hear the difference, but we are to say in two syllables “Zachor” and not the monosyllabic “Z’chor.” Yet, in doing so, we no longer have a true command, and verse 8 is no longer even a sentence, but a phrase meaning something like, “remembering the Sabbath day to sanctify it…”

Let’s look at Rashi.

Rashi on Exodus 20:8

“זכור”–לְשׁוֹן פָּעוֹל הוּא, כְּמוֹ אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ (ישעיהו כ”ב), הָלוֹךְ וּבָכֹה (שמואל ב ג’), וְכֵן פִּתְרוֹנוֹ: תְּנוּ לֵב לִזְכֹּר תָּמִיד אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, שֶׁאִם נִזְדַּמֵּן לְךָ חֵפֶץ יָפֶה תְּהֵא מַזְמִינוֹ לְשַׁבָּת (מכילתא):


“Zachor”—This word is in the pa’ol form [expressing verbal action without any reference to a particular time, i.e. the infinitive]. It is similar to:

אכול ושתו “to eat and to drink” (Isaiah 22:13);

הלוך ובכה “to go and to weep”(II Samuel 3:16);

so the following is, then, the meaning of “zachor et yom ha-Shabbat,” “remember the Sabbath day”: Take care to always remember the Sabbath day—so that if, for example, you come across a beautiful thing during the week, put it aside for the Sabbath.

Please consider:

  • How does Rashi’s comment suggest we understand the commandment regarding the Sabbath/Shabbat?
  • Why would Rashi emphasize this? What might be his larger point?
  • Can you think of anything in our tradition that supports Rashi’s larger point?
  • If you had not read this comment, what might one think “Remember the Sabbath day” means?
  • How do you continue to be mindful of Shabbat, even during the week?
  • Have you found that the effort you invest in preparing for an experience can have a marked effect on the quality of that experience? Can you provide an example?
  • Have you ever found that preparing earlier in the week for Shabbat makes the Shabbat experience more beautiful? If so, in what ways?



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