Shmirat Shabbat

Discussions of Parshat Ki Tisa often center around the sin of the golden calf, but it also includes one of teh more common paragraphs in Jewish practice: “V’shamru B’nei Yisrael”. We say it during davening and we say it during kiddush every week, so it may be worthwhile to appreciate this phrase in depth.

 

Typically, the sentence is understood to mean simply that we “guard Shabbos”, that we refrain from onerous, creative activities which detract from the recognition that Hashem created the world. But there are additional meanings that may also be hinted to in this word, “v’shamru”, ‘and you should guard’. The Ohr HaChaim, Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar (1697-1743) connects this to another use of the word describing Yaakov in his response to Yosef’s dreams: “And his brothers were jealous of him, and his father kept it in mind (“shamar et hadavar”)” (Bereishit 37:11). In response to Yosef’s prediction that the brotehrs would bow to him, Yaakov didn’t deny it, but he kept it in the back of his mind, he expected it and anticipated it.

 

The Ohr HaChaim explains that we should have the same anticipation towards Shabbos. To be “Shomer Shabbos”, we can’t begrudgingly enter Shabbos thinking that we wish we could be doing our weekday activities, or counting down the minutes until it’s over. Being “Shomer”  the Shabbos day means yearning for it, hoping it comes, keeping it mind mind that it’s your most prized day of the week. It’s a day when we return back to the serenity of our relationship with Hashem. We spend the day not passing time with nothing to do, but restfully focusing on what we’re meant to do- daven, study, and connect with others.