Sep 8, 2015

Rabbi YY Jacobson: A Deeper Look (Shamor and Zachor)

by Rabbi YY Jacobson

In our Jewish tradition there are two equal parts of the Shabbat experience “Shamor” and “Zachor”, observing and remembering.

The first we will discuss is Zachor, remembering. This is the social, emotional and spiritual dimension of the holy day. As the sun sets on Friday, a new energy enters the Jewish home, engulfing it in a bathing glow of the Shabbos splendor. The mother and the daughters kindle a glowing flame, bringing a little light back into the world. The home is transformed into a palace. The father becomes a king and the mother a queen; the son - a prince and the daughter - a princess. The father kisses his children “a gut Shabbos,” and the mother embraces each of her precious diamonds with love. A Divine presence pervades the Jewish home on Shabbat, as the family eats delicious food, drinks wine, converse with each other and laugh together. This is the “zachor” of Shabbos, it is the way we remember the holy day, through Kiddush, festive meals and beautiful clothing.

The second equal part to Shabbat is a second dimension known as "shamor”, the observance Shabbat in all its laws. The observance of the legal, ritualistic elements of Shabbat, and acknowledging Shabbat as a day in which we do not engage in any creative labour. We do not create a flame, turn on a phone, drive a car, write, cook, paint, harvest, build, weave, plant or bake.

Louis Brandeis, the first Jew to sit on the US Supreme court, was deeply inspired by his observant uncle. He writes: “I recall vividly the joy and awe with which my uncle, Lewis Dembitz, welcomed the arrival of the [Sabbath] day and the piety with which he observed it. I remember the extra delicacies, lighting of the candles, prayers made over a cup of wine, quaint chants and Uncle Lewis poring over books most of the day. I remember more particularly an elusive something about him, which was spoken of as the ‘Sabbath peace,’ and which years later brought to my mind a passage from Addison in which he speaks of stealing a day out of life to live… Uncle Lewis used to say that he was enjoying a foretaste of heaven.”

Brandeis carried this thought by saying that what we need is a Shabbat without its “oppressive restrictions.” Brandeis failed to understand is the secret behind the delicate recipe of Shabbat that was articulated in the Talmud 1700 years earlier. That is that without “shamor”, without the observance of Shabbat with all its laws, there is no “zachor”, there is no remembrance.

Rabbi YY Jacobson

One of America’s premier Jewish scholars in Torah and Jewish mysticism, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (YY) Jacobson has lectured to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences on six continents and in 40 states. Rabbi Jacobson founded and serves as dean of TheYeshiva.net, teaching, via the Web, one of the largest Torah classes in the world today. Formerly, he served as editor-in-chief of the largest Yiddish English newspaper, The Algemeiner Journal, and as spiritual leader of Congregation Bais Shmuel in New York.

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