In Shabbos day Shemoneh Esrei, we describe Moshe receiving the Mitzvah of Shabbos on Har Sinai. It says that he received the Luchos, on which were written the Mitzvah of Shabbos, "and so too is it written..."

Then the brachah jumps to V'Shamru, which was indeed told to Moshe when he was on Har Sinai following Matan Torah but was not written on the Luchos. Why does the brachah not quote Zachor? If it introduces the quote by saying "Shabbos is on the Luchos, as it says..." why doesn't it quote Shabbos on the Luchos?

יִשְׂמַח מֹשֶׁה בְּמַתְּנַת חֶלְקוֹ כִּי עֶבֶד נֶאֱמָן קָרָאת לו כְּלִיל תִּפְאֶרֶת בְּרֹאשׁוֹ נָתַתָּ בְּעָומְדוֹ לְפָנֶיךָ עַל הַר סִינָי וּשְׁנֵי לוּחוֹת אֲבָנִים הוֹרִיד לָנוּ בְיָדוֹ וְכָתוּב בָּהֶן שְׁמִירַת שַׁבּת וְכן כָתוּב בְּתוֹרתך

וְשָׁמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת לַעֲשׂ֧וֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם בֵּינִ֗י וּבֵין֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל א֥וֹת הִ֖וא לְעֹלָ֑ם כִּי־שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים עָשָׂ֤ה ה׳ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבַיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י שָׁבַ֖ת וַיִּנָּפַֽשׁ

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    The quoted passages implies it isn't written on the tablets, but rather in the Torah. What's the problem?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 4:20
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    I believe what @mevaqesh is highlighting is that the prayer is mentioning that separate from the well known mention of "shamor" in the luchoth, וְכן כָתוּב בְּתוֹרתך - there is an additional mention in the Torah (i.e. not quoting the the 10 commandments) of the the mitzvah of shemirath shabbath.
    – Loewian
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 4:42
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    @Loewian Mimah nafshach. Then why pick on V'shamru when there are plenty of other parshios that discuss Shabbos? I still think the text of the brachah is more mistaber the way I'm reading it.
    – DonielF
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 4:45
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    @Loewian here's an old siddur with שכן כתוב בתורתך web.nli.org.il/sites/NLI/Hebrew/digitallibrary/pages/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 18:24
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    DonielF please edit your post to explicitly address the comments above about וכן כתוב and "thus it is written" and what you think they mean. That way we can clean up some comments and make it clear to all what you think is going on and what you're looking for in an answer.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 15:01

4 Answers 4


Rav Chaim Brisker, cited by his son in חדושי הגרי"ז על התורה 138, writes that the luchot are associated with a "brit". Hence the term "Luchot Habrit". The Tefilah is recounting the places that Shabbat is part of a brit. One - the fact that it is on the luchot. Two - from the pasuk that is quoted.

Or (my addition) perhaps we can say the tefilah is recounting the fact that Shabbat is on the luchot, and hence part of the brit. This is being supported by a passuk that Shabbat is kept as a "brit".


The Yismach Moshe section of the prayer leads to VeShamru, which is taken from Exodus 31:16 to 17. (Our discussion will involve a few more sentences, Exodus 31:13 to 17.) Rabbi Avudirham discusses this section of the prayer. He notes (in my own translation):

They instituted the recital of “Moshe rejoiced” on Shabbos because of the first chapter of Tractate Shabbos (10b) [quoting Ex. 31:13]: “To make known that I HaShem have sanctified you.” The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moshe, “I have a good gift in my treasury, called ‘Shabbos,’ and I want to give it to Israel. Go let them know.” That’s why they instituted [this section -- to make known] that Moshe rejoiced in this good gift of Shabbos that was put into his hand.

The gemara that R’ Avudirham mentions (Shabbos 10b, like the similar statement at Beitza 16a2) discusses the proper way to give gifts. It refers to a couple of consecutive sentences of Exodus Ch. 31, including 31:13 which R’ Avudirham quotes in turn, to illustrate that when you give a gift you should let the recipient know, just as Hashem caused Moshe's face to shine when giving the Luchois to him and to the Jewish people to make known that HaShem has sanctified us. For example, when feeding a friend’s child in the absence of the parents, one might put cosmetics on his face so that his parents will ask him to explain what happened (a strange example to us, but apparently a familiar one to them).

The flow of thought in Ex. 31 and the gemara are somewhat like that in these two paragraphs of the siddur. Moshe rejoiced in the gift of his portion, and You [haShem] placed a crown of splendor on Moshe’s head [the radiance of his face] and gave him the tables. So (assuming that the gemara predates this prayer) I would suggest that the author of the prayer was resonating this gemara obliquely.

In other words, despite the placement of the words Vechein Kosuv Besoirasecha, the passage is not cited to prove that Shabbos is commanded on the Luchois. It is rather meant to connect us to this sublime thought of the sages. The radiance of Moshe’s face reminded his generation that Shabbos is a beautiful gift to the Jewish people, and by recalling this exposition we are ourselves reminded that Shabbos is a beautiful gift to the Jewish people. The siddur then proceeds to cite a commandment to observe Shabbos from this same context, Exodus Ch. 31.

  • Very interesting thought. However, since your only proof is the contextual flow of the gemara you will also need to prove that this gemara predates the prayer. Which it probably does not. Also, according to your explanation, the words וכן כתוב are completely out of place.
    – user8726
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 6:05
  • @Moses613 I wondered about these points. I don't know whether the gemara predates the prayer, or whether the order is important. It's easier to explain the thought if we assume some order; but maybe the authors of the gemara and the siddur just assumed some familiarity with the exposition of Ex. 31, regardless of which of them did so first. The wording Vechein Kosuv is a little strange, I agree, but I believe such "strange" things (flawed quotations) are common in the gemara. Maybe the author just meant to indicate a quotation, or meant to use Veshomru to illustrate Yismach more generally.
    – Chaim
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 14:35

Zachor is of course part of the Ten Commandments. Rabbi Hershel Shachter in his article on the Ten Commandments writes:

In the second Bais Hamikdash, the practice was to recite the aseres hadibros each morning at the conclusion of shacharis. After the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash, a suggestion was made that we introduce this practice all over the world as well. The idea was not accepted by the rabbonim lest the masses be misled into believing that there is something more important about these pesukim than the rest of the Torah. There is a widespread practice to draw a design of the two tablets on the paroches or on the aron kodesh. One of the great Hungarian gedolim of the last century wrote that he thinks that this must have been introduced by the Reform movement. Orthodox practice is that we don't place more significance to the aseres ha'dibros than to the rest of the Torah.

I suggest that this is why the Amidah studiously avoids quoting Zachor. To have Zachor as part of the Shabbos day Shemoneh Esrei would have given it considerable importance.

  • Why then is it recited at the daytime Kiddush (by many)?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 16:30
  • @DoubleAA Right! That is a good question on my answer. My only response is that the blessing on wine is all that is needed. Commented May 3, 2017 at 17:07
  • @AvrohomYitzchok ...that still doesn't answer DoubleAA's question. But that still begs the question why we say a formula that seems incoherent.
    – DonielF
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 17:16
  • It's not clear to me that the verses are "needed" in the Amida either, and not just a custom.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 17:33
  • @DoubleAA (1) Can you provide a support for the view that the verses are just a custom? (2) So if I left the verses out in the Amidah, would I still have made a valid Amidah? Commented May 3, 2017 at 19:22

A couple of thoughts that haven't quite come together as a cogent answer but I think at least point us in the right direction:

1) As we know, there are two sets of the aseres HaDibros that appear in the Torah; while the first reading (in Yisro) commands us with zachor, the second reading (*va'Eschanan) begins with shamor. The gemara reconciles this with the famous Shamor v'Zachar b'dibbur echad, i.e. God actually commanded both in the same utterance, a feat that is impossible for humans.

2) Moshe Rabbeinu is repeating over the Aseres haDibros in the second reading. The medrash (I saw it in the Abudraham but the exact source escapes me for the moment) credits Moshe as the one who made it possible for the Bnei Yisrael to observe Shabbos in Egypt through advocacy to Pharaoh - fulfilling the shmirah aspect of Shabbos Kodesh: refraining from breaking the Shabbos through unpermitted activity. It's consistent for Moshe to highlight this aspect of the mitzvos Shabbos when repeating the Aseres HaDibros.

3) The subject of that excerpt from the Shabbos morning liturgy is Moshe himself, linking his "special crown" to his achievement and defense of Shabbos. The consistency is maintained - buttressed, in fact - by focusing on the shmiras Shabbos aspect of Shabbos observance.

4) The second quote of v'shamru serves thematically to link this with the following paragraph in the amidah. The invocation of the bris olam is the connection to the next part of "v'lo nasata", something which cannot be achieved by the commandment in the aseres haDibros in either iteration.

  • Then why not quote Shamor?
    – DonielF
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 22:36
  • Because that's not the main point. The focus is on Moshe and his reward due to his connection to Shabbos. Hence, the piece references the luchos with the shamor/zachor commandment that he merited to bring to Yisrael as well as further mentions of the shmira aspect. Commented May 4, 2017 at 22:41
  • I understand that. But why not quote the actual Shamor commandment?
    – DonielF
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 22:42
  • Because the second quote of v'shamru serves thematically to link this with the following paragraph in the amidah. The invocation of the bris olam is the connection to the next part of "v'lo nasata"... Commented May 5, 2017 at 0:14
  • Consider adding that to your answer.
    – DonielF
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 2:02

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