Yitro: Creation & Exodus – two paradigms for connecting with Hashem
Two very different reasons are given for keeping shabbat. In Parshat Yitro, in the Ten Commandments, the fourth commandment is to keep shabbat. And a reason is given (Shemot 20:11):
“Ki sheshet yamim asah Hashem et hashamayim v’et haaretz.” – “For Hashem created the world in six days and then He rested on the seventh day.”
Through keeping shabbat we therefore have a ‘zecher le’maaseh Bereishit,’ – an ongoing reminder of Hashem’s act of Creation.
But then in Parshat Va’etchanan, there is a second version of the Ten Commandments, and here a different reason is given for keeping shabbat (Devarim 5:15):
“Vezacharta ki eved hayita b’Eretz Mitzraim,” – You should keep shabbat to “remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt,” and Hashem saved you therefrom. Here we have a second reason for keeping shabbat: ‘zecher l’yetisat Mitzraim,’ – to remember the Exodus from Egypt.
Both reasons are crucial.
When it comes to our appreciation of the presence of Hashem in the universe, there are two ways in which we can approach this. First of all, “Ki sheshet yamim asah Hashem et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz,” – Hashem created the heavens and the earth in six days. All we need to do is to look to the heavens and throughout the world. The vastness of this universe! It had to have had a Creator!
In addition, from the second version of the Ten Commandments, we learn that we discover Hashem through our experiences. Just as the Israelites could recall the way in which they felt the presence of Hashem during the Exodus, so too, throughout our lives we feel that He is there.
We therefore have a cerebral connection to Hashem but we also emotionally know that he is with us all the time.
The Torah therefore teaches us that by keeping shabbat properly every single week, we are blessed to experience Hashem in two separate and equally crucial ways. First of all, to actually know logically that He is present in our lives and secondly, having remarkable, wonderful experiences through which we feel His presence in the world.