Judaism's most popular Shabbat prayer-song,
by Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz
translation and commentary by Rabbi Moshe Miller
"Observe" and "Remember" in a single
He caused us to hear, the One and Only Lord.
G-d is One and His Name
For renown, for glory and in song.
and Remember: The Ten Commandments appear twice in the Torah (Ex. 20:7 ff,
Deut 5:11 ff). In the first instance the word "zachor" (remember)
is used, and in the second the word "shmor" (observe) is used.
The Talmud (Shevuot 20b) explains that "remember" and "observe"
were said in a single utterance, a miracle that only G-d could perform.
"Observe" corresponds to the 365 prohibitions of the Torah, and the
root of their observance is the fear of Heaven.
corresponds to the 248 positive commandments, of which love is the root, for it
is only through their observance that a person can cleave to G-d.
and Remember: "Observe" precedes "remember" here, even
though the sequence written in the Torah is the opposite; this is because fear
of Heaven must precede cleaving to G-d. Furthermore, "observe" is particularly
pertinent at night, and "remember" during the day.
and Only Lord: One of the commentaries on Sefer Yetzira states that
G-d's ability to fuse opposites is indicated by the description "meyuchad",
which we have translated here as "One and Only." Here this refers to
"remember" and "observe" that were uttered simultaneously.
G-d is One and His Name is One: On the Shabbat, malchut is united
within the mystery of Oneness, so that the Oneness of the higher worlds
may rest upon her. This takes place during the evening prayer of the Shabbat
eve, for then the holy Throne of Glory [the life-force which brings all
of Creation into being and sustains it] merges into the mystery of Oneness,
and is ready for the holy transcendent King to rest upon it, i.e., for
the transcendent revelation of God to be illuminate the lower worlds.
(Zohar vol. II, 135a-b)
Continue to stanza 3
[go to Prayer Menu for
commentary on other stanzas, and/or for the complete, original rhyming
Miller, a guest teacher at Ascent when he lived in Israel, was born in South Africa
and received his yeshiva education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author
and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics,
including a new, authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He currently
lives in Chicago.