Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Vaeschanan - Guard the Quiet Time

Parshas Vaeschanan contains the second version of the Aseres Hadibros, the Ten Commandments. The commandments are the same as they were in Parshas Yisro, but there are significant differences in the wording between the two Parshiyos. Perhaps the most famous difference is in the fourth commandment, Shabbos. In Parshas Yisro we were told zachor, remember, and here in Vaeschanan the passuk says Shamor es yom hashabbos l’kadsho, we must guard the Shabbos day to sanctify it. We know that zachor, remember the Shabbos day teaches us about the positive mitzvos we do, like kiddush, on Shabbos. Shamor, the word used here, teaches us to refrain from creative activity on Shabbos. Shabbos isn’t only powerful because of the special things we do on that day, it is equally powerful because of what we don’t do. 

This was on my mind this week because Tisha B’Av in the twenty-first century has become a day of non-stop programming. A person could literally spend the 25 hours of Tisha B’Av consuming high quality, inspirational, Torah content online, over the phone with recorded messages, and in person. And there is something very special about these wonderful presentations that add a lot to enhance a person’s personal Tisha B’Av experience. That is the zachor. But we also need shamor. What is Tisha B’Av without quiet time, sitting, reflecting, just being, feeling the day from the inside-out? Along with the shiurim and messages, we need to refrain from them too for part of the day. We need to turn off the computer, hang up the phone, and experience Tisha B’Av ourselves.


Our lives are very blessed and very full and our children’s lives are very, very full.  There are limitless wonderful opportunities for them; camp, sports leagues, Pirchei, Bnos, chesed clubs, gymnastics, choirs. You name it and the world has it. And these are enriching and valuable activities. But equally valuable is pulling back, refraining, shamor, some of the time. We, and our children need quiet time where we aren’t being filled up from the outside, but where our insides can nurture, process and develop from the inside-out. As mothers, we are the ones who have to safeguard our children’s quiet time. It won’t happen today unless we make it happen. Quiet time for coloring, dot-to-dots, perler beads, lying on the floor daydreaming, unstructured, unscripted time to be. That is shamor, and just as in the physical world growth comes after a period of rest or dormancy, so too in the spiritual world. Just as we need the positive structured activities, we also need the rejuvenating, unstructured time of rest for personal growth.