Sefer haChinuch

Author: Esther Ehrman
Kislev 5781/November 2020

Sefer haChinuch

Mitzvot 31 32

The author of Sefer haChinuch (SH) is not teaching the mitzvot - he assumes his reader knows what is under discussion - he is giving a kind of devar Torah on a selected aspect of the mitzva. In this mitzva 31, on Shabbat, he wishes to bring out what we should think about when observing the mitzva of making kiddush at the beginning and end of Shabbat, why that aspect is there. The overall topic here is Shabbat in the Ten Commandments in Parshat Yithro, beginning with Zachor (EX 20 . 8), In mitzva 31 he is teaching us to understand the significance of saying the Beracha and of the act of drinking wine in Kiddush and Havdala.; in mitzva 32, he discusses what is required by the mitzva of forbidden work according to the Torah bi chetav. He is also stressing the psychological impact - what aspect strengthens a person’s faith and and what is the best way to observe the mitzva.

31’ To sanctify - kiddush, lekadesh Shabbat when it comes in and goes out in words and/or with wine and bread.

We are to say the words that recall the greatness and exalted (kedusha) state of Shabbat. Therefore Zachor (Ex20.8) tells us to state the difference between Shabbat and other days - details in Pesachim 106a - . Doing so, we follow our traditional formula and practice: wine, challah with the appropriate blessing. At root of mitzva, to awaken our awareness by saying a blessing, beracha and, doing a ma’aseh, an act, the Creation (Ex 20,11) ex nihilo (cf also 138 note 4 to ‘tchum Shabbat). This explains the use of wine - since its influence is great and it exalts. So, if someone loves bread more than wine, he should make kiddush over bread - NOT so for Havadala, since you have eaten several times in the course of the day and are more likely to be thirsty then,so it is appropriate always to have wine and not bread with the blesssing ‘At least one log’ of strong wine is obvious - it is not fit to use less. ‘Rinse the cup’ reminds you not to taste anything before making Kiddush ‘Make Kiddush with meal on Friday night means to make it part of the meal; to awaken mindfulness, by having a festive meal.

The mitzvah applies at all times, to men and women - a point the SH makes often It is a mitzvat aseh, a positive commandment Its violation be shogeg, unintentionally and/or. only with words, without a ma’ase, the deed of drinking wine, is still ‘de’oraaita, according to the Biblical text, acceptable; so no punishment follows. The conclusion is that here, the saying of the words is the essential.

32, No work on Shabbat

This applies to YOU, ‘begufo’, with your person, not to the work of others, - your children, servants, cattle listed in the Commandment. Children, servants, cattle are taken to be one negative mitzvah, separate from the first word, ‘you’. SH gives the model of a person walking behind cattle, to plough; the cattle does the ploughing, not you. SH says this is already discussed Rambam and Ramban, i.e. it is not his invention and thereby acquires authority Rambam, says SH, believes that not even lashes are involved because walking is not doing (NB it is usual for no lashes to be given, if death is the punishment e.g. in violating Shabbat.E). - the reason: the mitzvah is a warning not to violate Shabbat. Shabbat is the general mitzvah as is ‘so that they may rest’, in the version of the Commandments in Deuteronomy; to keep Shabbat, which includes mitzvot besides not ploughing and ‘so that your servant etc may rest’ is only an inference from the general: to keep Shabbat, Ramban,SH says, reasons that if no action at all, ,then no punishment. He agrees with ‘only be gufo’ and says this is already explicit in ‘you’you’ twice in tne commandment ’shamor’ to ‘keep’ theSabbath . Your servant and cattle are mentioned as a warning only - therefore not even lashes, Just as at the beginning of Tractate Eruvin, where ‘’’lo ‘yetze’, he shall not go out, can be taken as ‘lo hotzii, ’, he shall not take out, which does not constitute a violation, - a negative now, only as an inference.

The root is not to do an everyday activity because of belief in creation ex nihilo - a basic tenet of religion (Ramam Guide to the Perplexed,) from which many mitzvot are derived.

This mitzvah strengthens our faith and also recalls being redeemed from slavery where we were unable to rest. It also reminds us of making a fence around laws and, importantly, of the fact that saving life overrides everything We must remember that all stoning and other death sentences are only ever given after a warning and the testimony of 2 witnesses, be meizid , deliberately; if it is be shogeg, unintentionally, a chataat sacrifice isrequired.

The relative importance of saying and of deeds in the two versions of the commandment,of Shabbat being violated to save life, of always requiring a warning and witnesses and when a mitzva applies literally and when not - -are part of the teaching in these chapters in SH.