Yitro: Language and Translation

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of your God YHVH: you shall not do any work–you [atah], your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements.
— Exodus/Shemot 20:9-10

[What is the scope of “atah,” the masculine singular second-person pronoun?]

Paradoxically, it is the conspicuous omission of the wife that signals her inclusion here: if she is not addressed by “you,” then are we to assume that the verse burdens her with work — while her children, slaves and draft animals rest? This can hardly be the case. As Tikva Frymer-Kensky writes, “the omission of a phrase ‘and your wife’ shows that the ‘you’ that the law addresses includes both women and men, each treated as a separate moral agent” (“Deuteronomy,” Women’s Bible Commentary,* 1992, p.59)
The Torah: A Women’s Commentary*

* Please see Source Materials for full citations and more details.

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Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.

The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.
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