For those of you who live in a neighborhood where some of your fellow Americans are Jewish. You might notice that this evening (Friday, October 7), your Jewish neighbors are walking to Synagogue. Although observant Jews are supposed to be doing that every Friday evening, it seems like this Friday, there are more of them. What’s happening? No, it is not the beginning of the rapture.
According to the Old Testament, Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the 10 commandments from God. He was on top of the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights.
While he was up there, the Jews decided that they needed another God. So they created a golden calf. Where these Hebrew slaves found gold in the Sinai desert remains a mystery to this very day. In any case, Moses comes down with the tablets and sees what his fellow Jews are doing. “Oy!” he exclaims, and breaks the tablets. Moses is upset. “Wait until I tell your God on you!”, he yells.
Moses goes back up Mt. Sinai and tells God what happened. God says, “Oy!” “I knew he would say that”, thought Moses. “I know what you are thinking”, exclaimed God. “Well, you are God”, replied Moses. “Ah yes, so I am”. “It’s good to be God”.
Finally, god forgives the Jewish people, and makes another copy of the 10 commandments – this time steel reinforced so that Moses won’t keep breaking them. “Destructive little Chosen Person”, thought God. All is forgiven on the 10th of Tishrei, the first month of the Jewish year. So, the golden calf goes the way of the 8-track, Betamax, the Walkman, and the Edsel. God is happy with the Jews again, so he allows them to continue their 40 year camping — and complaining — expedition in the Sinai. Well, better that than having an unhappy God. Unhappy Gods are most unpleasant.
Specifically Yom Kippur celebrates the Jews receiving the second set of Ten Commandments. The holiday itself is all about repentance. It is about restoring those relationships that are most in need of healing. This is done through spiritual introspection, confessional prayer, and reaching out directly to people who you may have wronged in the past. It is time for a Jew to confront his/her mistakes and strive to make things right.
Interestingly, the number 40 has great significance in the bible. In the Old Testament, Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai. The Jews spent 40 years in the desert. Noah’s flood was 40 days. The Hebrew spies went into Canaan and stayed for 40 days. The reign of both King David and King Solomon each lasted 40 years. In the New Testament, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus was seen on earth 40 days after his crucifixion. If one looks up the significance of 40 on Google, there are a number of web sites that give possible explanations but nothing that seemed very plausible to me.
To everybody of all faiths and of no faith, have a good holiday and a good weekend – and don’t break any of the 10 Commandments.