Forty is a number that comes around again and again in our lives and in our memories. To sleep we take forty winks. Ali Baba had his forty thieves! We wandered in the wilderness for forty years. This week, in the Sedra, there are three episodes of forty days and forty nights.
We gathered at Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and to experience the presence of God. Moses goes up onto the mountain for forty days and nights and receives the tablets of the Law; engraved by God on stone hewn by God. These are the tablets that Moses broke when he saw the incident of the Golden Calf. Over the next forty days the Golden calf was destroyed, Moses rehabilitated the people, and pleaded with God not to destroy us. He then went back up the mountain for another forty days and there he is instructed to hew new tablets. The first tablets, made by God, did not remain intact. The second tablets, the joint work of God and Moses, did.
Perhaps there is a lesson here for our lives. We have the belief that our mission is “Tikkun Olam”, to heal the world. We begin our lives as children with simple transmitted beliefs, but it is human nature to rebel. It is only after we see that something is broken, that we realise that if the world around us is to be healed, we have to hew our own tablets in partnership.