No Free Lunch!

no free lunch Exodus 34:1  . . . . . “Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered.”

One thing I have learned in my journeys through the fields of corporate America is that there is NO free lunch—in the end, someone, somewhere, pays for everything somehow…Exodus 32:16 states clearly: “The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing, incised [written] upon the tablets.” This was the Sinai equivalent of the FREE lunch. All Moses had to do was go for a nice hike up the mountain, encounter God, pick up the covenant, and march down a hero—until it all backfires with a Golden Calf and some serious punishing, deadly backlash, and the forced swallowing of a divine brew (the melted-down calf mixed with water)…see Exodus 32:20.

Next time, the Lord God gets Moses back up to the mountaintop for round number two—but this time the free lunch over, and this time, Moses has some work to do. First, God tells him, “Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered” (Exodus 34:1). Now the Lord is telling Moses, “This time, we will split the work. You carve, I’ll write.” Now there comes that low-blow reminder from the Lord to Moses about that unfortunate tablet breakup and malfunction. Thus, there needs to be a repeat performance. Moses cooperates—carving the tablets (Exodus 34:4)—but apparently, God wants more from him, because by verse 28 we read that for forty days Moses “ate no bread and drank no water; and he wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” This time around, Moses is doing all of the work. But wait! The commandments have expanded!!! Last time we got a pretty straightforward “Big Ten”: I am God; no other gods; keep the Sabbath; honor your parents; no murder; no adultery; and all the others. Now, we have the ten commandments PLUS all the other different set of commandments, including drive all those Canaanites and others out of the land, and then destroy their shrines; God gets the first of everything you have; observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days; observe the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and the Feast of Ingathering (Sukkot); and no boiling a kid goat in its mother’s milk, etc. etc.
There are some life Messages in these "Texts" to all God’s children, and they are as follows:

Lesson ONE: God teaches us a lot about basic human nature. Give us a freebie, and it won’t probably last long. Make us work for something, and it might
last. The first set of tablets that came to Moses so very easily—well, we know what happened – they were toast! The second set of tablets, however, lasted through forty years of wilderness wanderings—and then, through the period of Joshua, the judges, Samuel, all the way to Solomon’s Temple and beyond

Lesson TWO: Rules need reminders; good ethics require good rituals as a way of reminding, reinforcing, and transmitting. We learn through best through stories, not through lectures. The first set of commandments was beautiful, but they lacked a ritual structure (worship, praise, feasts, celebrations, etc) through which to teach and cajole, remind and reward. With the second set—the one in which Moses shared in the work—we have holidays, feasts and celebrations as a way of showing us the meaning of the commandments…we NEED community, communion and celebrations to uncover the meaning of Christ-centered teachings...BTW, there may be no such thing as a free lunch, but everything from cheesecake to coffee to communion to celebrations in Christ; we have a great menu at TSH!!!

Adapted from a Torah Commentary by Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel from Temple Micah in Washington, DC.