Actually, it wasn’t forty days at all but a need to know why this number is so significant to that little tribe of Jewish nomads who introduced our world to the One True G-d. I encourage you to spend forty minutes of investigation in exploring the concepts of transition and renewal bound to this number. Before long, you may find yourself driven into that wilderness with Jesus who thwarts temptation with the words from the fifth book of the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy. My friend and guide has further illumined David’s confrontation with Goliath, this malevolent giant surrounded by 6’s (6 cubits high, 6 weapons, and 60 shekels heavier wearing his snakelike, scaly armor). This very beast of creation who boasted of capturing the Ark of the Covenant and brought it to the temple of Dragon stood and taunted the Israelites during their morning and evening prayers. Yet it was out in this wilderness that David defeats Goliath of Gath (one of five city states of the Philistines) with but a sling and five stones drawn from a brook. Using the smoothest stone, let’s guess and call it the fifth stone, he kills this enormous Philistine by hitting him where we all must keep the Torah, the five books of God’s wisdom.
I’ll let the numbers 5, 666, and 40 stretch your contemplation but let’s not do that on an empty stomach. How about enjoying the five fruits in honor of the Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat seder. Here we enjoy fruits in the following order: olives, figs, grapes, dates, and pomegranates. When you eat an olive, it’s bitter and you spit the pit out right away. You’ll then you eat the sweet fig and maybe roll that pit around in your mouth for a little longer. The grapes are sweet yet the seeds are so small. Sometimes you spit these crunchy little seeds out, swallow them, or get wedged between teeth. However, when you eat a date, the seeds cannot be separated from the fruit and eaten as a whole. Finally, the epitome (sorry couldn’t resist!) of fruits, is the pomegranate, that tempting “apple” of Eden, in which the seed is actually the fruit! This transition from an unwanted pit to actual fruit encourages our transition from Genesis to Deuteronomy (and hopefully the fruits of our labor).
Just a note regarding another seder, the Passover (Pesach), which encourages young and old alike to retell Exodus as if they were there in the dust and commotion. One of the most emphasized themes of this seder is Freedom. In fact one of the four names of Passover is Hag ha-Herut (The Feast of Freedom).
In the end, we are given a chance at faith, to be pushed, driven, tested, and transformed into a renewed retelling of our life in G-d. We begin as rough rocks allowing the water of the Word to wash over us, rounding sharp edges to become that smooth stone hopefully chosen by a (soon to be) King. We must run thirsty into the desert and face our own wilderness and realize our only battle is using the words Jesus himself chose from the living stream of Torah. This Jew, named Jesus, who came “…only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), also claimed to be the fulfillment of Torah. Like the seeds of a date, Jesus cannot be separated from Torah, nor should Christianity not see Torah as a transformative and living gift from G-d. Just as passionately as Jesus wanted to gather the Jews as a hen to her chicks, so must Christianity embrace the Torah beyond its shallow understanding and truly bring a culminating awareness to what the Gospel writers are hoping to convey. Christianity exegetes the seeds from dates without realizing their integral part of the flesh.
Remember, we all must be transformed in Christ. Truly every seed must die, slowly transform, offering unexpected new life, freedom, and flesh for the world. Now consider the seed of a pomegranate…consider true freedom.