“The 11th Commandment”
By Jim Norman
And God said unto Moses, “You’re sending your lawyer to receive the Ten Commandments?”
“If you must know, I have a pressing engagement at the appointed time,” said Moses.
“What could be more important than a meeting with God?”
“Alright, you got me on that one. I feel a certain imbalance in our relationship. I’m intimidated and don’t feel I can properly negotiate the commandments with you, God.”
“Moses, you haven’t even gotten the stone tablets yet, and you have already violated one of the commandments. You lied.”
“Oops. But see what I mean, God.”
The big voice boomed, “I’m disappointed in you, Moses.”
“I’m sorry, God. I pray for your forgiveness. But I know you’ll like dealing with Morris. You can call him Moe. Moe Fishbein,” said Moses, “my lawyer.”
“I hadn’t planned on creating lawyers, Moses.”
“You didn’t. We did it. I think you gave us free will, or something like that.”
“That might have been one of my mistakes,” said God. “The damned law of unintended consequences.”
“Damned?” said Moses.
“It’s OK for me to use the word, but I’d prefer you didn’t. I especially don’t want you to link my name to it. My using it is self-executing, so to speak.”
Moses thought about this for a moment before he spoke.
“I get it now,” he said. “So, the meeting, same time, same place?”
“Yes, Moses. The foot of Mt. Sinai at ten o’clock in the morning, this coming Thursday.”
“That’s the Mt. Sinai here, not the temple in Los Angeles?”
“Yes, right here, Moses.”
“Just so I get it right, are we observing daylight savings time?”
“Of course not. Why you mortals ever came up with such a dumb idea is beyond me.”
“Beyond God, how is that possible?”
“It’s a figure of speech, Moses. Now go unto your people and prepare them to receive my commandments. Tell Moe to bring help. The tablets are quite heavy.”
“He’s got a law clerk. Josh something. Nice young guy. Moe will see you on Thursday. I pray you won’t be late, God. Lawyers are really expensive and this is on my tab.”
The clouds that had filled the sky vanished and the sky turned dark and then was briefly illuminated by the brightest bold of lightning Moses had ever seen. He looked up, peace and adoration evident as he stood in a pool of warming light, his arms outstretched so far that the sleeves of his robe pulled up halfway to his elbow.
“Good one, God. A little rain would be nice.”
And it came to pass that upon the designated day and at the appointed hour, Morris Fishbein, Esquire, accompanied by his law clerk, Joshua Goldberg, arrived at the foot of Mt. Sinai for the meeting with God. Morris wore a black, designer suit, white shirt, red power tie and his trademark multi-colored pocket square. Young Joshua wore a blue blazer, tan slacks, a blue button-down shirt and a bow tie. Both men wore sandals to protect their feet from the rocky terrain.
“Remember, Joshua, don’t say anything unless I tell you to answer.”
“Suppose God asks me a question?”
“What could God possibly learn from you? No, absolutely no talking unless I tell you.”
“OK, Mr. Fishbein.”
The light was so bright that the two lawyers were blinded. Then, they heard the voice of God.
“Let’s head up the mountain, gentlemen. The tablets are outside my office,” said God.
“You have an office?” asked Fishbein.
“Don’t you?” asked God.
The two lawyers followed the path up and around Mt. Sinai until they came to a clearing. The path continued, but a rock of immense proportions blocked any further progress.
“The tablets,” an excited Joshua said, pointing to two carved-rock objects, the tops rounded off, leaning against the great rock.
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Joshua Goldberg quickly covered his mouth with the palm of his right hand. He looked over at Moe apologetically.
“There they are,” said God. “All ready to go. The carvings are big enough so that older people can read them for themselves.”
“With all due respect, God, I thought we were going to negotiate the commandments,” said Fishbein, ever the lawyer.
“You expected to negotiate with God?”
“Well, my client did. That’s why he went to the expense of hiring me.”
With that, another burst of light blinded Fishbein and Goldberg and as the light faded and their vision returned, they saw the hazy figure of a man with long white hair, a long, white, full beard, and white flowing robes. His feet were bare.
“Mr. Fishbein, read the commandments and tell me one you think should be changed,” said God.
Fishbein and Goldberg walked over to the tablets and examined them carefully. The two lawyers looked at each other, whispered something and turned back to God.
Fishbein was about to speak when God said, “You want to start with the tenth commandment.”
“How did you . . . ?” began Fishbein, who stopped when he realized it was God he was dealing with.
God smiled and held up ten fingers. Fishbein nodded.
“May I ask you why your feet are bare and you are not wearing sandals?” asked Fishbein.
“I’m not satisfied with the design. I’m working on something better, more comfortable, maybe named after an important river,” said God. “Now, since I’m busy being God, let’s hear you on the tenth commandment.”
“Covet is such an ambiguous term,” began Fishbein. “The whole consumer economy is based on you wanting what your neighbor has, whether it be real estate, gold, transportation, or dare I say, women.”
“Interesting argument, Mr. Fishbein. Let’s continue with another commandment you wish to comment upon,” said God.
“The whole false witness provision is too broad, God. When we have elected officials, how will they be able to campaign, let alone conduct the business of government? Politicians are not exactly Holy Men, if you catch my drift,” argued Fishbein.
God was becoming impatient. As an experienced negotiator, Fishbein could feel a chill in the atmosphere.
“Let me hasten to add,” said Fishbein, that we have no issue with a number of the commandments.” Fishbein smiled at God. Joshua nodded vigorously.
“Which commandments might those be?” inquired God.
“Well, if it starts today, we can go with the “no other gods” commandment. That’s your number one,” said Fishbein.
“And,” said God, his patience waning.
“Starting at the top,” began Fishbein, “number two, about the idols, is fine if we can have an exception for talent shows, professional athletes and some entertainers. If ‘taking your name in vain’ doesn’t include items like a movie about organized crime or a brand of pizza, we’re good with number three.”
God looked at Fishbein in disbelief. “Are any commandments you don’t want to change?”
Fishbein looked at God gravely. “We’ll go with keeping the Sabbath holy, that’s number four. Number six, about murder is OK, if we have self-defense and insanity defenses. We need a definition of stealing to make number eight work, but that can be done with regulations.”
“Regulations?” questioned God.
“People can handle those, so we can go with your number eight. Now, don’t get angry, God, but number seven is a problem for some,” said Fishbein.
“Prohibiting adultery is a problem?” God asked incredulously.
“The entertainment field and politics, where it generates so much publicity, which makes jobs for the media and paparazzi, an outright ban may be going to far,” argued Fishbein.
“Seven stays,” said God, his booming voice full of resonance.
“Fine, seven stays as is,” said Fishbein, making a note on his legal pad. “I’ll have to explain, but I want to help you here. Shall I draft some suggested language for the others?”
“No, Moe. You and Joshua take these two tablets. I will present to you, at a time and in a manner I choose, a series of amendments and an eleventh commandment,” said God.
“An eleventh commandment?” asked Fishbein.
“Thou shalt not send thy lawyer in lieu of thyself to talk with God,” came God’s voice.
“Good one, God,” said Joshua, already heading down the path, one of the tablets cradled in his arms.
The sky filled with lightning and the sound of thunder unlike any Moe or Joshua had ever experienced.
“That went well, I think,” said Fishbein to Joshua, who ignored him.