Forty Days and Forty Nights
“And it happened at the end of forty days [arba’im yom] and forty nights [v’arba’im lailah]*, the LORD gave me two stone tables, the tablets of the Covenant….”
“And I threw myself before the LORD the forty days [arba’im ha-yom] and the forty nights [v’arba’im ha-lailah] that I threw myself, for the LORD intended to destroy you.” — Devarim/Deuteronomy 9:11, 9:25
OK, so this has almost nothing to do with the Torah portion, except that the phrase “forty days and forty nights” comes with a powerful, built-in soundtrack for me. So, with Muddy Waters in mind, here’s how I hear Moses’ narrative in these verses:
Forty days and forty nights
when I met God on the mount
Covenant, all day long
on stone tablets I brought down
God of life, we need God so
why you sinned, I just don’t know.
Those forty days and forty nights
I fell right down and cried:
“They mess up all the time
but forgive them, ‘cuz they try.
Lord help me — it just ain’t right
I love the People with all my might.”
Here is Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield, 1913-1983) with “Forty Days and Forty Nights.”
Forty or The Forty
* In Exodus/Shemot, the phrase is “forty days and forty nights” as in Devarim/Deuteronomy 9:11:
…Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights (24:18)
And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights… (34:28)
not “the forty days and the forty nights” — with the definite article, “ha” — which appears, as far as I can determine, ONLY in Devarim/Deuteronomy 9:25.