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The Eleventh Commandment

Excerpt from We First Met in Ithaca, or Was It Eden?

By Richard SeltzerPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
We First Met in Ithaca, or Was It Eden? at Amazon

“In the Qumran Caves in the Judaean Desert, on the northern shore of the Dead Sea, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, archaeologists uncovered a fragment of Deuteronomy that referred to an eleventh commandment: ‘Thou shalt honor the Earth and respect her and love her, for she is the mother of all.’ Commentary exhorted believers to sort their trash and dispose of it in ways that would not hurt Nature. And a well-preserved new chapter of Deuteronomy warned of a kind of material yet to come that would be abhorrent to Nature and would not return to the dust from which it came.

“This discovery captured the imagination of the public, regardless of religious beliefs or disbeliefs. Scholars were divided as to the authenticity of the fragment. Its carbon-dating and its state of deterioration and the place it had been found were all consistent with The Dead Sea Scrolls. But the new chapter and the commentary were too well preserved. Not a word was missing or illegible. Believers considered that a miracle, a sign that God wanted humans to know this and to find it now. And the Green Movement welcomed such a message because it supported their cause. A lie that promoted the truth was the truth.”

Suddenly Oz and Elle found themselves not in the abandoned house but rather in a desert, at the base of a cliff, witnessing a scene in the distant past. Two bearded men in biblical robes were examining two stone tablets, engraved with Hebrew characters.

“Aaron,” said the one, “you did a fine job. The cut is deep. Even if these were kept outside to be seen by all, it would take many years for these tablets to wear down and become illegible. You were indeed right to transcribe the writing to stone. Papyri would never last. And words engraved on stone are far more impressive. God should have done it this way to begin with. But there are only ten commandments here. The original has eleven. Are you planning to create a third tablet for that one?”

“No, Moses. Ten is an even number, a lucky number. And five fit well on a tablet this size. Three tablets would be too heavy and difficult to carry.”

“But God wrote eleven commandments.”

“Ten is enough, more than enough. Most people have limited memories.”

“But for God to have written it, it must be important. What’s the text? Where’s the text? Where did you put the original?”

“I remember it well,” replied Aaron. “‘Thou shalt honor the Earth and respect her and love her, for she is the mother of all.’ That’s a fine sentiment, but not necessary. In the other ten commandments, we have honoring God and parents, not stealing or murdering or even wanting to, and not cheating on your spouse or even wanting to. Enough is enough.”

“But God wrote it. We shouldn’t put it aside without His approval.”

“He has other concerns, in other worlds and other galaxies. He delegated this job to us, so we should handle the details. Besides, the eleventh is ambiguous. ‘Honor Earth as mother of us all’ sounds like polytheism. It contradicts the clear and simple commandment ‘Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,’”

We First Met in Ithaca or Was It Eden? at Amazon

Short Story

About the Creator

Richard Seltzer

Richard now writes fulltime. He used to publish public domain ebooks and worked for Digital Equipment as "Internet Evangelist." He graduated from Yale where he had creative writing courses with Robert Penn Warren and Joseph Heller.

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