Pirkei Avot 5:8:
Ten things were created on the eve of the Sabbath, at twilight:
- the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach and his followers]
- the mouth of the well [that Miriam carried with her in the desert]
- the speech of the ass [that Balaam rode upon]
- the rainbow [that God left as a sign for Moses and his family]
- the manna
- the rod [with which Moses performed the miracles in Egypt, at the sea, and in the desert]
- the shamir [a legendary worm that could eat the hardest stone]
- the script [of the original tablets, written by the finger of God]
- the writing instrument [for writing the tablets]
- the tablets [which could miraculously be read from either side]
Others add: the demons, the burial place of Moses, the ram for our father Abraham.
Some add: the tongs, which cannot be made without the use of tongs
This bit of wisdom was brought to mind by the fact that Balak is this week’s parshah (weekly Torah reading), and Balak is the passage that contains the story of Balaam and his talking ass. The story is strikingly out of place in the Hebrew Bible; the talking donkey is not at all a typical biblical miracle. But it is plainly miraculous, and so it had to make this list of supernatural events that had to have been arranged at twilight at the end of the sixth day of creation, right before the Sabbath.
I’d always admired the rabbis for coming up with such a list. The point of it, it seemed to me, was to be exhaustive. If it’s not governed by law, then it must have been planned from the moment of creation as a special exception; if it wasn’t so planned for, then it ain’t gonna happen. That struck me as a pretty neat way to have your cake and eat it too, religion-and-science-wise.
And then we come to the tongs made of tongs.
You see, God must have made the first pair of tongs. Because without a pair of tongs, you can’t make a pair of tongs. QED.
I wonder if Mike Huckabee has ever read Pirkei Avot?