This weeks Torah reading, starts the new book of Shemot. We learn about the Hebrews gradual enslavement, Moses’s birth and some significant moments in his life. One of the most significant and dramatic event is Moses discovering the Burning Bush and God commanding him to “Go down Moses, way down to Egypt Land… tell old Pharaoh to Let My People Go!”
Of course in the great tradition of Jewish conversations with God, Moses argues and tells God that He must of made some kind of accounting mistake and that he wasn’t the person for the job.
Moses explains to God, (like He didn’t know) that he doesn’t have much self confidence to do anything great with his life, and that he’s a terrible public speaker.
God says – “Great! That’s exactly the type of self-deprecating personal qualities I’m looking for, you’re hired!!”
Moses is a reluctant Messiah, who after (some say) seven days of arguing with God, he begrudgingly takes on the job and starts to make his way to Egypt.
What’s going on? Burning bush? a self-conscious Messiah? Arguing with God? it all seems a little strange and unnecessary?
Why couldn’t we have, a strong and powerful leader that God spoke to and just did the job without question?
Why the Burning Bush? Why was Moses arguing? I hope to explore these and a few other perplexing questions, just below.
The Torah reading is full of complex interplays and contradiction it says, that “Moses saw an Angel of God in a heart of fire in the midst of a bush and he noticed that the bush was on alight but was not being consumed.”
It could have simply said “an Angel of appeared to Moses and God spoke to him saying…” etc.
So the author is telling us something extra, the Burning Bush is significant, the fact that it’s ablaze but doesn’t get consumed.
The other thing is that an Angel appeared to Moses, but Moses is more interested in the fact that the Burning Bush wasn’t being consumed than any Angel of the Lord.
I can imagine that in the Sinai Dessert there are bush fires, so that wasn’t so unexpected to see one on fire, the thing that caught Moses’ attention was that it didn’t burn! OK! So it’s not burning, maybe it was just a funny type of bush or it just looked like it wasn’t burning. Maybe Moses had been eating some dessert mushrooms, or fungus and just was having a hallucination?
It’s suggested that Moses may have been used to seeing Angels and even have previously had direct conversations with God. But what surprised Moses was seeing this “heart of fire ablaze in a burning bush that wasn’t being consumed”.
What was the prophetic symbolism of a heart of fire and a bush that is ablaze but isn’t being burnt to a carbon crisp?
The miracle of the Burning Bush is in some (Quantum Leep type of) way connected to the Miracle of Chanuka, (the full moon is the completion of the light of Chanuka) the oil in the Menorah was also, burning but not being consumed!
So what do both the Burning Bush & the Light of Chanuka have to teach us that’s so important that God revealed Himself in this way and not in another?
If we take a deeper look at the notion of a fire that both burns and does not consume, within our own lives, it points to a love, energy & enthusiasm for life that doesn’t destroy us (“heart of fire ablaze”).
You see, it’s easy to loose ourselves in the excess of living life to the full, in unlimited experimentation, as well as communal lamentations on the meaninglessness of life, but ultimately living with your foot on the pedal, as fun and as exciting as it is, is a fire that destroys and ultimately consumes us.
What Moses and therefore Judaism is interested in is a love for life and a way of living that allows us to fully blossom and fully be and become without destroying ourselves in the process.
The fire that was ablaze within the bush wasn’t some additional spiritual flame merely dwelling on the bush, but rather, the bush itself was on fire. What was being revealed to Moses was something essentially true for all reality.
God dwells within all things, the entire Universe is nothing but God’s Endless Light, condensed into what we see as physical objects. The truth of the matter is that everything is actually pulsating pure energy, everything is fire! Everything is in truth ablaze!
But that reality, that revelation of God, of the Divine Nature of Reality, didn’t destroy the thing, the bush remained a bush, but still revealed it’s divine nature.
There are opinions that suggest, that the thorn bush, represents the hardship and suffering the Egyptian exile, and the pain and suffering that the Hebrews were experiencing. The Burn Bush speaks of the paradoxical truth that God is with us in our suffering, that from within the midst of that Exile Moses was aware of the fire, alight with divine intention of the Egyptian exile. That even in the worst situation God’s love was still burning for His people.
But the Bush wasn’t being consumed, as a metaphor the Egyptian Exile wasn’t being destroyed, it was remaining in tact, but it was obviously still on fire, alight with Divine energy, that didn’t destroy the limitations or intricacies of the the bush but respected them and showed them to be the flickering light of the ‘Endless Light’.
What the Burning Bush is teaching us is not something new about God or about Moses, but something about the Nature of all Reality.
That although we usually see the physical as being non-spiritual and talk to God in synagogue or on specific days in the year, the Burning Bush is telling us that all physicality, all time and space is actually on fire, actually holy, actually condensed divine energy.
But why did Moses who was arguably aware of this type of spiritual symbolism, then not just listen to God and go and save the Hebrews from Egypt? Why did he argue?
The Classic Chassidic commentaries suggest that Moses was actually petitioning God to bring the Messianic Era, to send the Messiah himself to redeem them from Egypt, as Moses say “Send the one you will surely send”.
So that his own private spiritual awareness of the divine nature of all reality, would be something that all the world could plainly see, and that in our awareness of the spiritual nature of reality and our energetic connectedness and oneness, we could all live together forever in peace and harmony.
So you see, arguing with God is OK, in fact it’s a good thing, if you’re arguing and requesting the Ultimate Good.
And perhaps that is the way to live our lives in a way that is akin to the Burning Bush, to be continuousnessly striving and praying for not just our own selfish benefit, but for the good of all people, for the good of the whole world and ultimately to bring about an era of peace, to bring about the Days of Moshiach.
Indeed, that is our mission, to strive towards bring about Heaven on Earth, to live in a way which is, in love with life, but that does not destroy, ourselves or the world.
And arguably the way to do that is, in addition to anticipating the Days of Moshiach in our own lives, also transforming our view of reality, so that we can actually see the divine light in everything just as it is, without destroying the world, and realise that wherever we are is, just as it is, actually Holy.