Thursday, January 7, 2010

Our Burning Bush

"Let me go and see..." " Rebbe Yochanan said that Moshe took three steps. Resh Lakish said that Moshe did not take any steps (towards the burning bush). He merely turned his neck ( to look). In response Hashem said "You made effort to see, I swear I will reveal myself to you".

With those words the Medrash Tanchuma explains the emphasis the Torah text gives to Moshe's decision to explore the mystery of the Burning Bush in the wilderness. By implication we may understand that had Moshe not decided to investigate, the revelation at the Bush might never have occurred and the story of the redemption might well have taken a different course.

Yet we might well wonder, what is so significant about Moshe making effort to explore this miraculous and super-natural phenomena? He saw a bush being engulfed in flame yet not being consumed. It was a wonder? Why would he not have gone to check it out? For what is he being given credit here?

Reflecting on this I came to realize that checking out the mystery of the bush was not the automatic that it first appears. I mean Moshe was 80 years old. He had gone through many trials already in his life. Separated from his family and people as an infant, raised as a prince, then hunted as a criminal and forced to flee to a strange land, Moshe had known upheaval. He had seen enough change. It would not be surprising if he had wanted to enjoy his years with his wife and family without further transitions.

When Moshe saw the surprising phenomena of the bush that burned without being consumed he must have thought, "there is something spiritual here, something that may likely have implications for me, and may even radically alter the trajectory of my life. Maybe I should just walk away, pretend I don't see. Why risk getting involved in something that will mean personal upheaval".

Have you never thought that way? How many of us have been in situations where we have an opportunity to be effected in ways that will change us and so we decline to participate or if we participate we leave our truest self on the sidelines so we won't feel too deeply.

So we listen to the rav's drasha but with a critical eye and a distant heart, afraid that if we let ourselves get caught-up with the message we will have to make changes in our lives or selves.
Or we have a chance to experience something that we know all too well will be wonderful and yet we decline for fear that if we accept, the experience may affect us and we will then want to alter our lives or routine. The amazing thing about our fear is that even though we know that we will only make the alterations if we indeed want to, yet we fear coming to that want. We simply don't want to even want to change!

This week I took on a new minhag, of course bli neder. It started simply enough. I had no hot water in my apartment and needed a shower. I am a very early riser. I thought "let me take advantage of this opportunity and go to the mikva and shower there. I am already going to the mikva each erev Shabbat. Why not use this moment to explore the possibility of going to the mikva on a daily basis". Ah but then I said to myself, "wait what happens if you go this one morning, get the mitzva and the shower and really like the feeling. Do you really want to change? Is that who you are? You don't look like a person who goes to the mikva at 4:00AM each morning. You are no tzaddik!"

Perhaps Moshe had some of those same feelings when he considered approaching the burning bush. He did not know the consequences. Yet he knew well that his decision would likely mean change. He said "Yes" to the encounter and for the courage of his decision we were redeemed and he became our redeemer. I needed to say "yes" to going to the mikva and trust that if I feel its right for me to do daily than I will ,with G-d's help, absorb the change, and who knows, maybe even become worthy of it.

The message for me and perhaps you is to seize the inspired moments in our lives and not be afraid for what consequences may follow. When Moshe risked, the Medrash tells us, Hashem responded. Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe. When we risk to enter the moments of hitorerut, we too are promised the blessing of siyata dishmaya, help from above. The sages tell us that G-d promises "Open for me an opening even the size of the eye of a needle and I will open for you a passageway large enough for wagons of oxen to pass through".

We each have our burning bushes and on many occasions. As exciting as those times and places are we tend to fear them and often only look from afar. Let's resolve to trust ourselves and trust the moment to effect us. Our burning bush may not save a people, but it may well make all the difference in whether we become who we need to become to fulfill our destiny in this world.

Shabbat Shalom

1 comment:

  1. It is very true that many of us go out of our way not to change our ways!
    I like your point that it was not an automatic response for Moshe to turn aside at the burning bush. Where he was, the hot and dry midbar, bushes tend to catch on fire. So for him, this was a very common sight - it is significant even for him to have paid enough attention to notice that it was not being consumed. He had the ability to see the phenomenon in the common. Then, it was his response to this sight - he turned aside from his common way of being to see something new - that H"Sh responded by revealing himself.