Are You a Burning Bush?

Friday, 28 December, 2018 - 10:41 am

Are you a cedar tree, a flowering cherry tree or a thorn bush?

The Torah tells us that man is compared to the tree of the field. But, which tree are you most like?

Some human beings are like tall and firm trees. Some produce flowers or fruit. Some may be compared to bushes, humble plants, without the stature and majesty of a tree.

Just as trees possess roots, trunk, branches and leaves – people have beliefs, emotions, actions and influence on others.


In this week’s parsha Semot, Moshe meets his Creator at a burning thorn bush.

Why did G-d choose to reveal Himself to Moshe – and initiate the Exodus from Egypt, the birth of the Jewish people and the Giving of the Torah – through a burning thorn bush?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad and one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of all time (whose yahrzeit is on Tuesday), explained it as follows:

Every human being is on fire. We all have a passion, a burning desire for life and holiness. Our souls yearn to connect with our Source and find deeper meaning in our lives. This yearning is expressed in many different ways – yet we all possess it. Just as we all have different personalities, so too we all have unique methods of expressing this longing.

Many of us find ways to quench this spiritual thirst. We find success in our endeavors, meaning in our rituals, joy in our relationships and satisfaction in our journey.

But, for some people the yearning never ends. They are endlessly thirsting for G-d. Their passion burns on and on, in a ceaseless quest for the truth. Their dreams are elusively unfulfilled. This isn’t because they are unserious about their deep and sacred cravings. Quite the opposite. It’s because they are genuine seekers of truth. The reality they pursue is so profound and encompassing – they never settle for less than the supreme truth.  

These people sense themselves as lowly thorn bushes. Looking at others they see beautiful leaves and fruit of accomplishment. Looking inward they see unfulfilled dreams and a parched soul. Their fire burns – forever.

When Moshe gazed at the burning thorn bush, he was shown one of the greatest truths of Judaism. He realized that the deepest connection might be found not in discovering G-d but in searching for Him. The moment one declares, “I have found G-d,” is possibly the moment she has lost G-d.

Those precious souls that are constantly searching for G-d, refusing to arrive, have – in a sense – touched the essence of His Being. The G-d that is found in the depth of the journey, in the never-ending thirst, is a greater G-d then the one we create in our own image. Struggling endlessly with a G-d that remains beyond reach is not a shortcoming. It is a recognition of a truth larger than myself.

Whether you are a blooming magnolia or a towering ponderosa, we each can learn something infinitely greater from the lowly thorn bush.

If you have a thorn bush soul or a thorn-bush-moment, don’t be down about it. Cherish the boundless nature and allow the fire to – miraculously – burn forever.

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