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Burning, But Inconsumable

Friday, 8 January, 2021 - 8:03 am

Like me, I’m sure you are deeply troubled by this week’s events in America.

And, these recent incidents deserve our attention. The Baal Shem Tov taught that we must take a lesson from everything we experience and observe in life.

How can our faith and our Torah guide us at this critical moment?


The Jews were suffering terribly at the hands of the Egyptians, as described in this week’s parsha Shemot. Their future leader Moshe, however, was forced to flee Egypt when Pharaoh tried to have him executed. He was pasturing his father-in-law’s flock in Midian when he chanced upon a strange site.  He saw a thorn bush that was “burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed.”

The Torah records this as his first encounter with G-d. He was called to leadership and reluctantly agreed to serve.

But, why did G-d appear in the image of a burning bush? Couldn’t Hashem have found a more glorious portrayal for His ‘first impression?’

Hashem was about to send Moshe on a mission to rescue the Jewish people from extreme affliction. G-d would soon enact great miracles – bringing ten plagues upon Egypt and splitting the sea. Everyone would recognize the great might of Almighty G-d.

However, as G-d commences the process of redemption, He does not appear in a state of pride and valor. Not even in the form of a tree. Rather, Hashem appears in the form of a lowly thorn bush. The message G-d was conveying can be summed up in a verse in Psalms (91:15): I am with him in distress.

G-d was not sitting on the sidelines watching the Jewish people suffer. G-d was drowning in tears and agony along with His people. G-d was distressed and pained by the brutality and torture. G-d, too, was suffering.

We should not imagine for a second that G-d was happy with or apathetic to the misery. The humble thorn bush was the perfect illustration of G-d’s ‘mood.’

So, if you want to know what Hashem was doing this week, He was crying. G-d was anguished and distressed.

Yet, while the thorn bush was on fire, it was not consumed. Despite the raging fires, the thorn bush survives.

Despite the unbearable torment, the seeds of the bright future of the Jewish people were being planted at that very moment.

As we attempt to recover from the damage and carnage, let us remember these two points. It is a sad time for our country. But, we will prevail.

Looking to the Torah for guidance, we will pull together and march forward. We will find it in our souls to reach out to one another. We will persevere with positive energy and bring more holiness and healing to this world.

With G-d constantly at our side, our darkest moments will lead to our brightest successes.  The key is in our hands.

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