By: Hadassah Reich (11th Grade)
One of the most famous scenes in the Torah occurs in this week’s Parsha. In the third Perek of Shemot, Hashem appears to Moshe in the form of a burning bush. However, the bush is not consumed by the flames while Moshe is talking to Hashem through it. The Pasuk says, “וַ֠יֵּרָא מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֵלָ֛יו בְּלַבַּת־אֵ֖שׁ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֑ה וַיַּ֗רְא וְהִנֵּ֤ה הַסְּנֶה֙ בֹּעֵ֣ר בָּאֵ֔שׁ וְהַסְּנֶ֖ה אֵינֶ֥נּוּ אֻכָּֽל׃.” Why did Hashem choose to show Himself in a bush rather than a dream or a vision like He did with other prophets? What is so significant about this bush?
The Slonimer Rebbe makes a distinction between the two features of the burning bush. First, the physical fire surrounding, but not consuming, the bush. Second, is the idea of the bush itself. He suggests that the fire symbolizes everything unholy in society, specifically in the Egyptian society. The fire is the eager desire that lights a spark for someone to do something without thinking it through. Diversely, the bush is the core of our Judaism that combats the fire. It is the spiritual strength that enables us to not be ‘consumed’ by the flames of negative influences.
Moshe recognized how normal evil was for Jews in Egypt. They were like the bush amidst flames. However, in this case, it burnt them and impacted their service to Hashem. Therefore, when Hashem tells Moshe that He will free the Jews from slavery, Moshe does not understand how they will merit freedom at such a low spiritual level.
Hashem answers Moshe by saying, “וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה רָאֹה רָאִיתִי אֶת־עֳנִי עַמִּי אֲשֶׁר בְּמִצְרָיִם,” “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt." The Pasuk uses double language by saying the “to see” twice in different forms. The Midrash explains that it is specifically written like this as if Hashem was saying that although Moshe saw the Jews through one lens, He had multiple perspectives. At that point, Moshe didn’t see the Jewish people's potential to improve. He only saw how deep they sunk in the spiritual sense, the flames. However, Hashem understood the underlying faith that could not be consumed by the surrounding Egyptian influences. Hashem appeared to Moshe as a burning bush to show him that the Jews were capable of leaving slavery and serving Hashem, and Moshe was the one they needed to lead them there.