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128http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2013/01/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---01_04_2013
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 01_04_2013
01/03/2013 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

January 4, 2012

 

I have been afraid of heights all my life, so I’m relieved that we’re not going over the fiscal cliff. I’ll take that as a good sign for 2013. As new beginnings go, the one that began with Moses and the burning bush was more extraordinary.

                In Exodus 2:23-25, we learn that “the Israelites were groaning under the bondage [in Egypt]…God heard their moaning, and God remembered [God’s] covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.” In Exodus 3:1-6, Moses is found tending the flock where he came upon Horeb, the mountain of God. Out of a burning bush, God called to him, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.”

                God appeared to Moses in a place no one expected. It wasn’t beautiful or grand or sacred. In fact, it was unexceptional, lowly, and thorny. Our Rabbis asked, “Why would God choose a thorn bush from which to appear before Moses?” In a Midrash (a rabbinic interpretation), they taught: A doubting Jew once asked Rabbi Joshua ben Korchah, “Why did God choose a thorn bush from which to speak to Moses?” He replied, “Were it a carob tree (its pods are a chocolate substitute) or a sycamore tree (known for its beauty and shade), you would have asked the same question; but to dismiss you without any reply is not right, so I will tell you why. To teach you that no place is devoid of God’s presence, not even a thorn bush” (Exodus Rabbah 11:5). That is, if God could appear in a lowly thing, then God could surely appear anywhere.

                Like Moses who happened upon a bush that burned unconsumed and for whom God remembered the covenant God made with our ancestors, God’s presence is found in all the times of our life, whether they are happy or sad and whether they are beautiful or simple places. Joy and sorrow can bring us closer to God when we express gratitude and seek comfort, respectively. Like a good parent, God helps us find within us what we need at the moment. Likewise, both grand and squalid places can know God’s presence. We can contribute to the pleasure and the improvement of the places we encounter by seeing ourselves as God’s partners who make a difference there.

                The non-believer in the midrash was not just a visitor to a wise rabbi. He was the perennial doubter within all of us who returns, even in times of joy, to raise questions about God’s presence. In this week’s Torah portion, Moses stumbled upon the burning bush. He approached it cautiously. He stood in awe of it. He didn’t throw sand on it to extinguish it. He beheld the extraordinary sight. But let’s not overlook the fact that God, manifested in that burning bush, also beheld a marvelous sight. God saw Moses and called out to him, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses replied, “Here I am!” It was a spectacular beginning to an enduring relationship.

                Every day, God seeks us as partners. But, do we seek God? Saved from the fiscal cliff, but not relieved of our duty to “see,” let us begin 2013 with a new commitment to respond to the blessings and needs around us, and say, “Here I am!” What follows may very well be an extraordinary journey in the new year.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

 

Adapted from: God of Me: Imagining God throughout Your Lifetime, by Rabbi David Lyon (Jewish Lights, 2011. Chapter 1)

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