One of my favorite stories of the parsha is that of the burning bush. Shemot 3:1 opens as Moses is tending his father-in-law's flock of sheep. "Vayar malach adonai eilav bal-bat eish mitoch hasneh." An angel of God appears to Moses in a blazing fire out of a bush. Rather than running away, Moses gazes at the bush, wondering how it burns, yet is not consumed. As Moses looks further at the bush, Moses hears Gods call "Moshe, Moshe Henini." Moses, Moses! Here I am.
Just before we read this chapter, chapter two closes with a dramatic scene, the Israelites are suffering as slaves, and they cry out.
Where is God amidst the Israelite's terrible strife? We ask this question over and over again throughout the terrible things that have befell the Jewish people. We ask this question over and over again throughout our own suffering and grief.
The Torah tells us that the cries of the Israelites rose up to God, that God saw the children of Israel and knew their suffering.
Countless times we as Jews have wondered where God is in the midst of our suffering as a people, in the midst of our suffering as individuals. In our times of struggle, of pain, and of grief, it is difficult to feel God's presence. Maybe it is difficult even to want God's presence.
Torah reminds us in these verses that God is there. There are two beautiful ideas that come from this section of our parsha. Chapter two ends with the text "God saw the children of Israel and knew their suffering." God didnt hear the suffering, God saw the suffering. God was able to step into the shoes of the Israelites, and truly know their strife. God is an example of empathy. God was truly there with the suffering Israelites.
In the very next verses, God answers the cry of the Israelites, through an ordinary bush, appearing to a simple shepherd. What does this teach us? God is everywhere. Moses doesnt just look at the bush and turn away. The bush, aflame but not consumed intrigues Moses. Moses gazes at the bush. It is only after Moses spends some time looking at the bush that God calls "Moses! Moses! Here I am"
Moses took time to really see what was in front of him. That time allows Moses to experience the miracle of the burning bush, to experience God- to hear the voice of God. Moses shared God's voice with the people of Israel, and ultimately, we made our way from slavery to freedom.
Where is God? God is in the simple moments of everyday, God is in the miracle of nature all around us. If we take the time to open our eyes and truly see, we find God.
The story of Moses and the burning bush can be a true call to action. Where are the burning bushes in the world today? They are speaking for those who are still suffering enslavement, dictatorship, lack of basic necessities. When we open our eyes to those in the world who cry out, when we answer their call by helping those who have less, by being a voice for those who have none, by simply helping someone across a busy street, God truly speaks and moves through us.
Take a moment, what is your burning bush? Who or what is calling you to action? How can you find God in your own life? Where is God?