D'var Torah - Bram
My first Parsha theme is silence. Think about the characteristics of a fire. There are bright flames and intense heat. It is vivid and alive. But is it silent? No. When you read the sad stories about survivors and the firefighters of the recent terrible bushfires around Australia, many of them refer to the roaring rush of flames and wind, and sounds that were like explosions. So, how did Moses hear God through the fire? And how did God make his presence known? Today, could God always be communicating with us, but we don’t hear it? Do we all live lives that are too busy to take the time to listen to God? There might not be fire around us, but the noise comes in other ways, through devices and technology, or machinery, or the constant stimulation that we all seem to crave these days. We need to learn the sounds of silence and how to listen for God. As Simon and Garfunkel sang, “Hear my words that I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you.” I will refrain from singing that! The second concept that I pondered through my Parsha was the question about who or what God actually is. And is today’s God the same God as back in the days of the burning bush? God is considered to be a spirit or a being in our world. God is assumed to always be on your side. Clearly God was present at the burning bush. Yet where was this so-called spirit when the children of Israel needed help?G oing forward in time, where was God during the Holocaust? Or other terrible events? Consider this - is it possible that God was actually stopping many other bad things that could have happened but didn’t, that we have no idea about? We only remember the bad things. But what about all of the good stuff that has happened? Things like cures for diseases. Winning the Ashes. The invention of Nutella. Is God responsible for them, but not getting any credit? And what about God’s age? Was the God who existed back in the Book of Exodus, many thousands of years of years ago, the same God we have with us today? If so, God is a Baby Boomer times a gazillion! Back then, it seemed that God’s voice was very clearly heard, and yet now I wonder if that presence is still as obvious? Maybe it is, but we just can’t hear it as clearly as we once could – again, the sounds of silence are just not there. The third theme that came to me through the burning bush story was the concept of God playing games. And I’m not talking about Xbox or Minecraft. I’m talking about the ways in which God demonstrated power over Pharoah. When God saw the suffering of the Israelites, God took a while to act. When God told Moses to go and see Pharoah to ask him to let the Israelites go, God actually knew Pharoah would say no. Why was God playing these mind games? How did they benefit the Israelites? How did they benefit God? I don’t know! But we have to trust that God knew what God was doing, because we know that God really does work in mysterious ways. When you take my three themes – silence, who/what is God, and God’s mind games – you can understand that the story of the burning bush is so much deeper than simply a bush that is alight with flames, but won’t be consumed by fire. It has been said that the burning bush gives us a reminder to stop and recognise our own burning bush moments in life, or the signs that are telling us to have patience and faith to understand challenges and be inspired by them to make change. We must find silence in order to tune in to ordinary moments that God uses to get our attention. Maybe it’s someone you know who is going through a crisis and needs a friend, or a feeling that you need to slow down and take stock of life. Or maybe it’s an opportunity you have to support a great cause. The burning bush tells us that no matter who or what we think God is, or whether or not we understand the games that God is playing, we must listen and respect God’s wisdom, and act accordingly. In conclusion, I would like to tell you that through my research, I have found that the events of the burning bush took place at the base of Mt Sinai, and that the bush is apparently a rare and extremely long-lived species of bramble, called Rubus Sanctus. Some of you will know that Helen gives all of her b’nei mitzvah students a nickname. Mine happens to be Brambles. So it’s probably fitting that the burning bush was a bramble. So whenever I am on fire, metaphorically of course, then please know that there is a real chance that God could be talking to you!