Friday, December 28, 2018

Unconsumed - D'var Torah (An Original Midrash) for Parashat Sh'mot - December 28, 2018

     It was a hot day in the desert.   I did feel a trace of breeze blowing through my branches, but the air was still warm as it touched my leaves.
   There was very little movement around me.   I was mostly hidden from the shepherds passing by with their flocks.   The sounds of the sheep as they made their way forward always made me happy, reassuring me that there was growth and life all around me.
  One day, I felt a different wind engulf me. 
  It spoke to me.
  “Can you hear me?  Do you feel my presence?”
 I shook my leaves, as if to nod in acknowledgement.
  “You are a beautiful S’NEH (bush). You offer unique color to the terrain around you, here in this corner of the desert.”
   I had no idea why, all of a sudden, a voice addressed me.   I was speechless, as if I could talk at all, but I was overwhelmed.   Who was speaking to me?
   “Who are you?  It has been a hot but quiet day.  Why have you made your presence known to me?”
   “You don’t know?” Asked the voice.  “Certainly even a S’NEH such as you can recognize the One who created you.” 
    “My Creator?  You mean, you are.....the Eternal - the One who is always here?  The One has put life into my roots and branches and leaves?”
   “Yes, it is I who gives you existence now and who made your ancestors come to be.     I need something from you.”   The Eternal’s voice had a sense of urgency.
    “I know that you have heard the shepherds coming by with their flocks.  They rarely stop to see you.  I need one shepherd to see you.”  
     I was puzzled. “Eternal One, why would this particular shepherd need to see me?  And how will I get his attention?   I can’t cry out or shake my branches so that the sound will be heard all around.”  
     My Creator answered me, “I have a way to make you seem to be on fire.  You will have a brilliant appearance that will beckon this one man to come to see why you look like you are burning AND why the fire is not destroying you.”  
      “I will need him to see you because of the spectacle of your ability to defy being consumed by the fire.  You see, this man, Moses, was raised not too far away in Egypt by the rulers of the country.  He is not one of them.   He is a Hebrew. You have sensed the passing of Hebrews moving in the desert not too far from you from time to time.  Some of them are now slaves in Egypt.  They are made to do hard work, and if they don’t complete their daily tasks, they may be cruelly beaten, even killed.   Moses has fled because he was so angered when he saw a taskmaster beating a slave that he murdered the Egyptian to end the heartless treatment of one of his brethren.”
  “I need you need to teach Moses this lesson:  that even though it may seem that his people will be vanquished under the harsh labor of the Egyptians, they will not be.  Nothing, not even this level of cruelty, can consume them, just like the apparent fire will not consume you.  I will speak to him from your leaves and branches, and he will hear my voice, and he will know that I will be with him as I direct him to free his people from bondage.”
   I couldn’t believe this honor that my Creator would think to bestow upon me. 
“Eternal One, I am humbled by your request.   Please, do what you need to do, make Your presence known to Moses through me.  I will help you and Moses bring freedom to his people.”
   Moses came, and his people were freed with God’s help.
    And as for me...that glow from my Creator still remained.  And I realized how my life had changed.   I knew that, when people would tell this story, I would always be a symbol of the possibility of endurance and perseverance against seemingly insurmountable odds - but only if people would turn aside, open their eyes, and see that God always stands ready to carry them to a new place of promise and hope.  
     I pray from the depth of my roots that they will, in their time of need, turn aside, open their eyes, and see.

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