web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

What Our Teachers Can Learn From The Burning Bush


Share Button

The first reference to Mount Sinai in the Torah occurs when our teacher Moses witnessed a strange phenomenon there. As he was shepherding his sheep he glanced up at the mountain and saw a thorn bush that was burning without being consumed by the fire.

Our sages grapple with the meaning of this first encounter. Rashi states that the fire was a sign that God would be with the Jewish people even in hard times, i.e., when they were slaves in Egypt.

As an extension of the above, when a person grieves, God grieves as well. When the Jewish people are being oppressed in bondage, the God of Israel is with them.

A second interpretation relies on an obscure midrash which states that the burning bush was a rose bush. The significance of this reference is that while the Jewish people may be as difficult as thorns, there nevertheless are “roses” among them, and for the roses alone it is worth God’s while to save the nation from tyranny.

As an outgrowth of this interpretation one might further posit that though within every Jew there are many “thorns,” there are “roses” as well. Our charge is to always search for the good – the “roses” – in each and every Jew. Rav Soloveitchik, zt”l, stated that in every Jew there is a ratzon elyon – a sublime desire to do what is correct.

When we look at people we must always search for the virtuous aspects in their character. Yes, there are Jews who demonstrate bad qualities, but there is also within them the potential for doing noble acts. Our job is to seek out and to bring to fruition that potential.

There is a third interpretation – the view of Rabenu Bachya – that states that the burning bush represents the Torah. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to provide warmth and support – to illuminate our lives and to provide us with the necessary tools to meet the challenges we face daily, as well as to offer comfort in difficult times.

But just as the bush was not consumed, so the Torah should never be used as a vehicle of destruction. No one has the right to use the Torah as an excuse to denigrate anyone, Jew or non-Jew. No one has the right to say that because he learns Torah he is by definition better than someone else. Only God has the right to judge his creation.

Some of the most incompetent people who led the Jewish people in times of need were referred to as leaders by our sages. The Talmud tells us, “Yiftach b’doro k’Shmuel b’doro.” Yiftach, perhaps not the best representative of Jewish leadership in his generation, was equivalent to the great prophet Samuel.

We do not understand the ways of Almighty God, nor can we use the Torah as a means to laud ourselves and to step on other people because of their seeming lack of religious observance. No one has the right to use the Torah as an excuse to degrade another person. This is symbolized by the burning bush not being consumed by the fire.

These lessons demand the attention of teachers who are actively involved in the instruction of Torah to our children. Rabbis who must berate others in the name of Torah – to show their superiority are doing a disservice to our people. No teacher has the right to criticize and use derogatory language in the name of Torah.

Too often, teachers are quick to use insulting language to describe Jews who are less observant, or non-Jews in any situation. They use phrases such as goyishe kop or call Reform or Conservative Jews reshaim, wicked people, using the Torah as their basis. A teacher who resorts to this type of name-calling is in the wrong profession. We don’t use Torah as an excuse to step on people and belittle them.

Teachers must have the ability and the desire to always look for the “rose” in every child. There is good in everyone – certainly in all our Jewish children.

Teaching is a serious responsibility. We have in our hands the power to destroy or to build. As the late Haim Ginott so beautifully wrote:

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Mordechai Weiss is principal of the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford. Any comments can be e-mailed to him at Ravmordechai@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “What Our Teachers Can Learn From The Burning Bush”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
US Special Envoy Martin Indyk, Secy of State John Kerry, at a special briefing. (archive)
Indyk Returns to Raise the Dead (Israel-PA Talks)
Latest Indepth Stories
Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

Dov Shurin

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

More Articles from Rabbi Mordechai Weiss

When the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, successfully escaping the clutches of the Egyptians, Moses gathered the Israelites together and they sang the famous “Az Yashir.” Miriam, Moses’s sister, also assembled the women as they danced with tambourines and sang “shiru lahashem ki gao gaa sus vrochbo rama bayam” – let us sing to Hashem for he is great, horse and chariot he drowned in the sea.”

I have always been disturbed by the fact that while millions upon millions of dollars are poured into the construction and programs of synagogues, the support received by our yeshivas and day schools is so meager in comparison.

As an educator, I was always intrigued with the trip on which my high school students would embark in their junior or senior year. The “March of the Living” allows a student to experience in a small way the immense tragedy our people endured during the Holocaust.

The first reference to Mount Sinai in the Torah occurs when our teacher Moses witnessed a strange phenomenon there. As he was shepherding his sheep he glanced up at the mountain and saw a thorn bush that was burning without being consumed by the fire.

Diversity in Judaism is common in our history and liturgy. One can visit many synagogues and observe that the order of davening and the text of siddur vary from shul to shul. When I’m in Israel I often attend the services in a Sephardi shul where the prayers and the sequence of taking the Torah from the ark and replacing it are vastly different from what I’m accustomed to.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-our-teachers-can-learn-from-the-burning-bush/2007/03/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: