Off the Pulpit: Beyond the Fire

By DAVID WOLPE

“When God saw that Moses turned aside to look, God called out of the bush (Exodus 3:4)” Why? What was so special about Moses turning aside to look that only then did God call out? The rabbis teach that the bush had been burning since the beginning of time but only Moses saw that it was special, that it was not consumed. In this Moses teaches us perhaps the most important lesson about contemporary politics and culture.

The word ‘focus’ comes from the Latin, meaning ‘domestic hearth.’ In other words, a fire makes us focus. We all know how a flame draws attention; there is something fascinating about fire.

The same is true with metaphorical fires. When politics is incendiary, when there is screaming or anger or accusation, we are riveted. Conflict draws our attention. Fire makes us focus.

What Moses alone saw was the living, growing bush beneath the fire. He looked past the conflagration to the flourishing growth beneath. We need to learn from this example, to recognize that past the shouting there are charitable and devoted people, sincerely and quietly working to make the world better. They may not shout on TV or twitter, but they feed and clothe people, provide shelter and invent medicines and make peace. Let us learn from Moses to see beyond the fire to the beauty beneath.

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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