Noticing the Normal and Finding the Miraculous

Today we look at Shemot, Exodus 1:1 – 6:1 – the first section of the Book of Exodus. During this parashah we go from the death of Joseph to the beginning of the bringing of the plagues and the conflict between Moses and Pharaoh over the freeing of the Hebrew slaves.

This includes the dramatic encounter at the Burning Bush – from the Hebrew in Exodus 3:2:
“the bush is burning with fire, and the bush is not consumed!”

While we often identify this as a dramatic moment, Jewish scholars remind us that noticing a bush that is not consumed by fire requires some attention. After all, it is not merely a plant on fire, but also one that doesn’t disappear slowly in the flames – this may in fact be a subtle message.

A midrash, an interpretative gloss on the Torah, notes that Moses passed the bush every day as a shepherd during the years he lived in Midian. Only when Moses overcame his anger at having to leave his comfortable life in the court of Pharaoh did he notice that the bush still burned, and then he was able to encounter the divine message that it contained.

As Elul progresses, let us slow down and notice the miracles around us that may require more attention, that may require us to overcome our own internal turmoil, and find a good teaching in the midst of our everyday lives.