Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
“וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה הַסְּנֶה בֹּעֵר בָּאֵשׁ – And he (Moshe Rabeinu) saw that the thorn burning in fire.” This posuk describes Moshe Rabeinu’s first encounter with Hashem. Hashem commands him to return to Egypt and to deliver the Jewish people from their slavery.
The Kli Yakar (R. Ephraim of Lonshitz, commentator on Chumash 1540-1609) takes note of the unusual syntax of this posuk. Since the fire did not consume the bush, it would seem to be more appropriate to say, “The fire was burning in the thorn bush.” Instead, it says the bush was burning in the fire. The Kli Yakar gives a homiletic answer to this problem.
Moshe Rabeinu was troubled by the intensity and duration of the Jewish people’s suffering. Why wasn’t Hashem bringing an end to this terrible time? The answer was given to him by the vision of the sneh – thorn bush. The thorn bush represents callousness and hatred. The fire represents the wrath of Hashem which is sometimes directed at his people. The message was that although the fire of Hashem’s anger was being displayed against his people, there still was infighting and hatred amongst Jews as we see from the encounter that Moshe had with Dasan and Avirum earlier. This hatred is symbolized by the thorny bush. Our people’s troubles should bring us together, not create rancor and jealousy. This is why the thorn bush was burning in the fire.
When we read the parsha, we relive the great moments and lessons of our people’s history. We have begun the Sefer HaGeula – the Book of Redemption. We too are in great need of redemption and resolution to our people’s troubles. The way to affect that redemption is to examine the rivalries and disrespect that we show our fellow Jews. When that is corrected, G-d’s promised redemption will surely follow.