So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’ When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’
Our Rabbis teach that Moses was distinguished by being the first who noticed the bush on fire but not turning to ashes. Only when God saw Moses turn aside does God call out. For some the burning bush is a metaphor of faith — that we should be on fire but not consumed. It also reminds us that Moses, who was passionate for justice, noticed when things in the world were burning.
All around us things are aflame but we too easily turn away. There are lives around the world that are ravaged by war and cruelty and deprivation. There are people close to us who are desperate and frightened and alone. We shield our eyes, turn the corner or the channel; we mouse-click them away. Moses insists on the lesson of attention.
To care for our world means to see not only its beauty, but also its pain. Perhaps if we looked as Moses did, we too would hear God’s message through the fire.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).