We Need a Burning Bush

It is not coincidental that the parsha this week is Shemos.  It begins by the Pharoah of Egypt creating a blueprint for genocide of Jews. It dehumanized the Jews of Egypt, ignoring all that Yosaif and his family had done for Egypt. It depicted an Anti-Semitism that aroused the hatred of Egypt for what was described as the Children of Israel absurdly as “more numerous and more powerful than we”!  Egypt bought into this propaganda and engaged in an increased persecution of Jews, resulting in the killing of their firstborn and having as its end game, either the spiritual or physical destruction of the Jewish people. It was a classic story that has replayed in history over and over again.

After the dispersion of Jews throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, following the destruction of both Temples, Jews have been residents of their host nations, contributing and never draining those countries. Yet, in the centuries that followed, mass murder and expulsion of Jews hit virtually every country in Europe. The Holocaust was the apex of centuries of violent Anti-Semitism, blaming the Jews for everything from the Black Plague to the Great Depression. The Protocols of the Elders of Israel continues to be a “best seller” throughout the world, even in such unexpected places as Japan!

In Shemos, at the nadir of their suffering, God hears the outcries of the Jewish people, after it became clear that political solutions — a new Pharoah — was not going to solve anything!  Even having a Jew, Moses, within the palace of the Pharoah, as a Prince of Egypt, would not avoid the blood bath — he simply was powerless, by himself, to be the new Joseph!

We come now to the Burning Bush — what was this symbol from which God spoke and sent Moses out on the mission to free the Jews of their slavery and suffering?  It is described as a thorn bush engulfed in flames, but not consumed by the fire.  Metaphorically, it has two messages:  first, if we look at the thorn bush as the enemies who would harm us, clothed in the innocuous clothing of a bush from which flowers bloom, but deadly to the touch, then the fire is Israel that will burn and glow no matter what oppression or ill will is directed to it by Ant-Semitic murderers.  The other metaphor is that the thorn bush, lowly and close to the ground, humble and armed only with the thorns that defend it, and dwarfed by the trees about it, is the Jewish people. The fire is the blazing hatred of Anti-Semitism determined to burn the bush out of existence.  But, guess what?  It burns but fails to consume.  No matter what the murderous designs of those who would blot Jews out of existence cannot succeed — God’s eternal covenant protects them, and they survive despite dispersion, expulsion, pogroms, mass murders, blood libel, global blame, Holocaust . . .

This is comforting and uplifting to Jews in Israel and in all the countries in which they live their lives, contributing and enhancing the societies in which they reside. Despite its small size and dimunitive numbers — in the face of the billions about them — they send their doctors and humanitarians to help victims of tsunami, lend their expertise in agriculture to countries in need of vegetation and food, lead the world in medical innovations and technological advances, and provide free life-saving medical care and economic aid to the very people who have attacked them and wish them ill.  So, undaunted by the hatred and desire for their destruction, Jews around the world continue to be in the forefront of humanitarian efforts, philanthropy and defenders of human rights.  In their own way, even if their enemies downplay and ignore the evidence of their moral fiber, Jews are a “light unto the nations”.

However, and this is critical to our times, our enemies — today the radical extremists, Islamic agendas to destroy the West, and particularly wipe out Jews wherever they may be, and take Israel off the world map, is relentless.  The flames of Anti-Semitism, just below the surface in so many corners of the world, may be fanned by the propaganda and violence that is increasingly transparent.  What we must be aware — and this has been the case for thousands of years — the misfortunes and sufferings are, against all logic and evidence — turn against, blame and seek to do harm to Jews!  They are the scapegoat, and that is the agenda of our dedicated enemies.  This agenda can be traced back to the sibling rivalry and ideological differences that started with Ishmael-Isaac and Esau-Jacob.  They spawned the Roman destruction of the Temple, radical Islam and the Amaleks that arose in Haman’s times and in Nazi Germany. They are found in present days in the mind, body and soul of Islam — not its peaceful adherents, but those who see their sacred mission to bring about ethnic cleansing, elimination of all things secular, the destruction of all Western civilization, the forced conversion or death of all “heretics” and the eradication of the State of Israel and Jews worldwide.

What can be done?  The Paris massacres are only examples of the epidemic of violence that confronts the world.  Free speech in the form of misinformation and satiric journalism (including cartoons demonizing Israel, America and all Jews) is permitted, but when it is practiced by the West, it becomes a license, a mandate to maim, destroy and kill!   Had the violence been limited to the satiric headquarters of a Paris publication, the attacks could have been seen as a distorted and sick destruction “justified” because their prophet was being blasphemed.  But, they did not stop there — they sought out on Erev Shabbos, when people were busy shopping for their Shabbos meals, to find an establishment where they could kill Jews, and to have it all be broadcast on an international stage!

What does our President say in response to this?  He urges us not to engage in Islamaphobia!  There are good Moslems!  This is not to be disputed.  But, as one radio commentator said this week — let’s say that there are only 1% or 10% of these radical Islamists out there — that is over 10 million and as much as 100 million or more!  One of Washington’s think tank commentators warns that the cancer that is today’s radical extremists has metastasized — in many ways, he argues, it is too late to do a surgical strike or irradiate the tumor!

Perhaps, as might be argued, there is no political or military solution! Yes, we need to do everything we can to defend ourselves, guard against violence and ferret out terrorist cells wherever they may be. Yes, we need to do histadlus and cannot simply wait for Divine intervention.

But, as Sun Tzu said 15 centuries ago: “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

The Burning Bush was not just a symbol of our endurance in the face of our enemies.  It also told us who controls the world.  It identified our enemy and reminded Moses of who he was and who His People were. It gave Moses a battle plan, but at the end of Shemos, reminded Moses that he alone would not prevail, but it was God who would intervene, free the Children of Israel and destroy Egypt.  We must courageously and unflinchingly identify our enemies, their relentless and murderous agenda, protect against harm as much as is possible and strike at the heart of each cell, each group that celebrates its murder of those who are not like them — be they Moslems who are not fundamentalists, secularists, the West or Jews. We must be as resolute as they are!  We must heed the words of Sun Tzu.  We must educate and re-tell the “story”, not in some liberal, humanistic, and benevolent white-washing of what is happening. We must stop excusing this targeted violence, and we must call it like it is.

The Burning Bush calls for clarity, determination and an answer to the conflagration of violence by saying and acting in a manner that defies their motives and designs.  We must defend and celebrate the bastions of freedom and the custodians of God’s peaceful and loving mission for Mankind.  This starts — probably to the dismay and reluctance of centuries of minds disease-ridden with Anti-Semitism. Jews are not the enemy.  Israel is not the enemy.  We are the defenders of the Light and it is now — or never — that we will identify and obliterate all those who live and carry out their agenda in Darkness.

About the Author
Naphtali Perlberger is a Senior Lecturer for AISH HaTorah and gives Parsha HaShavua shiurim at Young Israel of the Main Line. He is one of the founders and a past president of the Philadelphia Community Kollel. He is Founder & President of Philadelphia Chapter of Children of the Holocaust, and past FJA Chairman of Men's Organizations; talk show host for a radio show, "G-d is Listening" and former radio news broadcaster. Currently President of Kosloff Torah Academy High School for Girls.