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וירא והנה הסנה בוער באש והסנה איננה אוכל. ויאמר משה אסורה נא ואראה את המראה הגדול הזה מדוע לא יבער הסנה.

And he [Moshe] saw, behold the thorn-bush was ablaze in fire, yet the thorn-bush was not consumed. And Moshe said, I shall veer off and look at this great sight- why will the thorn-bush not burn?

Shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in the desert, Moshe encounters a most mystifying sight- a thornbush completely engulfed in flames, yet refusing to be consumed. His curiosity piqued, he resolves to have a closer look. “I shall veer off and look at this great sight- why will the thorn-bush not burn”?

And so he does.

Instead of discovering the answer to his question, however, Moshe is called upon by God, Who instructs him to remove his shoes and then launches into a message about the Exile and Moshe’s obligation to redeem the Israelites.

What ever became of Moshe’s question? Why indeed did the bush burn yet not become consumed? Was it all merely a ploy designed to catch Moshe’s attention? Does God really need to resort to bait-and-switch tactics in order to deliver His message?

To discern the answer to Moshe’s question, we must first attain a deeper understanding of the question itself. Had Moshe merely viewed the burning bush as a fascinating natural phenomenon, it is doubtful whether he would have devoted time to it altogether. That he did devote his attention to it, in the opinion of Chazal, is testament to an awareness that that he was witnessing a Heavenly exposure, rather than a National Geographic picture.

Moshe, say the Sages, understood the scene as representative of the Jew in exile,- a forlorn, barren thorn-bush ablaze in the fire of persecution- and wondered what it was that allowed the Jew, as the bush, to endure in that condition and remain intact.

Bearing this in mind, we now resume the narrative, in the hope of discerning how exactly God did address Moshe’s question.

“God saw”, says the Torah, “that [Moshe] turned to see, and God called to him from within the bush… and [God] said, ‘Do not draw nearer to here, remove your shoes from your feet, for the earth upon which you tread is consecrated ground’”.

In seeking the secret of Jewish survival, Moshe thought to approach the bush, or the Jew, himself, and examine what it is about his qualities which allow him to survive. God, however, redirects his search.

“Do not draw nearer to here”.

Don’t come closer to the bush to find it’s secret to survival, for there is nothing visible in the bush itself which can possibly explain its outstanding ability to endure.

“Remove your shoes from your feet, for the earth upon which you tread is consecrated ground”.

Instead, examine the earth from which the bush draws its sustenance. It is that ground which is saturated with something holy and special, and it is only because those holy nutrients are what provide the bush’s sustenance that the bush remains unvanquishable.

What makes the Jew last longer in exile than the average nation lasts in its homeland, is not so much the visibly different things that he does, but the different source from which he derives the energy to do seemingly similar things. While all cultures must plow through similar obstacles to survive, gentile cultures derive their energy from the finite, and are thus eventually consumed by the fires of time, whereas the Jew derives his energy from the infinite, and therefore never runs out of fuel for survival. So long as the Jew is running on Shabbos and Torah, he will inevitably outlast the gentile running on football and freedom, even as they both face identical challenges. So long as the Jew fills up his tank, with fuel flowing out of his Judaism bank, he will outlast the others, that may share the same road, yet run dry and stall, and then need to be towed!

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