A story for Parashat Shemot, the burning bush

I was tending the flock of my father-in-law. I drove the flock into the wilderness, and I came to a beautiful  mountain. Whoa, it looked like there was something  in a blazing fire out of a bush. I looked, I gazed, and there was that bush all aflame, but the bush was not being consumed. 

I said to myself, “I must turn sideways to look at this amazing sight.”

Then I thought “Am I crazy, why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

A voice screamed to me, and it was coming from the bush: “Yo, you!” I responded with more bravado than I felt, “Here I am.” Then this voice said “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.”

I did what I was told. I was not going to argue with a bush. He kept talking, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

To tell you the truth, I was so scared, I was peeing in my caftan. I was afraid to look. 

The voice went on. “I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the region of the Canaanites.”

He listed a whole bunch of other folk, but I can not remember them. Can you blame me, a voice was coming from a bush! Telling me he was God!

I really could not believe it  and then it got worse as he said, “The cry of the Israelites has reached Me; moreover, I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt.” Really? Me?

My first thought, it’s not me who is crazy, it’s him. But then, knowing I was talking to a bush, and someone might be watching, I said humbly, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?”

The voice, trying to comfort, or maybe con me said “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

Now I was really freaking out. So I asked,“When I come to the Israelites and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

He told me, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” Those words made no sense. Maybe this was really just my brother playing a trick on me. But the voice continued “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Eh-yeh sent me to you. Speak to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: This shall be My name forever. Now go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them: the LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me and said, ‘I have taken note of you and of what is being done to you in Egypt, and I have declared: I will take you out of the misery of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’”

He mentioned all those other tribes again, but as I said, I can’t remember their names. All I heard was that voice which kept reminding me that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This voice insisted the Israelites would listen to me. I wasn’t so sure.

He told me that I would go with the elders of Israel to the king of Egypt and I was should to say to him, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, manifested Himself to us. Now therefore, let us go a distance of three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD our God.”

I thought that if I tried that, Pharaoh would kill me, and most of those elders, and make the Israelites suffer more. That Pharaoh, he was not a nice man. But  whoever was talking to me, he said he was stronger than Pharaoh, and that he would smite  Egypt to convince the king to let us go.

Then he said he would dispose the Egyptians favorably toward us, so that when we left, we would not go away empty-handed. We were to get gold and silver and clothing, and strip the Egyptians. Well which one was it? Smite them, or  have then act favorably. Borrow stuff, or strip them. I was getting so confused.

So I tried another tact. “What if they do not believe me and do not listen to me, but say: The LORD did not appear to you?”

He responded to that with magic. “What is that in your hand?” I  replied, “A rod.” He said, “Cast it on the ground.”

So I threw it on the ground and it turned into a snake. I jumped so high I did not think I would come down. So he told me to pick it up by the tail. I don’t know how I found the courage, but I picked it up, and it was a rod again. That was some trick. I had no idea how he did it. 

Then he encrusted my hand with snowy scales and turned it back to normal again. Getting scarier. He said the Israelites would see from these things that he was God. If not, he said he would turn the water from the Nile into blood. That was just to much. I could not deal with such things. I just could not do that. So I tried one last thing.

“Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to me; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

He started to get angry. “I gave you speech in the first place, now go!” he screamed.

“Please God,” I begged. “Don’t make me go. Make someone else your agent” I started to see steam coming from the bush. I was scared that I had really angered him. But the steam slowed, and the voice seemed tired out. Maybe he just wasn’t willing to try any harder to convince me.

“OK’” he finally said dejectedly “You win. I will go ask Moses instead.”

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