The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Tevet 25, 5767/January 15, 2007

A Heart of Justice

"Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the farthest end of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of G-d, unto Horeb. And the angel of HaShem appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said: 'I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.'"
(Exodus 3:1-3)

This is the fifth "outing" of Moshe (Moses) that we are privy to. The first time we are told that Moshe "went out" (ibid 2:11), he sees the Egyptian hitting a fellow Hebrew, and seeking to impose justice, Moshe strikes the Egyptian, and kills him.

The following day, Moshe again sallies forth, this time to witness two Hebrews fighting. Moshe inquires as to their dispute, and is promptly rebuked for interfering: "'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?'" (ibid 2:14)

Moshe leaves Pharoah's palace a third and last time, after, having discovered what Moshe has done, Pharoah seeks to kill him. (ibid 2:15)

Having escaped to Midian, Moshe steps forth a fourth time: "Moses stood up and helped" the daughters of Yitro (Jethro), who were being harassed by the local shepherds. (ibid 2:17)

And now, Moshe is described leading the flock of Yitro. Yet this time he is confronted not by an Egyptian, nor by a Hebrew; not by Pharoah, and not by Midianite shepherds. This time he is met by G-d Himself, through the agency of an angel, in the form of the burning bush. Why did G-d choose this occasion to reveal Himself to Moshe? How was this moment different from the others described?

In each of Moshe's earlier outings, he is an active pursuer of justice. Whether fighting, interjecting, fleeing, or coming to someone's rescue, Moshe is intent upon achieving justice. This time is different: "And Moshe said: 'I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.'" (ibid 3:1-3) Rather than leaping forward to achieve a goal, Moshe is stepping back, turning aside. He has, for the moment, retreated from his activist role, and has become contemplative, introspective: "why [is] the bush... not burnt[?]'" (ibid 3:1-3) This affords G-d His opportunity. Yes, Moshe is a sincere and relentless pursuer of justice, but having been brought up in the house of Pharoah, he was imbued with the notion that justice itself emanates from his own perception of it. Now, for the first time, he is being granted an insight into the truth that justice, G-d's justice, is transcendent, and as unattached to the will of man, as the flame of the angel is unattached to the burning bush. The heart of Moshe, burning with the flame of G-d's justice, will not burn out and become extinguished. Having now witnessed the Divine source of his own inexhaustible pursuit of justice, Moshe is ready to be called upon to lead G-d's children.

Join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven on this week's TEMPLE TALK, as they discuss Pharoah's attempt to annihilate the Jews, and the spiritual growth of Moshe Rabeinu - Moses our master - the one man who spoke "face to face" with G-d.

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2