Moses at the Burning Bush – Marc Chagall

The Book of Exodus is the story about God’s saving love for the oppressed Israelites. It begins with the birth of Moses, follows him as a young prince, as a rebel and outlaw, a shepherd, and THE prophet of God.

Why Moses? What was so unique about him that God chose him to be his most intimate prophet?

Moses was complex, passionate, pure, just, humble, at home nowhere, carrying his people’s burdens while hearing God’s words.

He was unique, the only prophet to speak panim el panim (“face to face”) with God. That is what my drash-poem is about. Moses is the most important Jew in our history and our gold standard of a religious, moral, and political leader.

In our time the world has benefited from Mahatma Gandhi, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless, Moses continues to stand alone.

A Pure Soul

I walk in a daze / Eyes sunk in creviced faces / Fettered to worldly tasks / Unable to glimpse rainbows.

I imagine Moses in Midian like that / Brooding in exile / Burdened by his people’s suffering / Knowing that each day / They scream from stopped-up hearts / Shedding silent tears.

A simple shepherd Moses / Staff in hand / Counting sheep / Until one day weaving among rocks / And bramble bushes / The shepherd / Heard thorns popping / Turning his head / His eyes opened / And he would never be the same.

God had from his birth taken note of him / And waited until this moment / To choose him as prophet.

Dodi dofek pitchi li / A-choti ra-yati yo-nati ta-mati. / Open to me, my dove / my twin / my undefiled one. (Song of Songs 5:2)

Moses heard God’s voice / And beheld angels, / His soul flowing in a sacred river / Of Shechinah light.

‘Why me? / Why should I behold such wonder? / Unworthy am I!’

God said / ‘Moses – I choose you / Because you are soft / Because you weep / Because your heart is burdened and worried / Because you know this world’s cruelty / And you have not become cruel / Nor do you stand idly by.

You are a tender of sheep, / And you will lead my people / With the shepherd’s staff from Egypt / And teach them to open their hearts / Without fear.’

Trembling, Moses peered a second time / Into the bush aflame / Free from ash and smoke.

His eyes opened as in a dream / And he heard a soft murmuring sound / Like the sound breath makes / Passing through lips. 


Two voices—One utterance! / He hid his face / The more Moses heard / The brighter was the light / And he knew he must turn away / Or die.

The prophet’s thoughts were free / Soaring beyond form / No longer of self / To this very day / There has not been a purer soul than his.

God said ‘Come no closer, Moses! / Remove your shoes / Stand barefoot here on this earth / I want your soul.

I am here with you and in you / I am every thing / And no thing / And You are Me / I see that which is and which is not / And I hear it all.

Take heed shepherd-prince / My people‘s blood / Calls to me from the ground / The living suffer still / A thousand deaths.

You must go and take them out / Every crying child / Every lashed man  / Every woman screaming silent tears.

And Moses know this / “With weeping they will come / And with compassion will I guide them.” (Jeremiah 31:8) / The people’s exile began with tears / And it will end with tears.

I have recorded their story in a Book / Black fire on white fire / Letters on parchment / Telling of slaves / Seeing light / Turning to Me / Becoming a nation.

The Book is My spirit / The letters are My heart / They are near to you / That you might do them / And teach them / And redeem My world / That it might not be consumed in flames.

Poem composed by Rabbi John Rosove