Friday, January 20, 2006


The Eternal Burning Bush
Rabbi Gustavo Surazski
I would like to share with you two events I took part in a few years ago.

Five years ago we celebrated the entering of a new "Sefer Torah" in my synagogue in Buenos Aires. The Torah was written in the United States and send by air to Argentina. I went to the airport to pick it up and take it home with me until the day of celebration.

The custom secretaries looked at the "odd book" and asked me what it was. I explained to them the basics as to what it was about, and they determined that it was to fall under the category of antiques. They said: "Just like an old Swiss watch from the 18th century, Mr. Surazski. That will be 2% tax charge".

That was a great deal of money, but not the important point. It was a matter of jewish pride. Is it possible that our Torah would be categorized as an antiquity? I wanted to explain to her about the "Eternal Burning Bush" as written in our portion this week. I wanted to explain to her that the sound of the Shofar, when the Torah was handed down to us, can still be heard. But I was sure she wouldn't understand.

The second event took place five years ago. My wife and I were on our honeymoon in New York. We were looking for a synagogue near our hotel to pray in on Shabbat. I asked a near by Kosher Chinese restaurant owner where I could find one in the neighborhood. The owner, a young orthodox man, asked me if I wanted to pray in a Conservative, Reform or an Orthodox synagogue (I thought it sounded funny to have been given so many options, but realized a restaurant owner was used to producing a menu). Then he said that there was a very nice one that wasn't far. "And there is another one that is very old right next door, BUT don't go there". He continued to say: "It looks like a museum, many tourists visit and not all are jewish. It might very well be that if you went there you would be the only one with a Siddur".

And I think, if we let ourselves think of a Torah as an antiquity or of a synagogue as a museum that we are signing our own death certificate as a people. If we think that the only reason to celebrate a Brit, a Bar-Mitzvah or a Chuppah is because it will make our father or grandfather happy, our end is near...

When our Torah tells us of G-ds revelation to Moses by the "Eternal Burning Bush" it is not a description to a situation. It represents the challenge that stood before us then, and remains standing before us now. Not to let our Torah be categorized as an antiquity, like a Swiss watch. Not to let us be considered as passive strangers in our synagogues. Not to turn our back to tradition and leave it to others to watch over it.

The "Eternal Burning Bush" does not only refer to the refers to us. It is a calling out to the "Children of Israel" of all generations to be active players of our tradition and not passive bystanders...

The "Eternal Burning Bush" it is not just a cliché, it's a mission.