“The ‘burning bush’ was not a miracle. It was a test. God wanted to find out whether or not Moses could pay attention for more than a few minutes. When Moses did, God spoke. The trick is to pay attention to what is going on around you long enough to behold the miracle without falling asleep. There is another world right here within this one, whenever we pay attention.” (Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, God Was in this Place and I, I Didn’t Know)
Moses had to pay attention to the bush in order to see that it was not actually combusting b/c of the fire. It must’ve taken a few minutes. I cannot help but think of how often I’m too busy in my life to stop and notice the ‘burning bushes’ that are all around me.
Kushner notes, “Judaism sees only one world, which is material and spiritual at the same time. The material world is always potentially spiritual.”
One thing to note, in Biblical Hebrew there is no concrete word for spiritual. To suggest something is “spiritual,” would mean that something potentially couldn’t be spiritual. Everything is considered a spiritual act to the ancient Hebrews.
The beginning of knowing about God, in other words, is simply paying attention, being fully present where you are, or as Rashi suggests, “waking up.”
In Waking The Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive, John Eldredge discusses the “three eternal truths” that all great stories and myths possess. The first of these truths is that “things are not what they seem, there is a whole lot more going on here than meets the eye.”
Why do stories about people “waking up” to a new reality resonate with us so much? Think of all the examples from our culture that revolve around a story about someone waking up to a new reality:
- Alice falls through the rabbit hole into Wonderland.
- Dorothy steps out of her old farmhouse to find the Land of Oz, and a world that was previously black and white is filled with color.
- Neo awakens from the death-sleep of the Matrix to discover that the world he believed was real is in reality a massive deception created to imprison the human race.
- In George Macdonald’s classic Phantastes, Adonos wakes to the sound of water and discovers a stream running right through his bedroom. He realizes the carpet is really a meadow and the ceiling above him the boughs of a great tree. He sees faint traces of a footpath and rightly assumes it must be the path into Fairy Land, and he rightly chooses to follow it.
- The Pevensie children enter Narnia through a wardrobe, a train platform, and later a picture of the great ship, the Dawn Treader.
- Jacob falls into a dream in Genesis 28 and sees a ladder to the heavens and exclaims, “God was in this place, and I didn’t know.”
Notice this passage from Kushner’s book, God Was in this Place and I Didn’t Know:
“You already are where you need to be. You need go nowhere else.
Feel it now in the moisture on your tongue.
Sense the effortless filling and emptying of your lungs, the involuntary blinking of your eyes.
Just an inch or so behind your sternum where your heart beats.
That is where the makom (place, or name of God) is.
Right here all along and we did not know it because we were fast asleep, here in this very makom.”