Verse Ex03-02b describing the Revelation of God to
Moses in the thornbush states
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire
from the midst of a thornbush;
and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
Rashi, using the symbolism of the fire and thornbush states
God appeared with burns from the midst of the suffering and pain.
Here Rashi interprets fire and thornbush as indicating
pain and suffering. The verse, according to this interpretation
indicates that God was empathic with the suffering of the Jews.
The idea of God using symbolic objects in prophecies is
quite common and occurs frequently in the Bible. To take another example
we cite Nu17-16:20 where a tree-branch symbolically
indicates a tribal branch. Hence the blossomed branch indicates
a productive tribe who is worthy of service in God's temple:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
Speak to the people of Israel,
and take from every one of them a branch according to the house of their fathers, from all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods; write every manís name upon his rod.
And you shall lay them up in the Tent of Meeting before the Testimony, where I will meet with you.
And it shall come to pass, that the manís branch,
whose [tribe] I shall choose [to serve in the temple],
shall blossom; ...
Advanced Rashi: We can not fully defend the symbolic
Rashi's in a newsletter of this size. We refer the more interested reader
to my article on
symbolism, available on the world-wide-web at
Finally I point out that we in no way intend to exhaust the explanation of the Rashi with the above.
There is a rich literature on the symbolism of the burning thornbush. We have given the basic ideas
by which it should be examined.