Friday, January 20, 2017

Parashat Shemot, Burning Bush, Daffodils and Ume Tree

Then Joseph died, as did all his brothers and that generation.  Yet Bnei-Yisrael were fruitful, increased abundantly, multiplied and grew extremely numerous---so the land was filled with them.
---Exodus 1:6~7

In this weeks Parshat Shemot, oh my goodness there is so much happening, as the world shifts from Genesis and the story of the sons of Jacob, ending where Joseph saved the nations as ruler of Egypt next to Pharoah,  to the next book of Shemot (Exodus),  where the ruler of Egypt no longer `remembers` all that Joseph did and decides there are just too many of the Children of Israel in Egypt, and he makes them all to become slaves and attempts to wipe them out by drowning all the male babies.  It gets pretty terrible.

But enter Moses.  In this weeks parshat Moses is born.  He is ordered to die along with all the male babies of the Children of Israel.  But as we know, he doesn`t die, he is hidden by his mother. (see Exodus 2:1~4)
Then after three months she  set him in a basket on the Nile and it is seen and found by Pharoah`s daughter and the child, Moses, is  raised in the palace of Pharoah until he grows up and discovers the injustice done to his people.  He noticed a Hebrew, one of his own people, was being beaten by an Egyptian.  He kills the Egyptian, and when he realizes his deed had become known, he flees to Midian.

In this weeks parshat Moses also meets and is chosen by ADONAI to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt.  Their first encounter occurs at the sight of a burning bush.  Moses notices it, he sees that it is on fire but is not burnt.
When ADONAI saw that he turned to look, He called to him out of the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!"  
So he answered, "Hineni.*" 

---Exodus 3:4

*Hineni=`Here I am",  answering a call 

Scene switch, to Friday afternoon in my life.  A flower shop in Oita.  When I went to buy flowers for the Shabbat I looked into the case and wanted to get flowers that would somehow express the burning bush, as this image and encounter stood out so strong in the parsha.  Maybe something orange, or fiery looking.  Something noticable, and light like a flame.

The flowers that caught my eye in the case were the daffodils.  Although daffodils are not the dramatic flower I envisioned, when I saw the colors they were bursting with light and passion, and the center orange was burning flame inside the yellow petals.  There were also branches of cherry blossoms in the shop that day, the first of this year! So I had an inspiration that if the daffodils were in front of the branches, the branches could be like the bush and the flowers like the fire.

It also expresses somehow the literal `season` we are in, approaching spring where the bushes are still not yet full of the flowers, so the daffodils seem to `ignite` the expectant branches making it like they could represent the consuming fire.

So that is what I chose! Then on the way home I passed the budding ume (ume = Plum tree.  I took out the daffodils and did a little photo shoot with them.  Then some women who were walking their dogs stopped and liked the way I was posing the bright flowers in front of the almost blossoming, expectant ume tree.  We chatted a little about the plum blossoms (ume no hana) and how they are earlier than cherry blossoms (sakura) and they showed me how the ume, plum blossom, petals are different from cherry blossoms.   I told them when I first came to Japan it was hard to tell what is different between  ume blossom and cherry blossom.  Now I have come to know and especially since the ume blossoms bloom earlier, it is easy to know which are ume.

The sun was getting lower in the sky so I had to hurry back to light the Shabbat candles before sundown.

Again I imagined the burning bush and Moses` encounter with ADONAI, and where God says to Moses to tell the Children of Israel his name is `I AM WHO I AM` (Exodus 3:14)/

Moses, who should very well have drowned in the Nile with all the other boy Hebrew children, didn`t drown.  He was taken from the water---it says in the parsha that his name means drawn from water---years later meets God in an encounter with fire, and then is lead by God to bring His people to freedom through water!!!  What a mighty God we serve!  What a dramatic encounter between Moses and the Burning Bush.   It is a good time to remember how our first encounter with God was, how did he approach each of us?  Or if you haven`t yet encountered Him in your life, it is good to read this parsha to see what happens in that life changing and world changing encounter, how Moses turned to look, and how when God called Moses` name he responded right away with `Hineni`, Here I am.  In addition to all the great meanings and interpretations of this parsha on the grand scale, I think this scene also has this lesson in our lives about looking, turning to see,  keeping our eyes open to meet God in even the most unexpected places. And to notice if something that is getting our attention might just be the Great I AM asking us to notice, to draw closer , to turn to look at Him and to listen to what it is He has in purpose for us.

Blessings and Shabbat Shalom!!

Therefore, thus says ADONAI,
Redeemer of Abraham,
concerning the house of Jacob:
"Jacob will no longer be ashamed,
no longer will his face grow pale;
for when he sees his children,
the work of My hands in his midst,
they will sanctify My Name:
They will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and stand in awe of the God of Israel.

---Isaiah 29:22~23
(from this weeks Haftarah portion for Parsha Shemot)

For the full list of readings, see, Weekly Readings link on the right sidebar.
For the Whole Wheat Challah recipe, see my favorite Challah links on the right sidebar.
Blessings and Shabbat Shalom!

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