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29 Jan 2015

Bottoming Out & The Burning Bush

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8 Principles for Breaking Through

For a little bush, it’s had a lot of press – largely because The Burning Bush of Biblical fame has much to teach us about bottoming out and how to flourish despite life’s challenges.

On one of our weekly Group Coaching calls, I shared 8 of these principles. They were so well received that I thought you would enjoy reading and working the concepts yourself. Read on to discover more. You can also buy the full PDF workbook of all 8 principles HERE, which includes Suggested Steps for implementing them in your life.

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G-d’s angel appeared to (Moses) in the heart of a fire in the middle of a thorn bush. As he looked (Moses) realized that the bush was on fire but was not being consumed.
Exodus 3:2

The bush that drew Moses’ attention as he shepherded in the desert is described as having particular physical characteristics, each of which offers a lesson in living. From bottoming out; embracing your challenges; making a commitment to replenishing your spiritual wellspring and more, these lessons have much to do with why the bush has so captured the imagination of hundreds of generations.

This is how the Talmudic sages describe the Burning Bush:

It was thorny. The unusual thing about these thorns is that they curved inward. As such, it was easy to insert one’s hand into the bush but upon withdrawing the hand, it was cut. The same applied to birds who entered the bush to eat of its fruit. The bush produced a flower similar to a rose. In fact, in Talmudic times, this flower was called a Vardina – similar to the word Vered or “rose” in Hebrew.  It also produced a red berry which ripened to black. These berries were used as an insecticide. It is often identified by the botanical name Rubus sanguineus and goes by the names Holy Bramble, Blackberry and Rubus Sanctus as well.

So much for botany. Commentators are concerned with actual botanical identification when it comes to the performance of a commandment (for example which plants are required for the Four Species.) In our story however, they are more focused on the moral and ethical lessons one can learn from these natural phenomena. They approach the physical characteristics as metaphors replete with teachings for the life of each individual.

Below are just a few of the ideas and their take-aways from Exodus Rabbah* that we discussed on the call.

You can buy the full workbook version of all 8 principles HERE. This full 10-page PDF includes Take-Aways and dozens of suggestions in the Try-This section to help you apply these lessons to your life.

1: G-d is Where you Let G-d In

Someone asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha why G-d appeared to Moses in a plain bush. “And if it had been in a carob tree or a sycamore, wouldn’t you have asked the same question?” he replied. “But I can’t leave your question unanswered. Why in a bush? To teach that there is no place where the Divine Presence is not to be found, even in a lowly bush.”

Take-Away

The conceptual headquarter here is as challenging as it is obvious: There is no place devoid of G-d. We go about our lives looking for Divinity only in certain places  and not even anticipating it in others. In this way we basically divorce the world from its Source. The bush’s first teaching is that we be mindful of G-d’s presence in our lives. G-d, the Source of existence is always there and always accessible.

Secondly, just as G-d’s presence was found particularly in the plain bush, so too is Divinity found where there is humility: We resist embarrassment. We find it difficult to become small even in our own eyes. And yet, in those moments where we can admit a wrong, say sorry, overlook an offense, withstand the pain of having our ego deflated – we access our True Self and discover G-d.

2: You Have to Hit Bottom to Bottom Out

Rabbis Eliezer said, “Just as the bush is the lowliest of all the trees in the world, so too Israel was reduced to the depth of degradation before the Holy One appeared to them and redeemed them.”

Take-Away

We are reduced to our personal bottom before we are redeemed. We wish it could be different. We wish that somehow we’d “choose life” without having to hit bottom. But it doesn’t work that way. The profound truth is that…you won’t change until what you stand to lose by your current behavior is worth more to you than what you stand to gain by keeping it up. And for most of us,  we have to be losing a fortune (emotionally, physically, in our relationships) before we become willing to change.

You’ve hit bottom when what you’re losing by your current behavior is worth more to you than what you’re gaining from it.

That is a very personal place. It’s different for each individual. The constant is that we are reduced to our own personal depth of degradation before we can begin to recover.

The good news is that healing and redemption happen right after we bottom out. In the moment of letting go of our power, we discover the delicious freedom of surrender.

3. Fantasy is Free but Growth Has a Price-Tag

bottomRabbi Jose said, “As the wood of the bush is the toughest of woods, and no bird which enters it emerges unscathed, so the bondage of Egypt was the most severe of human bondage in history.” 

Take-Away

The cold, hard and painful truth is that just as no bird which entered the bush emerged unscathed, we don’t emerge from bondage of any kind unscathed. We can score fantasy points for free. But as one mystic said, there is no growth without both pain and effort. Sometimes the pain is of leaving behind an old level and outdated truth.

This is what one friend told me when I first shared the Step by Step Workbook,

Your piece is amazing on so many levels. Trust. I feel I could read it every day for the rest of my life and still find it useful. Thanks!”

A.G., NY

And another just wrote this on our Facebook post,

Shimona, I have been working on the Burning Bush exercise and I have had an amazing breakthrough! I am coming back home to my true self I have loved being in your Kabbalah coaching classes. Thank you over and over!

Shalhevet, OG

Click HERE to purchase an audio recording of Shimona explaining these and other principles about the burning bush. You will also receive 14 page full PDF with all 8 principles, including suggested steps for implementing each one.

* The original source is Exodus Rabbah (2:9). I initially encountered this Midrash in a wonderful book by Louis Rabinowitz called “Torah and Flora.” His remarkable approach inspired me to further explore how to apply the Midrash to our lives. As the book’s blurb reads: Bible lovers, nature lovers, and all those fascinated by the way Jewish tradition makes use of every aspect of God’s creation will be intrigued and delighted by Torah and Flora. Rabbi Rabinowitz, born in Edinburgh in 1906, was Chief Rabbi of South Africa from 1945 to 1961. The profound implication of the bush burning but not being combusted is sourced in various Chassidic teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Thank you to Flowers in Israel for permission to use their images of the blackberry bush.

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