This Shabbat we begin reading the second book of the Torah, which begins with the story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The Torah tell us how an angel of G-d appeared to Moses in the form of a thorn bush which was burning. When Moses saw the bush he was intrigued by the fact that although the bush was burning it was not becoming consumed by the fire. At that point, G-d called to Moses and says “Do not come closer, remove your shoes from your feet, for the place upon which you stand is holy ground.” G-d then proceeds to tell Moses that he would like to choose him to be the redeemer of the Jews from Egypt.
The grandson of the Baal Shem Tov called the Degel Machane Efrayim gives the following fascinating interpretation to the meaning of the story of the burning bush.
A thorn bush represents the negativity that exist both within and from without, that prick us and disturb us. Moses was troubled by the fact that it seems that we can never fully get rid of these challenges. As soon as we finish with one ordeal the next challenge sets in and therefore Moses asks, “Why is the thorn bush not being consumed? Why can’t we live a peaceful life without all these challenges that seem to disturb our relationship to G-d?
To this G-d responds, “Remove your shoes from your feet, for the place upon which you stand is holy ground. You, Moses are making a fundamental mistake. You believe that holiness is achieved by service of G-d free of disruption, however, the place where you stand, watching the burning bush provides the meaning of holiness. True holiness is achieved when although there are thorns and challenges, we bring light into the darkness and elevate the negativity.
It might very well be a harder path, however through it, one refines himself and thereby brings enduring spirituality and holiness into his life.