(“Here I Am”)
Moses was shepherding the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; he guided the sheep far into the wilderness, and he arrived at the Mountain of God, toward Horeb. An angel of God appeared to him in a blaze of fire amid the bush. He saw, and behold! The bush was burning in the fire but the bush was not consumed. Moses thought, “I will turn aside now and look at this great sight—why will the bush be not burned?” God saw that he had turned aside to see; and God called out to him from amid the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” and he replied, “Here I am!”
The episode of the burning bush signifies the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt simply because it is the event that makes Moses into a prophet, completing his personal transition. Moses went from being an orphaned infant (when his mother put him in a basket in the Nile river to save him from Pharaoh’s evil decree against all male Hebrew babies), to a prince (having been adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the palace), to a shepherd (when he becomes aware of his true identity and runs away from Egypt, joining Jethro in Midian and marrying his daughter), to finally becoming the great leader we know—the liberator—at this moment in the wilderness.
Just as he had to go through many transitions and changes in his life before he was ready to fulfill his destiny of freeing the Jewish people from slavery, Moses’ prophecy itself has several stages: (1) He goes out into the wilderness; (2) he sees an angel; (3) he notices that the bush is on fire but is not consumed, and (4) only then does the voice of God make itself heard. And when God speaks to Moses, He has to say his name twice, so that Moses will be sure that what he’s hearing is real, and not just a figment of his imagination.
After all of these stages of increasing awareness, Moses replies, simply, “Hinneni” (“Here I am”), the same word used by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their times of prophecy.
The direct reply may seem startling—after all, God obviously knows that Moses is “there” or He would not have revealed Himself. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: Moses needed to make sure that this was real— he needed to look in the direction of the bush; clarify what was happening; hear his name being called; and affirm that, yes, he was ready to receive the message that would now be sent to him, and would accomplish the task that would soon be set out before him. His whole life has been a slow building-up to this point: where he could acknowledge his own powers and answer God directly, entering into a dialogue with Him that would not only change the course of history, but change the prophet’s own life completely.
Bible commentators point out that the spot on which the burning bush appeared to Moses was actually the same spot on which the Torah would be given many years later—Mt. Sinai. The fact that Moses’ first awakening to his role as a prophet and his most important task in that role happened on the same spot is not accidental. Just as Moses needed to acknowledge his place in this epic story, so will every single one of his followers need to acknowledge themselves at the giving of the Torah and the Revelation that comes along with it.
The letter Heh corresponds to the number five, which is also the number of physical senses we’re given at birth: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. But there’s a sixth sense, too: the one we associate with spirituality, which can only be accomplished on our own, through our own journeys to new levels of awareness and emotional depth. This is the sixth sense that Moses acknowledges at the burning bush, and it is that sense that will help him through all the trials and tribulations of leading a people out of slavery and into freedom.
In order to reach that sixth sense, we learn from the word Hinneni, we must first master the original five senses, getting to know ourselves in our literal, physical states and eventually learning how to get beyond that limited world to the miraculous world that lies above and beyond.
The Heh card comes to you at moments of transition and significant personal growth. You may be moving from one phase of your life into another, reaching a certain landmark age or accomplishment, or simply be in the process of maturation and deepening. You’ve gone as far as you can go according to your limited physical understanding of one phase, and you’re on the brink of developing your own sixth sense.
Take the time to understand where you’ve been and how your whole life has brought you to this point in time and place in the world. Nothing is accidental—after all, the same mountain on which Moses sees the burning bush is the same place where Abraham bound Isaac and where the Torah was given. So don’t take even the slightest details for granted.
Know that by answering the call, by being present in the moment of transition and being able to say “Hinneni”, you’re accomplishing more than you ever have before.