And the Bush Was Not Consumed
BY AARON RAZEL
Many years ago, I was walking on Beit HaKerem Street in Jerusalem with my wife Efrat. We walked by two elderly women who were sitting together on a bench. Suddenly, I noticed something and said to Efrat, “I need to stop for a moment.” I walked back a few steps, and saw a large number with five digits on one of the women’s arms: 26801.
While I wondered and stared, I noticed that the other woman also had a number on her arm. We turned to them and began to talk. “Shabbat Shalom… we just saw, we were intrigued… would it be ok to ask?” And then I realized that the inverted numbers on their folded arms were consecutive numbers. The number on the second woman’s arm was 26802.
It means that in Auschwitz, when they were on the selection line, when they got off the train – then, too, they stood together, one behind the other. I felt goosebumps.
How is it possible to explain the significance of this image?
Then, two young girls, at the entrance of a death camp, smoke. Today, a bench in Jerusalem, Shabbat, peace. Still together, even now.
Perhaps we saw a little bit of the bush that burned, but was not consumed…
After I composed a song to the verse הַסְּנֶה בֹּעֵר בָּאֵשׁ וְהַסְּנֶה אֵינֶנּוּ אֻכָּל, “The bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed” (Shemot 3:2), the verse which represents the eternity of Am Yisrael but also hints to the burning and long exile that our nation would have to experience before the redeemer comes – my Savta Fanny would say to me:
“You sing ‘the bush was not consumed’. But I was one of the few who survived, out of so many. Am I allowed to say that the bush was consumed, a little bit?”
I said to her, “I’m not going to argue with you, Savta.”
At that time, my grandmother had eleven grandchildren; the great-grandchildren had not yet arrived.
Eighteen years later, we celebrated her 95th birthday. More than forty great-grandchildren sat at her feet, and we all were there, surrounding her. She was weak at that point, wheelchair-bound, but sharper than ever. She motioned to me with her finger to come over to her.
I went closer and bent my head to hear her. She whispered to me: “Do you remember when I said that the bush was a little bit consumed? I have something important to tell you. I was wrong. I want to take it back. The bush burned, but it was not consumed!”
Aaron Razel is a writer, composer and artist. His twelve albums include songs like “Ha’Sneh Bo’er” (The Burning Bush) and “Zman Ha’Geulah” (The Time of Redemption) that have become part of the broader cultural landscape of Israel. He lives in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem with his wife and children. This essay was originally published in Hebrew in his book “HaChayim k’Niggun” (Life as a Niggun).