Burning The Bush

burning bush 1.jpg

Do not try this at home. Or anywhere.

We burned a bush in Third Grade today. As in, the Burning Bush. My goal was to make the Torah story more personal, memorable. Goal met. My goal was not to make the entire school wonder if the building was on fire, or to make our police office hunt me down, but that happened, too.

This is not a How To post. I can’t recommend anyone burn stuff at school because the chance of disaster is pretty darn high. So, this is a What I Did post. I’d been wanting to burn a bush for years, and this time, I actually asked permission.

A special guest (my husband) came to read the story from the Torah. He read in Hebrew and paraphrased in English, and then I showed a five minute clip from Prince of Egypt. We heard and saw how the bush was used as an attention-getting device for Moses to notice, to listen to, to obey, and how the bush “was not consumed.”
The fire was supernatural, not natural; holy, not ordinary.
To illustrate the difference, we went outside and burned a bush.

We learned:
1) God would not have had much time to talk to Moses because our bush was gone in 60 seconds,
2) a real bush is “consumed” like mad, and
3) the building is well-ventilated: it sucks smoke into itself and distributes it throughout the classrooms, thereby triggering widespread concern.

The bush story is the pivotal point where Moses goes from loser to Leader. The bush is the vehicle by which God dictates the expectations Moses accepts. I’m hoping the third graders learned that, too.

I got the idea when the calendar combined two things: the Jewish liturgical year and a nearby Christmas tree dump. My drive to synagogue takes me past a Metro drop-off site for used Christmas trees, some of which are small enough to jam into my hatchback. I always take a few trees to throw in the backyard to use as winter wildlife brush piles, but this time I took a tiny one to school, just in case my Director said yes. I didn’t ask till weeks after the right parsha (Shemot), but it’s never too late to re-enact the burning bush.

By the way, I did not say the words “Christmas tree” in class, and thankfully, no students noticed any similarity of shape and species. It was a bush.

Safety: Bush or tree, our desiccated, pitch-rich conifer burned so hot it melted my tree stand, and so high it looked more like the pillar of fire from a different parasha (B’Shallach). To my credit, we had buckets of water on hand as per campfire safety rules, and I drenched the consumed skeleton before resuming class.

I’m glad we did it, grateful it worked, but I doubt I’ll dare try it again.





6 responses to “Burning The Bush

  1. Kathy Fields

    The class will remember that forever!

  2. I wish I’d been there. 🙂

  3. bricktales

    That’s pretty funny, Joanna. Sounds like it was a great demo. I’m a science coach at my kids’ school (in my non-LEGO life I’m a chemist, and am part of a volunteer program), but we always have to come up with “kitchen chemistry” demonstrations. Maybe I should live on the edge more and blow something up. I might never be invited back, but the third graders would sure remember it.

    I loved Prince of Egypt, particularly the heiroglypics dream sequence. I also was moved by the moment where we see Pharoah’s son standing at the bottom of the picture of the Egyptians drowning the Hebrew children, making a powerful point linking Pharoah’s genocidal oppression to the tenth plague. Fairly deep stuff for a mass-market animated movie.

    BTW, if you filmed this, you could also post it as a PSA about the fire danger of dried out Christmas trees.


    • Bruce!
      Kitchen chemistry is my favorite kind. (My only kind, really.)
      Next time we watch Prince of Egypt for real, I’ll pay attention to the scene you mention.
      Did you ever see the Mythbusters episode where they examine the myth of light-induced Christmas tree fires? When they finally get the kiln-dried tree to catch fire . . . that’s what I thought of while watching ours blaze. Amazing flame height from just one little tree. YIKES.