Shemot

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. – Exodus 3:2-3

Moses becomes a fugitive after killing an Egyptian overseer who was abusing a Hebrew slave. He takes refuge among the Midianites, marrying one the priest’s seven daughters and starting a family. One day while tending his father-in-law’s flock, Moses arrives at Mt. Horeb, often identified as Mt. Sinai, where he encounters God for the first time. The Divine Presence takes the form of a bush that burns, but is not consumed by the flames.

The burning bush is one of the Bible’s most memorable images. Not surprisingly, there are numerous traditions about the origin and type of plant called seneh. It’s unusual name provides much room for speculation. Seneh is mentioned in only one other biblical verse. While imparting his final blessing on the Israelites just before his death, Moses refers to God as shokhni seneh, “the Presence in the Bush” (Deut. 33:16), a reference to their first direct encounter.

Some modern scholars view seneh as an intentional play on the word Sinai rather than a plant name. Among those who hold that the bush is identifiable among the regional flora, Cassia senna is sometimes suggested. This flowering shrub, native to Egypt and Sudan, is called sene in Arabic. The most popular, if improvable, explanation is that the bush was a rare type of raspberry which takes the botanical name Rubus sanctus from its biblical association. This hearty bramble flowers and then produces fruit that turns black as it ripens.

Fresh raspberries are the delicate fruits of long-lifed thorny plants. Many varieties are suitable for baking. The challenge is keeping them around long enough to get them into a batter or crust.

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