In modern society, curiosity is viewed as a negative trait, as the saying goes, “curiosity kills the cat;” It evokes the image of Curious George, the troublemaking monkey. However the trait of curiosity has the potential to bring a person close to Hashem, as we see in this week’s Torah portion of Shemos, as the Ralbag relates by the incident of Moshe and the Burning Bush.
The Torah states, “An angel of Hashem appeared to him in a flame of fire from within the thorn bush, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed. So, Moshe said, ‘Let me turn now and see this great spectacle why does the thorn bush not burn up?’ Hashem saw that he had turned to see, and G-D called to him from within the thorn bush, and He said, ‘Moshe, Moshe!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’” (Shemos 3:2-4)!
The Toaliyos HaRalbag learns from this– “that it is befitting for a person to put in effort into investigating as much as possible the reason behind things that one comes across, and don’t shorten [the investigation]. In this way one will figure out the wisdom of Hashem by as much as possible focusing on what one comes across and the manner of how it works, and this will be a cause to reach towards Hashem as much as one can. This is because we achieve from Hashem according to what is possible for us to achieve courtesy of the means that are the results of what we attain from Him, and then put them into order, and direct them. We see this from Moshe Rabbeinu, immediately when he saw this strange concept of a bush set a flame, but the bush was not burning. This actually showed that this was how he always acted, meaning that he already had a drive to know as much as possible the reasoning behind things. In this way [Moshe] was able to reach such a height as he reached.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The Ralbag is teaching us that it is very healthy to be inquisitive and always investigating the world around us. This is the means to be able to know Hashem, understand how He works, and figure out how to grow close to Him. That is exactly what Moshe did when he eyed the “Burning Bush;” he didn’t simply take note of something interesting and continue walking. He stopped to observe what was really going on, tried to make sense of it, and then Hashem started talking to Him. This is a clear proof to the lesson that the Ralbag says the Torah is trying to teach us.
But why did the Ralbag say that this was how Moshe always was, as if to say that if Moshe wasn’t always curious and investigative then he would not have stopped to look at the amazing sight in front of his eyes? Wasn’t it quite unimaginable? Wouldn’t anyone have done a doubletake and stared in total amazement at such a miracle, a bush on fire but clearly not being consumed? Why did it require Moshe to have been so ‘inquisitive’ in order to have noticed and investigate such an occurrence?
It would seem that there are people who would possibly make a point of seeing something amazing and simply walking past, go about their business without putting too much thought into what they had seen. These people don’t probe, they don’t think with too much depth or imagination, and it’s hard for them to really expand their mind. Even something so amazing, unearthly, and supernatural as this would not phase them. However, because Moshe Rabbeinu already had a knack for being curious and investigative, he therefore had his eyes open to try to find something new and unique, to probe and get to the bottom of it, to try to figure out how and why it was working that way. This searching and thinking, and obviously appreciating the profundity of what was in front of him, is what made Moshe come to be so close to Hashem, and to reach heights that no other human being has ever attained in their physical lifetime.
(I have to assume this type of curiosity and inquisitiveness only works to get close to Hashem if one’s attitude is to want to have a relationship with Hashem. A typical atheist scientist, for example, no matter how curious and investigative he or she is, will never find Hashem with their anti-G-D attitude. Unless they are open to change that attitude).