Parashat Yitro: Midrash
Illustration credit: Rivka Tsinman

Midrash מִדְרָשׁ

וְהַ֤ר סִינַי֙ עָשַׁ֣ן כֻּלּ֔וֹ מִ֠פְּנֵ֠י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יָרַ֥ד עָלָ֛יו יהוה בָּאֵ֑שׁ וַיַּ֤עַל עֲשָׁנוֹ֙ כְּעֶ֣שֶׁן הַכִּבְשָׁ֔ן
וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד כׇּל־הָהָ֖ר מְאֹֽד׃
Now Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) was all in smoke, for God had come down to it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled very much.

Why was there so much fire and smoke at Har Sinai? What can we learn from that?

"מִפְּנֵי אֲשֶׁר יָרַד עָלָיו ה' בָּאֵשׁ" -
מַגִּיד שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה אֵשׁ, וּמֵאֵשׁ נָתְנָה, וּבָאֵשׁ נִמְשְׁלָה.
מָה דַּרְכָּהּ שֶׁל אֵשׁ, שֶׁאִם קָרֵב אָדָם אֶצְלָהּ נִכְוֶה, רָחֵק מִמֶּנָּה צוֹנֵן, אֵין לוֹ לָאָדָם אֶלָּא לְהִתְחַמֵּם כְּנֶגֶד אוּרָהּ.
“For God had come down to it in fire” -
The Torah is fire, it was given from fire, and it can be compared to fire.
With fire, if you get too close to it, you get burned, and if you are too far from it, you’re cold. Torah is the same; you have to come close enough to be warmed by its flames.
This midrash suggests that Torah and fire both have the power to keep us warm and sustained. But for both, we have to position ourselves carefully–not too close, and not too far.
  • Have you ever felt too far from something or someone? What did you do to get closer, or what could you have done? If a person feels too far from Torah or God, what are some things they could do?
  • How can Torah keep you warm like fire? What other things is fire good for? Can Torah be like fire in those ways too?