Parashat Yitro: Midrash

Midrash מִדְרָשׁ

What was happening in the rest of the world at the time of מַתָּן תּוֹרָה (matan Torah, the giving of the Torah)?

אָמַר רַבִּי אַבָּהוּ בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן, כְּשֶׁנָּתַן הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, צִפּוֹר לֹא צָוַח, עוֹף לֹא פָּרַח, שׁוֹר לֹא גָּעָה, אוֹפַנִּים לֹא עָפוּ, שְׂרָפִים לֹא אָמְרוּ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ, הַיָּם לֹא נִזְדַּעֲזָע, הַבְּרִיּוֹת לֹא דִּבְּרוּ, אֶלָּא הָעוֹלָם שׁוֹתֵק וּמַחֲרִישׁ, וְיָצָא הַקּוֹל: "אָנֹכִי ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ."
R. Abahu said in the name of R. Yohanan: When the Holy Blessed One gave the Torah, birds didn’t tweet or fly, oxen didn’t moo, the ofanim (angels) didn’t fly, the serafim (another kind of angel) didn’t say “Holy! Holy!,” the sea didn’t ripple, people didn’t speak—the whole world was deafeningly silent. And the voice went out: “I am God your Lord.”
R. Yohanan suggests that the giving of the Torah didn’t only impact Benei Yisrael. It was a global event that totally changed the entire world! When God spoke, the whole world was listening.
  • What would it mean if even the animals, the sea, and the angels in heaven stopped whatever they were doing to listen when God spoke? What can this teach us about the Torah and its relationship to the world?
  • What does the Torah have to teach that the whole world can learn? What ideas are there in the Torah that can change the world?