The Medrash Tanchumah 6 says that Torah was given with a fire.
מכאן שנו רבותינו בשלשה דברים נתנה התורה באש ובמים ובמדבר באש שנאמר (שמות יט) והר סיני עשן כלו מפני אשר ירד עליו ה’ באש ויעל עשנו כעשן הכבשן ויחרד כל ההר מאד
What purpose did that serve for Matan Torah? Obviously, it was not merely a physical fire but rather a spiritual one like what Moshe Rabbeinu saw at the Burning Bush which did not consume. What is the inner meaning of the unique nature of a spiritual fire which does not consume in contrast to a physical one?
Rav Yitzchak Issac Chaver explains that physical fire grabs everything in its sight and destroys its matter thereby transforming it into fire. Spiritual fire by which Hashem revealed Himself in the Burning Bush, embraces all matter in its path but yet it doesn’t destroy their existence in order to fuel its burning. As the Ori Veyishee writes (Shmos 54) the burning bush סנה was the first revelation of Torah from סיני (the bush was on Har Sinai) to demonstrate the unique nature of the Torah that the fire of Torah gives life and sustainment yet it doesn’t destroy the other existences which it embraces.
The sefer שב שמעתתא (introduction 30) writes that heavenly fire will not become part of any physical object therefore it does not burn it. This is in contrast to physical fire which embodies all parts of matter, internal and external, and therefore it will destroy it a”k. This revelation was novel for it showed that a spiritual fire is an existence that does not require “food” and fuel to continue to exist. An example of this is Moshe Rabbeinu who ascended Har Sinai for forty days and nights and he did not need any food to stay alive. This teaches that one who acquires Torah and his source of life is the עץ החיים, his existence doesn’t need food to live but rather he has the fire of the Burning Bush inside which originates in a heavenly source.
To understand this in a deeper way we know that there is a relationship between the body and the soul. If the human starves himself and does not eat or drink anything for weeks, he will die. The cells in the body need energy to exist and function properly. Physical food sustains and nurtures life by keeping the body together with the neshamah. The body was decreed to die and perish from the chait of the Aitz Hadaas and therefore it is in constant need to ingest food to fuel energy. Without food it will self – destruct in a process called autophagy since it will be forced to eat itself for sustenance.
Understanding this relationship between body and soul in a deeper spiritual level, the yetzer harah is the fire within man (Kiddushin 81 the yetzer hara is called fire נורא). The gematriah of יצר including the word is אש. The seforim tell us that from the fire and heated cravings of man he creates the fire of his Gehenim. The challenge of Man is to overpower and subdue the fire of the body with the fire of both the neshama אש אוכל אש, and with the fire of Torah which is Hashem’s wisdom given to Am Yisrael.
The fire of the yetzer harah is the destructive agent of Man as the Beis Haleivi explains (Bereishis). Concerning the pleasures of this world, the passionate desire and drive to run after the pleasure and obtain it is far more intense than the small pleasure he experiences when he actually obtains it. (see Rashi Yoma 29 הרהורי עבירה קשו מעבירה that an unfulfilled desire for an illicit sexual union is more harmful to one’s physical well – being than the sin itself). A person can be compared to a lit flame which every minute the flame on the wick decreases the supply of oil. In order to keep the flame alive, one must add oil. Likewise when one fires up his body to attain the pleasure and only receives in return a small amount of pleasure, it is likened to burning the body itself and not replenishing the oil. It is therefore that we find lustful people who age quicker and prematurely than the average, for they place too much fire and energy drain on the body.
In contrast, the individual who disciplines his body subjugating it to Hashem by cleaving to the Aitz Hachayim, does not fall under the regular decree of death which necessitates eating to fuel his body. This individual who harnesses and pulls the reins to slow down his bodily appetites, attains a spiritual apex and is sustained directly from his neshama which is connected to a spiritual fire from above. He is able to receive fuel and energy for living from his neshama bypassing feeding the body. No one is on the madraigah of Moshe who didn’t need any food at all for forty days. However, one must strive to do his utmost to strive for a life of spirituality led by the yetzer tov. The Maharsha writes (Eruvin 65) therefore we find Talmidei Chachamim that have weak bodies since the little food that they eat doesn’t go to nourish their bodies.
The beracha of Yosef given by Moshe Rabbeinu is the only one where the word סנה is mentioned ורצון שוכני סנה (Devarim 33,16). Rashi explains that the beracha states that Yosef’s land should be blessed with the same desire that Hashem appeared to Moshe at the Burning Bush. Why did Moshe use the comparison of a burning bush to bentch Yosef? We also find another Yosef – סנה connection in that he married אסנת the daughter of Dina conceived from Shechem. Chazal say that Yaakov chased her from his house and placed her under סנה therefore she was called אסנת. Furthermore, we find another link of Yosef to סנה because he was supposed to live 120 years gematriah הסנה but ten years were subtracted from his total because he heard ten times his father being called “your master”, five from Yehudah and five from the translator and he did not protest.
The explanation to this connection is that Yosef lived his life parallel to the heavenly fire of the Burning Bush that Moshe Rabbeinu witnessed. His fire of neshama conquered the burning fire of his Yetzer Harah especially in the test of Potifar’s wife’s attempt to seduce him. When we put fire and water together the fire becomes extinguished. Yet the eternal inferno of Yosef’s neshamah acquired from this particular test was able to push away and split an entire sea of water. As Chazal say when the sea saw the coffin of Yosef, it split its waters הים ראה וינס. A large physical inferno can evaporate water with its intense heat. However Yosef’s fire was that of the סנה which doesn’t destroy and evaporate. Rather its nature is to embrace, enlighten, and facilitates a heavenly vision of זה אלי ואנוהו. Including the three words, this spectacular vision of Hashem is gematriah הסנה.
The Torah was given through fire. It is called אש דת (Devarim 33,2). The Torah itself was written with black fire on white fire ( Medrash Tanchumah Bereishis). We can explain this Chazal according to what we said above. The Maharal Gur Aryeh (Devarim 33,2) and Tiferes Yisrael 20 writes that black fire conveys the clarity of the Torah since black is the boldest color. The Sfas Emes (Shevuos תרמ”א) writes that the black is written on white fire which is the purity of the heart. With the combination of both interpretations we can say the following pshat. One attains the state of purity of the heart when the spiritual fire (white) controls the fire of his yeter harah which craves Olam Hazeh. Once he has self – control and achieved purity of heart, he will attain the clarity of the black fire which engraves the words of Torah in one’s heart in the most deepest way.
אש דת is gematria שבת with its three letters. The reason is because Shabbos brings down the spiritual fire which doesn’t consume but rather embraces, warms and enlightens Am Yisrael. Therefore on Shabbos the Torah prohibits lighting a fire לא תבערו אש בכל מושבותיכם ביום השבת. The Torah doesn’t mention the melachah of fire merely to give an example of a melachah. The prohibition of not to kindle a fire on Shabbos presents a greater encompassing understanding and awareness of kedushas Shabbos. One must realize that the Shabbos is enveloped with the spiritual fire of the neshamah Yesairah in contrast to earthly physical fire. Shabbos is מעין עולם הבא which is eternal, therefore the neshama yesairah presents itself as a fire that whatever it touches stays intact and does not become destroyed. On Motzei Shabbos we are commanded to make havdala with a physical fire in order to realize that the state of Shabbos in which we were gifted with the spiritual fire of the neshama is now departing and we must once again muster together our strength and resolve to fight the physical fire of the yetzer harah, יצר gematriah אש, and subjugate it to the light of Shabbos.