The White Fire and Black Fire of Bibliodrama

Midrash is often a quite literal commentary on the Torah, but it can also be fanciful.  An example of this would be a Midrash about creation where “all the letters of the aleph-bet clamored and begged, “Create the world through me!”[i]  In His act of creation, God brings forth order out of chaos by speaking, and this fanciful Midrash expands on what is found in Genesis where the Word is called on to “found and speak the world.”[ii]  For example, in Genesis verse 9, we find “Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and the dry land appeared”; and it was so.”  The Gospel of John begins with the sentence “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

This Word of God is often referred to as “fire.” For example, referring to Mount Sinai, Deuteronomy 33:2 we see that “From His right hand came a fiery law for them.”  And from Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord.” The ancient rabbis believed that the Torah that the Holy One gave to Moses was given to him from white fire inscribed by black fire. It was fire, mixed with fire, hewn from fire and given by fire.[iii] The black fire refers to the printed letters, the white fire to the spaces between and around them. At the origins of speech, this white space was fire, mingled with the black fire of letters; “the Law that God gave to Moses was written in black fire on white fire.”[iv] Both fires are to be read and interpreted.  The black fire refers to what the Torah says, the white fire refers to what the Torah means.

An underlying precept of Midrash, particularly Rabbinic Midrash, is that nothing in the Bible is superfluous. If things are repeated or left out, if there are gaps and ambiguities, if there are what appear to be needless expressions, these all exist for a reason.  Additionally, everything in the Bible is interrelated somehow. It has been suggested, therefore, that the white fire that is interspersed between the letters of black fire should also be counted as letters.[v]

In Bibliodrama, we begin with the black fire.  The interpretation of the white fire is co-created, by the group, with the assistance of the Bibliodrama facilitator.  Bibliodrama is an exegesis of the “letters” of the white fire and is a Midrash that brings the black and white fire into the experiences of everyday life.


[i] Sherman, The Outstretched Arm I, Vol. 2, Issue 2., Fall 1999/5760

[ii] Rojtman, Black fire on White Fire; An Essay on Jewish Hermeneutics, from Midrash to Kabblah. University of California Press, 1998, pg. 9.

[iii] Verman, The Torah as Devine Fire, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2007.

[iv] Rojtman, pg. 3.

[v] R. Margoliot, Hamikra Vehamesorah (Jerusalem, 1964) p. 46.