The climax of the Exodus from Egypt and the purpose for which the world was created was the Revelation on Mount Sinai. It was there that G-d gave the Ten Commandments and the Torah to the Jewish People. In front of the assemblage of every single Jewish man, woman and child, and in the presence of the souls of every Jew that would ever be born, G-d descended on Mount Sinai and said, “I am (Anochi) the L-rd your G-d.” These historic events are described in this week’s Torah portion, Yitro.
The Midrash points out a curious fact: The word “anochi” is not Hebrew – it is an Egyptian word.
The Ten Commandments are a condensation of all the guiding principles of the Torah. Of these, the first two commandments, “I am the L-rd your G-d” and “You shall have no other gods,” have an even greater measure of holiness, for they were heard by the Jews directly from G-d Himself, and not through Moses. The first of these two commandments, by virtue of the order in which it was given, has even more significance. Why, then, did G-d choose to express the loftiest and exalted concept, the “I,” the very essence of G-d Himself, in a foreign tongue? Why didn’t G-d use the Hebrew word for I – “Ani” – to begin the most important utterance ever heard?
In order to understand this paradox, we must first examine the purpose of the Revelation on Mount Sinai. The Torah was not given to guard the holiness contained in the Hebrew tongue; for this, no G-dly earth-shaking Revelation would have been necessary. G-d descended on Mount Sinai for one reason only – to enable us to elevate even the lowest and most mundane aspects of our lives and of the physical world, including the Egyptian language, the spoken words of the most corrupt and abominable nation.
Holiness existed before the Revelation, and Jews had long occupied themselves with the Torah. The innovation of the Revelation was the ability to “fuse” holiness with mundane, to imbue physicality with spirituality. Even things that were seemingly far removed from the realm of holiness could now be used to bring G-dliness into the world.
The aim of the Revelation is pointedly emphasized by the use of the Egyptian word “Anochi.” A Jew’s daily life involves elevating the physical and transforming it into a vessel for G-dliness. Prayer and Torah study enable us to reach only a limited level of spirituality; elevating that which is base and seemingly trivial, by adhering to the laws of the Torah, enables us to attain even greater heights of holiness.
When we fulfil G-d’s will by elevating even the “Anochi,” as G-d Himself did, we fulfil the purpose of the Torah and carry out the world’s Divine plan.