The most famous statement ever uttered in all of history
– The Ten Commandments – begins with an unusual
four-letter word: Anochi. The word means I, referring
to G-d I the Lord Your G-d took you out of Egypt
ani is the common Hebrew pronoun for I.
Explains the Talmud (Shabbat 105a), that Anochi
is an acronym for Ana Nafshi Ketovit Yehovit.
Simply translated: I Myself wrote [these words and]
gave [them to you]. But on closer inspection the actual
translation is far more intriguing: I wrote down My very
Soul and gave it to you. Or more poetically: My Soul is
inscribed in these words that I gave you.
As the opening word of the Ten Commandments, Anochi
clearly must carry profound significance, which sets the
tone and captures the essence of all the commandments and
of the entire Torah. Indeed, the Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak emphasizes
that the entire Torah is encompassed in the Ten Commandments;
the Ten Commandments are all contained in the first two
commandments, which in turn are contained in the first commandment;
and the first commandment is reflected in microcosm in the
first word, Anochi. And since all of existence originates
from and is included in the Torah, which is the blueprint
with which the Cosmic Architect constructed the universe,
we can conclude that Anochi illuminates for us a
fundamental aspect of our entire reality.
Anochi captures the essence and purpose of all existence:
To inscribe and reveal the soul in our every word and in
our every experience.
No small feat. We live in a highly fragmented and compartmentalized
universe. The greatest dichotomy is between body and soul,
matter and spirit. Yet, beneath the fissured surface an
underlying unity connects all the pieces. Initially we seem
all separate from one another – each of us with our
own range of experiences, different exposures and life trajectories.
But when we begin to communicate with each other, we discover
common threads, shared reactions, mutual interests, which
transcend our differences. As diverse as we may be, we learn
that we celebrate similar milestones, smile at similar experiences,
shed the same tears, suffer over the same pains.
Human compartmentalization is acutely and powerfully expressed
in the words of Bertrand Russell. When asked how he, as
a professor of ethics, could behave unethically, Russell
said, “I am also a teacher of mathematics and I am
not a triangle.” Academics often take pride in their
detachment: “I can be completely knowledgeable of
a given topic and it does not affect my behavior.”
Contrast this attitude with Maimonides’ words, that
a true scholar is recognized in his actions: how he talks,
walks, sleeps and does business. A seamless flow between
knowledge and behavior.
Russell was following nothing less that the natural laws
of all beings – “the way of all flesh”
– driven by and justifying fundamental compartmentalizing
between ideals and actions. What you teach is not necessarily
what you do, and vice versa. Your writing does not necessarily
reflect your soul. Maimonides, on the other hand, was following
the lead of Anochi seamless integration between
soul and words.
The opening of the Ten Commandments, Anochi, defines
the essence of life’s purpose, of all our interactions
and of all our words – to manifest the unifying soul
in our fragmented universe.
Had G-d not inscribed His soul into the words, our relationship
with the Divine would remain detached. The same is true
on a human level. If all our interactions were commercial
and mundane, we would never connect, truly connect, with
By inscribing His Spirit in His words, every word, now
imbued with profound spirituality, evoked a unifying tranquility
in all of existence. As the Midrash beautifully describes
the state of the universe when G-d spoke all these words
(Exodus 20:1): No bird twittered, no fowl flew, no ox
lowed, none of the angels stirred a wing, the seraphim did
not say “Holy, Holy,” the sea did not roar,
the creatures spoke not, the whole world was hushed into
breathless silence and the voice went forth: “I am
G-d your G-d.”
[As an aside, Ten Commandments is not an accurate translation
of the original Hebrew “Aseres ha’Dibrot,”
which actually means Ten Words, or Ten Statements. Words
seem so much more comforting than commandments…].
We too can and ought to learn this from of communication:
To inscribe our souls into our words, so that our every
utterance becomes a transparent channel for our souls expression.
True communication is not merely the process of conveying
messages, ideas and feelings. It is about a relationship
– a connection and bond between the parties communicating
with each other.
A writer, a speaker, a composer inscribes – engraves
– his soul in his work. This allows him to reach into
the soul of the reader or listener. Words from the heart
enter the heart. A work that is lacking sincerity and soulfullness
will not resonate.
Think of it this way: During an average day how many of
our conversations are about superficial subjects, spoken
with hollow words? How many of our interactions and transactions
are transitory experiences? How many of our desires and
craving are fleeting and short-lived?
Our mission taking the cue from G-d etching His soul
into the Divine words He imparted to us is to reach deeper
into ourselves, to reveal the soul in every one of our experiences,
even casual or trivial ones.
Imagine how people would react to you if they heard your
spirit singing instead of your body whining; your beckoning
soul instead of your hawking mouthpiece; your gentle words
instead of aggressive demands.
Speak from your heart and soul and you too can bring soothing
stillness to a chaotic and turbulent world.