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…” But “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 one another.
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.