This Shabbat, we stand again at Mount Sinai awaiting revelation. I find hope in the notion that we return year after year to the same words of Torah to unearth new meaning and to seek out pathways to add holiness to our lives as we grow and change.

Jerusalem-based poet and liturgist, Alden Solovy, offers a powerful teaching on the very first word of the Ten Commandments, “Anochi,” which we will read tomorrow in Parashat Yitro.

“The Ten Commandments begin with a first-person personal pronoun:

Anochi Adonai Elohecha, “I am Adonai your God” (Exodus 20:2).

All of Torah hinges on knowing and recognizing that Adonai is God.

Adam is the first to use the word anochi. When God asks in the Garden of Eden, “Where are you?” Adam answers, “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:9-10). Cain employs anochi when answering God: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (4:9). God uses this personal pronoun in telling Noah, “I will pour rain upon the earth for forty days and nights” (7:4). When Abraham argues with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah, he uses anochi, saying, “I am dust and ashes” (18:27). Both God and Moses refer to themselves with anochi during their encounter at the Burning Bush (Exodus 2:6, 3:11).

Anochi is one of two Hebrew first-person personal pronouns, the other being ani. Both of their dictionary definitions are remarkably similar. They are pure synonyms until the Rabbis begin to wonder if there is a distinction. Malbim and Shadal say that anochi has an added emphasis of ‘I and not others.’ Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch goes further, saying that anochi proclaims the speaker as intimately near to the one addressed. Anochi comprehends, bears, and keeps the one addressed. From anochi the one addressed gets personal existence and standing.

(These Words: Poetic Midrash on the Language of Torah, p.12)

This Shabbat, may the ancient words of our tradition open anew.

In our relationships with the Divine and one another,

may we be held and blessed on our journeys.

Voices of Torah from our Shaare Torah Community

In these winter weeks, we are blessed to learn Torah from different members of our community. Last Shabbat, Roy Ringel opened our hearts as our ancestors left Egypt and stepped into the sea. Tomorrow, Shoshana Kronfeld will offer words of Torah as we mark the first yahrtzeit of her father, Geoffrey Withnell, of blessed memory. Next Shabbat, we will celebrate the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School class of 2024, who will graduate the following day, and seniors, Ella Waldman and Kaylah Goldrich, will share a D’var Torah. Our weekly D’var Torah takes place before the Torah reading, at about 10:30 am. Join us for nourishing Torah and stay for lunch!

artwork: Mount Sinai 2 by Shully Ratzon