Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The Aseret HaDibrot, which as we know were given on Shavuot, begin with the proclamation “Anochi,” I am Hashem your G-d. The Aish Kodesh, a little more than ten years before he was to become the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, gave a moving speech about the connection between this Anochi of Hashem and the Ani, the little I of every individual Jew. The stirring conclusion to this speech, made that much more moving by the Rebbe’s eventual fate, was that the gap between the supernal and material can be bridged by acts of faith embodying mesirat nefesh, supreme self-sacrifice. However, our intent in the spirit of the chag of Shavuot is to examine how he understands these first words spoken by the Divine Glory to all of Israel on this night a few thousand years before the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto.

At Matan Torah, Hashem addresses the assembled individuals, the “I”s of Israel, with the words “Anochi Hashem elokecha,” in the singular form, not elokechem – I am Hashem, I transcend everything that you are and that you can comprehend, but I am to you an individual and personal G-d. I am a big “I” to your little “I,” and I took you personally out of Mitzrayim. The Aish Kodesh says that anybody who fails to connect this G-dliness of Hashem to himself personally has failed to connect to his own spiritual source and cannot fulfill the edict decreed by the Divine Glory.


The Rebbe points out several other times, prior to Matan Torah, where we see the word Anochi used, including by Yaakov Avinu after his dream about the ladder on Har HaBayit. But here on Har Sinai, Hashem immediately connects His Name with Mitzrayim – He revealed Himself already there, where His power was evident to Israel and also to Mitzrayim. This is not the first time we are meeting our G-d; we know Him already from the miracles and wonders that accompanied our rescue from Egyptian bondage. But here at Har Sinai the revelation is personal: Hashem is G-d but He is G-d to each and every one of us personally and individually, and it is to each of us that He gives the Torah.

This mechanism is also alluded to every day when we make the bracha on the Torah and accept it anew upon awakening. First we say, “He teaches Torah to His people, Israel,” and afterwards we say, “He gives the Torah.” First he spoke to Moshe (and Israel, until we asked Him to stop), then He gave the Torah to Moshe. When Hashem spoke to us, when He speaks to us every day if only we will listen – then Hashem is also giving of Himself an aspect appropriate to our own selves and our level of understanding the Torah. Anybody who has means, who possesses things, can bestow those things on another. It can be a business transaction or even an unpleasant burden “given” to a subordinate. But Hashem first approaches us – on Har Sinai, and every morning – with His words, giving us life and wisdom to sustain us for another day or another few millennia as the situation requires.

Somewhere between Har Sinai and the Warsaw Ghetto lived R’ David ben Yehuda HaChassid, for hundreds of years nearly forgotten by posterity, as his manuscripts rarely lend themselves to mass copying by scribes and were often difficult and esoteric. Recent scholarship has identified him convincingly as the grandson of the Ramban. One such almost lost manuscript is a collection of glosses on the siddur with notes on every holiday, called Or Zarua. This text was composed around the year 1300 in Castillo, Spain, although it belies an intriguing influence of Ashkenazi rituals. It is also one of the earliest complete commentaries on the siddur, following on the codification of the Ashkenazi prayers by Yehuda HaChassid (no relation) about a hundred years earlier.

R’ David opens his remarks on Shavuot by examining the word Anochi that he identifies with the essence of truth – the secret code revealing His G-dliness, the nexus of His inscrutable justice. In this word we find the unity of Him and His name as it is also revealed in stages through the creation of the universe. It is followed by “Hashem your G-d,” because this too is the validation, the sealing of ultimate truth in the connection between G-d and His people. He is not only some abstract G-d – He is the G-d of Israel, and through Israel His G-dliness is made manifest in the physical world. He is One and He establishes His covenant with one nation who are unique and singular as He is. His G-dliness becomes evident through the prism of history and He is revealed through His redemption, first of Israel and eventually of all mankind.

The Torah brings light and life to all that receive it. First it shines and reflects off Moshe whose face radiated light after he returned from Har Sinai. But every single Jew who has received the Torah in a chain from Moshe also receives some of that light, as is appropriate to the level of his or her learning, and the light reflects off every Jew to illuminate the whole world. The Torah also brings freedom, as we already noted, and life itself, giving meaning to Creation and validating the ongoing preservation of species and planets. All of this we celebrate receiving on Shavuot, and above all strive to be fitting vessels to broadcast into the world its light and life.


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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He writes chiefly about Jewish art and mysticism. His most recent poem is called “Great Floods Cannot Extinguish the Love.” It can be read at He can be reached by email at