In commenting on the words, “I am — Anochi — the L‑rd your G‑d...,” the opening words of the Ten Commandments, the Midrash states: “The word ‘Anochi’ is of Egyptian origin.”
The Ten Commandments encompass the entire Torah, for which reason they include all the mitzvos — as explained in the Azharos of R. Sadya Gaon. This also explains why the Ten Commandments contain 620 letters — corresponding to the 613 commandments of Torah origin and the seven commandments of Rabbinic origin.
Within the Ten Commandments itself, the first two commandments are of an even more general nature: the First Commandment, “Anochi,”includes all the positive commandments, while the Second Commandment, “You shall not have before you...” contains all the prohibitory commandments. Because of their importance, the Jewishpeople heard these two commandments from G‑d Himself.
With regard to these commandments themselves, the commandment “Anochi” precedes “You shall not have before you...” — a precedence not only in physical order, but a qualitative precedence as well, to signify its loftier rank.
This is also understood from the commandments’ content: The Second Commandment — “You shall have no other gods before Me” — speaks of a situation where the possibility exists for a person to — G‑d forbid — entertain a thought about “having another god.” The First Commandment of Anochi — “I am the L‑rd your G‑d Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” — leaves no room for any untoward thought. As such, the concept of “other gods” need not be forewarned.
Being the first word of the First Commandment itself, Anochi encompasses the entire Torah. Moreover, Anochi — “I am”— refers to G‑d’s very Essence, “something that cannot be alluded to by any name or intimation.”
How is it then possible for the word Anochi to be of Egyptian origin? How can it possibly be that the degrees of manifest G‑dliness that can be alluded to by names — “L‑rd — Havayah” and “G‑d — Elokecha” — are of the Holy Tongue, while Anochi, the word that denotes G‑d’s Essence, is of Egyptian origin?
The question becomes even greater when one bears in mind that the “seventy languages of mankind” are divided into various categories by quality and rank, with Egyptian being of the lowest order, since Egypt was the “abomination of the earth.” How then can it be that when the Torah required a word to express G‑d’s Essence, the Torah used an Egyptian word?!
G‑d desired that beginning with the first word He uttered at Matan Torah, there immediately be known the purpose of His giving the Torah. He accomplished this by using the word Anochi:
The revelation of Anochi, of G‑d’s Essence, was actually for the sake of the Egyptian tongue. That is to say, the ultimate intent of Matan Torah was to draw down holiness not only into the Holy Tongue, but into the other languages as well, even into Egyptian.
If the Divine intent had been merely todraw down holiness within an already Holy Tongue and sacred language, it wouldn’t have been necessary to utilize the awesome capacity that G‑d revealed and with which we were endowed at Matan Torah. The purpose of Matan Torah is that the holiness of the Divine Essence descend even within the domain of the “seventy languages,” even within the Egyptian language.
The same is true in terms of man’s service as he seeks to connect with G‑d: The revelation of Anochi can be obtained and acquired specifically through the “Egyptian tongue”:
As long as one does not descend to “Egypt” and merely occupies himself with Torah and prayer (i.e., the Holy Tongue) for his own purpose, then no matter how lofty this service may be, one can only attain that limited level of Divine revelation that is symbolized by G‑d’s “Names.”
By serving G‑d only in a rational manner, we are only capable of connecting and receiving from “Elokecha,” the Divine Name Elokim, which refers to G‑dliness that is contracted within intellect and nature. By serving G‑d in a supra-rational manner, we are capable of connecting and receiving from “Havayah,” G‑d’s Ineffable Name, where past, present and future are as one.
G‑d’s Essence, however, cannot be obtained through this form of service, for even the loftiest levels are not suitable vessels for G‑d’s Essence. It is specifically through our service in the lowest levels, working and refining the physical world, down to and including the “Egyptian language,” that we are capable of receiving from and connecting to Anochi. For as the verse states regarding the Holy Temple: “Behold, the Heavens and the Heavens of Heavens cannot contain You, and yet this [physical] house can!”
The lesson is clear: We cannot make do by only involving ourselves in personal matters of holiness; we must occupy ourselves in sanctifying the world as well, transforming the world into a receptacle for G‑dliness.
So, too, with regard to our personal spiritual lives: Merely occupying ourselves with Torah study, prayer and the performance of mitzvos does not suffice. We must know G‑d “in all our ways,” i.e., that also those permissible worldly matters — those things on the level of “Egypt” — with which we occupy ourselves, should similarly be connected to G‑d.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 892-894.