The Ten Commandments are in many ways the highlight of the entire Torah. But the Midrash1 makes a surprising statement: it says that the first word of the Ten Commandments is in the Egyptian language. What does this mean?

The Ten Commandments are the summary of the entire Torah. They were heard from G‑d by the entire Jewish people. The first Command, "I am G‑d, your G‑d, who took you out of the Land of Egypt" is the basic statement of our special relationship with the Infinite. The first word, Anokhi, means, "I am." G‑d is speaking of Himself, and communicating with us.

The Midrash is intriguing. It says this first word Anokhi is Egyptian, because G‑d wanted to speak with us in the language we had learnt while we were in Egypt. This tells us something about the nature of Torah and of being a Jew. G‑d does not want to relate to us only on the sacred, spiritual level of our lives, represented by Hebrew, the holy language. He wants to reach the earthly "Egyptian" dimension as well.

We should not try to pretend that we do not have this lower aspect. Rather, we should try to control it, then elevate it and ultimately transform it into something holy.

G‑d helps us in this task: there are Jewish teachings about every aspect of life, including the most basic. The mitzvot (commandments) connect us to G‑d on every level of our being. For this reason Anokhi, the first word of the Ten Commandments, is in Egyptian: it reaches down to the "Egyptian" person inside us and transforms him or her into a Jew. 2

Meeting Point

The Sages tell us that every Jewish soul ever to be born was present at the giving of the Torah. This includes every single person who would ever become a true proselyte to Judaism. It was a moment of meeting of the entire Jewish people together, and a meeting of the Jewish people with G‑d.

The recognition of G‑d which was experienced at Sinai remains in the heart of every Jew, and is the spark of his or her Jewish identity.

Further, during his forty days and nights on Mount Sinai the entire Torah was revealed to Moses. The Sages tell us that "Every new idea which would ever be suggested by a scholar in discussion with his teacher - was told to Moses at Sinai".

Sinai was therefore the ultimate meeting point of G‑d, the entire Jewish people and the Torah.