Anochi. Meaning “I.” First word our Creator says to us in those big Ten Commandments that we are given. Anochi. Not a Hebrew word, but an Egyptian one.

How cool is that? Egyptian! And no, I don’t mean because it is foreign and unique. It’s cool because He spoke to us in the language we had been listening to for the last 200 years. The language we were familiar with. The one we would respond to. The one we would get.

We had just left slavery. We were free people. But freedom is not automatic. It is something that needs to be learned, integrated and experienced. And if you have never been free, you may not know how to do it.

If you have never been free, you may not know how to do itSo when it came time for us to receive the Torah, to commit to this marriage with the One who chose us as His people, He began the conversation in the way we would feel most comfortable. He spoke to us in the language of our slavery, even though we were struggling to learn how to be free.

On so many levels, I think, this is the key to healthy and happy relationships. We need to speak the same language. We need to speak in a way that our words will penetrate and be understood and felt. We often are so eager to speak that we don’t bother figuring out if anyone is interested or ready to listen.

When I teach my class on communication, which I title “Did You Hear What I Meant to Say?” I always start by asking the audience a question: Is a speaker a passive or active role? Everyone responds that it is active. Then I ask if a listener is a passive or active role. Most respond that it is passive. Wrong. Oh so wrong. A listener is an incredibly active role. The listener, in many ways, is more active than the speaker.

One can speak without actively connecting or relating to anyone. But if you are really listening, it requires intense focus and concentration, and you cannot listen alone. A speaker can have a one-way conversation. A listener cannot. By definition, listening means that someone else is being heard.

We could not receive the Ten Commandments immediately upon leaving Egypt. Because to truly receive, one first must become a receptacle, and that takes work, especially for a nation of slaves that had had little time for self-reflection. So for 49 days we prepared to receive the Torah. Each day we strove to refine a different aspect of our emotional characteristics. Each day we worked on developing and improving ourselves.

To truly receive, one first must become a receptacleAnd then, when we had done that work from the inside out, and had made ourselves vessels, He began his communication. And how did He ensure that we were ready and eager to listen? His first word was Egyptian. He acknowledged where we were coming from; He acknowledged what we had been through, and He began with the word that we would most relate to.

As we prepare ourselves to receive the Torah once again this Shavuot, let’s look deep inside and see if there is space to receive what He is waiting to give. Now is the time to let go of what holds us back, and honestly assess what we can improve and fix. There is no question that He is speaking to us, always. We just need to figure out if we are listening. And once we are, we can be sure He will be speaking our language.