I once heard a story about a young yeshiva student who brought his non-Jewish childhood friend into his yeshiva’s large Study Hall. The look on the non-Jew’s face was one of shock as he gawked at the hundreds of young men with large books open in front of them, arguing adamantly and waving their hands around vigorously.

"Are they planning a coup against the government?" the non-Jew asked.

"No, they’re trying to figure out what was taught at Mt. Sinai over 3,000 years ago," answered the yeshiva student.

"After all this time, they still haven’t figured it out?" he asked in astonishment.

...the conversation that began at Mt. Sinai has not come to an end.

It is true; the conversation that began at Mt. Sinai has not come to an end. In fact, our dialogue with Him through the Torah expands over time. A facet of the divinity of the Torah is its endless depth, which provides each one of us an opportunity to build a personal relationship with G‑d through the text.

The Sages spoke frequently about deeper levels of meaning contained in the Torah. In the following statement, a bold assumption is being made: a word in the Torah can sometimes act as an acronym, revealing a deeper embedded layer of meaning.

The great sage Rabbi Yochanan discusses the textual source for this profound idea. "From where do we know that words in the Torah are also acronyms?" Rabbi Yochanan himself answered, "From Anochi, (Hebrew for ‘I’, which is the first word of the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1, Deut. 5:6)) which stands for "ana nafshi kativat yehavit/I myself wrote it and gave it". (Shabbat 105A)

Rabbi Yehuda Lowe, the esteemed Kabbalist and philosopher better known as the Maharal of Prague, addresses this source in his classic work Tiferet Yisrael, and answers two fundamental questions about the Talmudic statement. First, what is significant about the word anochi that it acts as the paradigm for this principle? Second, what is the significance of the message in the encoded acronym: "I myself wrote it and gave it"?

The beginning teaches about the true identity of the matter, since encoded in the beginning is the complete matter, even though it is still in potential, and has not yet become actualized. (Tiferet Yisrael, Chapter 37)

In order to understand the Maharal’s cryptic insight, let’s first put the word 'anochi' in its proper context. As mentioned above, it is the first word of the Ten Commandments. But it is much more than that. It was also the first word uttered to the Nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. Up until this point in history, only a small number of righteous individuals experienced prophecy, but never before, and not since, has G‑d revealed Himself to an entire nation. 'Anochi' is the point of initial contact between G‑d and Israel.

'Anochi' is the point of initial contact between G‑d and Israel.

Amidst this monumental moment, the Maharal explains that the entirety of the Torah was revealed. However, it was revealed in potential only. This is analogous to the moment of conception of a child. All that exists in that moment is a glob of cells and proteins; however, the entire makeup of that child is latent. His sex, eye color, height, etc., are all contained in that small drop. Only through time will the latent potential become actualized. But in that initial moment, the complete physical map of that the person is revealed.

So, too, with the Torah. That initial moment of revelation at Sinai contained the entire Torah, even though it had not yet come into fruition. This is the point where our dialogue with G‑d began, and to this day the Jewish people continue that discussion with G‑d through Torah learning.

That is exactly the point of 'anochi': I myself wrote it and gave it. The Maharal explains that G‑d himself crafted the Torah and placed His essence inside it. When one sits down to learn Torah, he is not reading an ancient text; he is accessing G‑d’s essence in the most intimate way humanly possible. The uniqueness of learning Torah is that we step into a relationship with our Creator, into a dialog that knows no parallel in this world.

This is what we are celebrating on Shavuot; our relationship with G‑d’s Torah allows us to continue to actualize that moment of infinite potential on Mt Sinai over three thousand years ago. We are not marking an event trapped in the past, but celebrating the constant revelation of Torah. Through our involvement and innovation we enter into this eternal dialogue and forge a unique personal relationship with our Creator.

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