To Dedicate Please Contact Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
And He said to Moshe I, your father-in-law Yisro have come to you, with your wife and her two sons with her. (Shemos 18:6)
I am Hashem, your God, who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. (Shemos 20:2)
The Malbim in his sefer HaCarmel notes that Biblical Hebrew contains two words that are both translated as I. They are anochi and ani. Indeed the Targum translates both these words the same as anah. Nevertheless, the Malbim explains that each word has a different connotation. The word anochi connotes a strong emphasis on the individual and de-emphasizes the action of the individual. The word ani is the opposite. This word de-emphasizes the individual and places strong emphasis on the action of the individual. The Malbim illustrates this difference with an example. If one would like to say in Hebrew I am sitting one can say either anochi yoshaiv or ani yoshaiv. However there is a difference. If one says anochi yoshaiv then this connotes a strong emphasis on the I. In this case the statement may be interpreted as, I am the one who is sitting and not someone else. However if one were to say ani yoshaiv, then this would emphasize the action and de-emphasize the individual. In our example the statement may be interpreted as, I am sitting and not standing.
Support for the Malbim may be evinced by noting that the only difference between anochi and ani is the letter chaf. The Gemara in mesechta Shabbos (104a) homiletically interprets every letter of the aleph beis. The Gemara there says that the letter chaf represents a crown. Chazal teach us that two kings cannot share the same crown. The crown indicates that its bearer is unique and none other can be compared to him. The word ani is translated as I. This I is the simple ordinary I who does not represent anything special or unique. However the word anochi may be homiletically interpreted as I, who is wearing the crown. If this individual is wearing the crown then he must be unique and none other may be compared to him. This fits well with the Idea that anochi connotes an emphasis on the individual.
Parshas Yisro obviously has much to do with Yisro. Yisro was the first convert to enter the Jewish people and was instrumental in adding the laws of judges to the Torah. It was in light of these two things that the parsha is called after his name. However Parshas Yisro is also famous for hosting the aseres hadibros. Chazal teach us that the aseres hadibros represent a microcosm of the entire Torah. In light of this we would have expected that the parsha be named after the aseres hadibros. We may thus ask what does the story of Yisro and the aseres hadibros have in common that they were placed together in the same parsha with the title Yisro?
Perhaps we may suggest that the common factor of both is that they begin with the word I. Hashem began the aseres hadibros with the word anochi and Yisro embraced Judaism with the word ani. When Yisro approached Moshe the posuk records him saying ani your father-in-law Yisro have come to you. However this leads us to ask why did Hashem begin with the word anochi and Yisro with the word ani?
We know that a central theme of the aseres hadibros is our belief that that there is none other than Hashem. It is therefore perfectly appropriate for the aseres hadibros to begin with the words anochi, which emphasizes the uniqueness of Hashem. On the other hand, Yisro, upon embracing Judaism properly expressed humility with the word ani, conveying that it was not important who he was. What was important was that he wished to come close to Hashem.
The contrast of the words ani and anochi that appear in the two major highlights of this parsha serve as a model for us. As we strive to elevate ourselves spiritually we must follow in the example of Hashems anochi and Yisros ani. We must recognize that there is no other than Hashem. Indeed we declare twice a day in our prayers Hashem is our God and Hashem is One. Furthermore we must humble ourselves by recognizing that who we are is not important. What is important is our will to come close to Hashem.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001