At Shabbat lunch, we spoke about the statement of our sages (Midrash Tanchuma (Bober) Yitro 16) that the first word of the Ten Commandments — Anochi אנכי — is not Hebrew, but actually Egyptian.

The message behind this, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, is that those who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of spirituality and thereby decide to remove themselves as much as possible from the world — lest it have a corrupting effect — are missing the point.

Anochi is the mission statement of the Torah.

When we go to work amidst the distractions and temptations of the world, but at the same time remains focused and dedicated to Judaism by praying, learning Torah, giving charity and acting ethically in business, this is the purpose of the Torah.

In a sense, the erudite sages are missing out on the challenge of Sinai.  Daily we encounter “Egypt” — otherwise known as the workplace, the market, the street, or any other place that isn’t deemed sacred.

It is our task to utilize our faculties to fulfill the Torah while encountering “Egypt” in our everyday lives.

A student asked: Is it really true that the word Anochi is Egyptian?  Have linguists confirmed this?

I answered the only answer I knew: I am not a linguist… but I know one!

A few hours later, I asked Dr. Richard Steiner if there is evidence to support the claim of our sages that Anochi is Egyptian.

“Of course!” was his response.  He went on to explain that the word was “Anok,” which, interestingly, is how the word is spelled in the Midrash cited above.  You can view the word anok in Coptic here.