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What is the difference between אנכי and אני in the torah? [closed]

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closed as duplicate by ‭Monica Cellio‭ on Aug 31, 2020 at 23:13

This question has been answered before. See: Difference between אני and אנכי

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In the book of D'varim I've been noticing a lot more uses of אנכי instead of אני. Both words mean "I". I've heard that אנכי is more formal, and I know it begins the revelation at Sinai, though in that case I would expect to see it a lot more in all the passages (particularly in Vayikra) where God ends commandments by saying "I am your God". And parts of Moshe's final speech in D'varim seem more impassioned and less formal to me yet use אנכי, though perhaps that's a deficiency in my reading of it.

What is the difference between these two words? Does the same difference, whatever it is, hold both when God is speaking and when people do?

Why should this post be closed?

3 comments

Can we import that ^^ and close this as a duplicate? ‭AA​ ‭ about 2 months ago

@AA works for me; I'll add it to the request list on meta. ‭Monica Cellio‭ about 2 months ago

1 answer

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On Exodus 11:4, Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch writes:1

אני stems from the root אנה: emanating and flowing from the personality. Thus אני denotes the personality who feels himself in opposition to the other; the personality from whom something issues forth to the other. אנכי, on the other hand, denotes the personality who encompasses and bears the other.

He continues this theme in the following comment, on Exodus 11:5:

This is the moment foretold from the beginning: בני בכרי ישראל וגו׳ הנה אנכי הרג את בנך בכרך (Exodus 4:22-23). I will slay your son, your firstborn, not out of hatred of your son, but to save My son. Through the death of your son, you will learn to appreciate My feelings about the cruel treatment of My son.

Referencing these comments, Rav Hirsch expands on the theme in his comments to Exodus 20:2:

We have already noted several times the fine distinction between אנכי and אני, especially in God's speech. אני denotes the personality of the speaker in opposition to the one addressed; it denotes the personality as the source of speech and action (אני — from the root אנה).‎ אנכי, on the other hand, reveals the speaker as a personality who is intimately close to the one addressed, a personality who encompasses, bears and supports the one addressed, and through whom alone the one addressed truly gets his personal existence and secure standing.

How awesome is the majesty of this event: In the midst of nature's upheaval, with the foundations of the earth quaking, God proclaims Himself as the sole, true, and absolute Personality — the אנכי — of the universe, through Whom alone all other being exists, in potentiality and in actuality. God then immediately turns to each individual Jew and says: I am your אנכי — ‎ אנכי ה׳ אלקיך.

  1. Translations are quoted from the new Feldheim edition. All emphases are theirs.

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