There was an administrator in my high school who was a very thorough, and strict, marker of papers. One of his favorite comments on an essay was “PGIO” which stands for “poignant glimpse into the obvious.” He would make that comment whenever I would write a sentence that was unnecessary and was merely put in to fill space. Examples of PGIOs are: “Shakespeare is perhaps one of the greatest writers of all time.” Or “There are many ways to examine this poem.”
In the double Parsha of Acharei-Mot and Kedoshim we have the refrain “Ani Hashem” “I am God” over and over in connection to various commandments, both ritual and interpersonal, that are described in our Torah portion. At first glance it would seem that “Ani Hashem” is the epitome of a PGIO. The entire Torah was given by Hashem. Belief in God is the precondition for reading the Torah- and taking it seriously. Yet we believe that every word in the Torah is holy and purposeful. So why is “Ani Hashem” not a PGIO?.
“Ani Hashem” is a reminder that Judaism believes in an objective morality- one that does not vacillate in the winds of the times. When the Torah uses the phrase “Ani Hashem” it reinforces that just as Hashem is eternal, so are the commandments in the Torah. They do not change just because modern society says that they should. It is not surprising then that “Ani Hashem” is found over and over again as it relates to sexual morality and interpersonal relationships. In these two areas, 21st century society is pushing an agenda that wants us all to believe that times have changed and that our Torah values are archaic and no longer moral.
21st century western culture and society is challenging traditional Torah values in a way not seen since the Enlightenment. We need to have the courage of our convictions to declare proudly and unequivocally the lesson of “Ani Hashem”.