Individuality and our new baby girl

Thursday, 16 February, 2017 - 3:05 pm

Our community has had a wonderful boom of babies being born recently, including our own daughter, Miriam Henna, born last night. She is named after my Bubby Gordon ( and Malkie’s aunt Henny Machlis ( As many of you know, she is not our first child. She is blessed with a number of older brothers and sisters, thank G-d. I know some folks might be wondering if there is ever a point where the value of the child may be diminished by the size of the family. As I sat in the hospital with Malkie yesterday during her labor, I thought back to a video of a talk by the Rebbe, which we showed in Chabad House just 9 days earlier. It was focused on the narrative in this week’s Parasha, the Ten Commandments. While the video was playing, I was sitting next a member of our community, whose wife was also expecting a baby shortly. I turned and commented to him how inspiring this talk was to families who were welcoming a new child into their lives.

The Rebbe highlighted the idea that in the Holy Tongue there is a difference between the singular you and a plural you. He referenced the old English term “thou,” which had fallen out of use, as a parallel. He pointed out that while the Torah mostly addresses the collective you (y’all or ye) of the Jewish people, the Ten Commandments were addressed entirely to the singular you (thou). The intent of the singular use of you is that G-d was speaking to each person individually and not to the group as a collective. This ties in to the Midrash that every single soul that would ever be born or converted as a Jew was present when G-d spoke at Sinai. Indeed, were this not the case, then those later souls born, would not have been brought into the covenant that G-d established with each individual.

The Rebbe concluded, that a message we can take away from this teaching, is the value of each individual. He emphasized this notion by exclaiming, that a Jewish baby born over three thousand years after Revelation at Sinai, possibly even to a family that already has other children, is the singular individual to whom Hashem addressed Himself when He declared, “I am the L-rd your G-d.” It is as if that, pertaining to the connection between Hashem and this baby, nobody else needs to be part of the equation. This child has infinite value to Hashem, so much so, that Hashem spoke to this child “individual to individual” at Mount Sinai.

While Judaism certainly acknowledges and underscores the significance of the collective (this is reflected both in Halacha as well as in Kabbala), nevertheless individuality plays an extremely significant role in the Jewish outlook on life. Each of the children born may be the next Rabbi Akiva, Maimonides, Devorah or Esther; or he or she may be the next unheralded Jew who goes about life serving the Creator in a way that warranted Hashem having that personal conversation with him or her over 3,300 years ago.

Welcome to world Miriam Henna. Hashem has been waiting 5,777 years for you to stamp your impact on His universe. Hopefully this is the one that brings us all collectively to the era of Redemption speedily.

Good Shabbos
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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