You are my child, I have given birth to you today — Psalms, 2:7
Birth is G-d saying you matter — The Rebbe
At a gathering of family and friends celebrating a child’s birth, the Rebbe explained the three reasons to rejoice at such an occasion: the joy of the entire nation for the birth of a new member, the joy of the parents for being blessed with a child, and the joy of the child for having been brought into the world.
“But how can we celebrate when we don’t yet know how a child will turn out?” one man asked.
“Birth marks the moment when the soul enters the body,” said the Rebbe. “And because the soul is connected directly to G-d, that is reason enough to rejoice.”
Why Were You Born?
What your birth means is that you are G-d’s child. Your birth was not an accident; G-d chooses each of us to fulfill a specific mission in this world, just as a composer lovingly arranges each musical note. Take away even one note, and the composition falls apart. Each person matters; each person is irreplaceable. Your life is always leading you toward your destiny, and every single moment is meaningful and precious.
Many people seem to feel that, just because we didn’t choose to enter the world, our birth is a stroke of coincidence or serendipity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Birth is G-d’s way of saying that He has invested His will and energy in creating you; G-d feels great joy when you are born, the greatest pleasure imaginable, for the moment of birth encompasses the potential for all future achievements.
When, Exactly Does Life Begin?
At birth, the soul enters the body, creating a life that sustains itself, an autonomous human being. A fetus, of course, is a living organism complete with functioning brain, heart, and limbs. But it is only an extension, albeit a living one, of its mother’s being. It contains life but is not yet an independent life, sustained by its own force.
So the moment of birth marks the beginning of our mission on earth, which is to transform our material world into a vehicle of spiritual expression and G-dliness. The life process is much more than simple biology. It is about growth, development, and fulfilling our potential. A person is not fully alive unless he is attuned to his soul’s higher purpose, unless he realizes its mission.
Many of us sense a spiritual side to our lives. Perhaps we even seek it out at times. But because we are so busy with our daily lives and so hungry for instant gratification, we forget — or never take the time to learn — why we are here in the first place.
Each of us has a choice: We can be merely biologically alive or we can be truly alive, spiritually alive. Even as adults, we can live the way a fetus does — eating, drinking, and sleeping, a complete person that is missing its most vital element: a soul. Or we can take advantage of our capacity to be spiritually sensitive, and participate in the world.
It is tempting to spend our lives in a fetus-like state. Even the sages admit this: “It is more pleasant not to be born than to be born.” Wouldn’t it be easier to go through life warm and well fed, protected from the outside world, than to endure the harsh forces of life we have all come to know?
Indeed, many of us do try to insulate ourselves, reacting to life but never fully engaging it. In this light, we see that birth, above all else, is a challenge, the first and perhaps most difficult challenge we will ever face.
For a moment, think about the experiences of an infant. Now try to picture your own birth. What a monumental moment that was! What feelings did you have? What voices did you hear? Scientists and psychologists are only beginning to acknowledge what the Torah has been teaching for thousands of years: that our experiences as a newborn baby have a profound impact on our inner psyches. A newborn is as receptive as a dry sponge. He hears perhaps even more than an adult hears; precisely because his conscious mind is not yet at work, and because he doesn’t understand the words, a newborn is much more impressionable. He absorbs everything in his environment in the purest form, unadulterated by the adult ego or intellect.
Education, therefore, begins the moment a child is born. This presents us with a profound responsibility as to how we behave in the presence of a child, and how we treat children from the moment of birth. Remember: the soul of a newborn child is fully alive, with open ears that hear everything.
A revered rabbi, when he was an infant, was often carried in his bassinet to hear prayers and songs. He grew up to be a great scholar, and, in acknowledgment of how he was raised, he was often greeted with the blessing, “Beloved is the one who gave birth to you.”