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Everything starts with a point. So when Rabbi Infinity teaches the Hebrew alphabet, he starts with the letter Yud, which is a little bit stretching the point.

The Yud

The Yud

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Topics: Yud

In Kabbala, the Yud usually represents the point of wisdom from which all begins. It also represents the essence-spark of G_d within each of us. Here's the story that inspired this episode:

This happened when Rabbi Shalom Dovber was about nine years old. He was walking home from school with his older brother, Zalman Aaron, who was about eleven. Zalman was a stickler with grammar, scrupulous about every word of the prayers. Shalom on the other hand, was not so meticulous about these things. So now and again, Zalman would scold his younger brother about how he prayed.

This time, Zalman demanded of his younger brother, "Why is there a point after the word B'chemla in Modeh Ani?"

Zalman was referring to a comma. It seems his little brother was ignoring the punctuation and stringing words together that really should be apart, thereby convoluting the meaning — which was just the sort of thing his older brother couldn't tolerate. But the little boy had an alternative explanation for that little point.

"The whole idea is in a point," he answered. "And the point has to expand and spread throughout the entire Tefilla."

When the boys' father, the Rebbe Maharash, heard about this, he told their teacher, "Teach my younger son all you want. Just take care not to cause damage."

Written and conceived by Tzvi Freeman. Rabbi Freeman is available for public speaking and workshops. Read more on his bio page.
Music by The Piamentas
Rabbi Infinity played by Andrew Torres
Animation and SFX by Pilar Newton of Pilar Toons
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Nanador Florida November 12, 2013


Happy letters
Happy language
Happy world! Reply

Hanalah Houston, Texas September 9, 2011

Hebrew DOES have a singular "you" but to translate it as English "thee" sounds formal and stilted instead of intimate.

The solution is to let "you" be the English singular.

The English PLURAL would then be
"y'all". Reply

Anonymous New York, NY June 28, 2010

In English, "You" is formal, not informal. (It can also be a plural, as in "you three" or "you people"). "Thee" however is informal, or intimate, and, it is always singular, never plural. (Could "thee" derive from the Hebrew "Ata"?) Hebrew has only one form of address, "Ata," as far as I know.

So, "nearer my G-d to Thee" is correct, in English.

But, addressing G-d as "You" would be ok, too, I assume, these days, as few people use "thee" easily any more in English. Of course, reference to G-d is always capitalized.

Although English has dropped it, European languages, both Latin and German, still use the "thee" form today. It works as described above. I am not sure how Europeans address G-d, if they are speaking a European language instead of Hebrew. Reply

Anonymous August 5, 2008

very good. Reply

musia oxford, angland July 29, 2008

cute Reply

Anonymous thornhill, Ont July 2, 2008

..But I feel bad to muse about what it would be like to be a child because that is so unchildish. Reply

Ari Edson thornhill, ont June 27, 2008

.....(underneath all of that chocolate ice cream.) Reply

Ari Edson Thornhill, Ont June 20, 2008

Only a few words. Rabbi Freeman gave character and personality to the cute little childish yud. Because there is nothing as innocent as a child before bar mitzvah. Reply

Anonymous Palm Bay, FL June 19, 2008

Thank you for the teaching and the inspiration! It is absolutely beautiful. Reply

Rabbi Infinity June 17, 2008

Don't know who the story was with, but for sure it was not with Thee.

In Hebrew and in Yiddish, it's always the informal "You" when speaking to G_d. In English, we have to capitalize that, just so as not to look heretical. Reply

Anonymous Salford, Manchester June 16, 2008

this is beautiful Reply

Anonymous Lyon, France June 16, 2008

Rebbe Maharash's commentary is really great!

There is a nice story concerning the Modeh Ani that I think happened with Rabbi Zalman of Liadi (but I'm not sure - I read it in Ariel Kaplan's Jewish Meditation, if anyone wants to check).

One day, the rabbi was late for the morning prayers. When his discipules, all very worried, asked him what happened, he replied: "I woke up, and started doing the Modeh Ani, as usual: 'I give thanks to Thee...'. when suddenly I realized who is the 'I' and who is the 'Thee' " Reply

Gabriela Lisb June 16, 2008

I really felt my heart glowing!!! Thank you, because from the little step with start the path!
Thank you! Reply

Chaim Teleshevsky S.M., ca June 15, 2008

I think the comment of the Rebbe Maharash serves to encompass the entire role of a teacher. Reply