Infants can be excused for assuming that they are the center of the universe. Everyone in the vicinity—mother, father, grandparents—seems to be doing nothing other than caring for the baby. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, adults respond to its calling.

As children begin to grow, developing from infant to childInfants can be excused to teenager to adult, they start to recognize that they are only one of seven billion people, that the entire human species—as well as the planet we inhabit—is but a speck in a solar system within a galaxy, which is completely insignificant compared to the vastness of the universe.

Yet, despite this knowledge, something inside of us protests. Something deep within the psyche of the individual insists that he or she is special and indispensable.

And that is a good thing.

Moses’ greatest fear as the Jewish people were about to enter Israel was that the Jew would no longer see himself as the center of the universe. He was afraid that once the Jews crossed the Jordan River, the individual would see himself as nothing more than one among millions; an individual citizen whose choices don’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things.

Moses understood that in order for a nation to survive, for it to maintain a high moral ground and live up to its calling as a light unto the nations, each individual must understand that the destiny of the nation is in his or her hands.1 The greatest threat to morality is if every individual believes that the purpose of creation, the mission of the Jewish people, and the fate of humanity is out of his or her control. The greatest assurance that people will make the correct choices in life is when each individual understands that G‑d looks to him or her as the center of the universe.

In the opening verses of this week’s Parshah, Moses creates a covenant with the people:

You are all standing this day before the L‑rd, your G‑d, the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp, both your woodcutters and your water drawers...2

Then, after speaking to them in the plural, Moses switches to the singular: order to establish you this day as His people, and that He will be your G‑d, as He spoke to you, and as He swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

The “you” in “in order to establish you this day as His people” is written in the singular. Moses is telling each and every Jew: You are not just one in a nation of millions. Don’t look to others to carry the Jewish heritage for you. You, personally and singularly, are G‑d’s nation, the center of His universe. He is looking to you to carry the torch.