The Torah Outlook On Family Planning

The Torah Outlook On Family Planning An adaption of a sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe dealing with the Torah outlook on family planning. The sicha was delivered at the Farbrengen of Shabbos Parshas Nasso, 5740.

Parshas Nasso touches on one of the most disturbing issues facing our generation. The portion mentions the testing of a Sotah, a woman suspected of adultery. At the conclusion of that section, the Torah declares: "And if the woman not be defiled, but be clean, then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed." (Bamidbar 5:28)  It is self understood that this blessing applies even t those women who already have children, for it is clear to all that no matter how many children one already has, it is added blessing if another child is born. This attitude was personified by Leah (Bereishis 29:32) who had many children and considered each additional one to be a blessing.

Today, however, there are those "that put darkness for light, and light for darkness" (Isaiah 5:20), maintaining that one adds light and blessing to the world by not having children or by restricting the amount of children a family will have. They offer a number of arguments; the reasoning behind each one however, is contrary to Torah.

One of the arguments is based on concern about economics. After all, maintaining a large family costs more. A Jew cannot accept such an argument, for he is "a believer, the descendent of a believer" (note Shabbos 97a) who declares his faith each day (in grace after meals) that G-d "In His kindness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace." Perhaps, they have mercy on G-d and wish to lighten His burden. Maybe they are afraid that since He has to provide for the mother and father, it is unfair to ask Him to provide for the children. They should not worry about how they are going to balance their budgets, but should leave that to G-d. G-d has no lack of funds, as the verse (Chaggai 2:8) declares, "The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine." There is no question that if He can provide for four billion people, He will manage to provide for another small boy or girl. Parents should lead normal family lives, according to Taharas Hamishpacha, granting each woman her conjugal rights (Shemos 21:10), and leave the rest up to G-d. If He wants to bless them with more children, with many children, with even more than a Minyan, they should gladly accept these blessings and even pray to G-d for more.

Many claim that by having fewer children, the parents will have more time, more energy, etc. to devote to worthy causes. They will be able to spread Yiddishkeit and Chassidus, and devote more time to the Mivtzoyim - the ten point Mitzvah campaign. Some are worried about losing time, health, or beauty by caring for their children. For still others, the reason is even more superficial. They are worried about what the neighbors will think! What will they say when they find out that there is a family with more than two children?

Others try to rationalize their behavior with arguments from Jewish law (Yevamos 61b; Rambam Hilchos Ishus 15:4), arguing that since the Mitzvah to "Be fruitful and multiply" (Bereishis 1:28) can be fulfilled by having only two children; a son and a daughter, there is no need to have more. They may even support their positions with Kabbalistic sources explaining that the AriZal (Likutei HaSa'as L'HariZal, Yevamos) writes that a father and mother allude to the first two letters (Yud and Hay) of G-d's name and a son and a daughter to the second two (Vav and Hay). After they have completed G-d's name, why should they have more children?

These rationalizations are not even acceptable according to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and surely not according to Chassidus. The second half of the command "Be fruitful and multiply" is "fill the earth and subdue it." We must have as many children as necessary to "fill the earth". Furthermore, the order with which things are mentioned in the Torah is significant (note Likutei Diburim Vol. IV, 746a; Likutei Sichos Vol. II, p. 551). The fact that this Mitzvah is the first Mitzvah, commanded at the very beginning of the Torah, emphasizes its importance.

Children are one of the greatest blessing an individual can have. However, G-d has given man free choice (Sefer Hama'marim 5679, p. 414) and it is possible for him to deny these blessings.

If one has doubts about this issue, let him examine Jewish history and see how our ancestors lived in the past, before the spiritual darkness that challenges our generation descended. In all previous generations, Torah Jews believed that having a large family constituted the greatest possible blessing. However, the spiritual darkness of the present generation which allows darkness to be called light and light, darkness has caused the prevailing attitude to change.

We can all see what a great blessing having children is. The greatest pleasure a man or a woman can have is watching his children grow up and live according to Torah and Mitzvos. Our capacity for pleasure is not satisfied by only one child, for as our sages (Koheles Rabbah 1:13, 3:10) say, "Whoever has one hundred, wants two hundred". The pleasure and satisfaction we have from one child will make us desire even more. Furthermore, by having many children, we can see a variety of qualities expressed by our offspring: one child may be devoted to Torah study, a second to prayer, a third to deeds of kindness.

If a family limits the amount of children they have, they will regret it later on (this statement does not refer to the spiritual consequences caused by their act, they can and will be corrected by Teshuvah, but rather the social and emotional consequences the parents will later feel). Eventually, children grow up and leave home, building their own families. Naturally, their parents will want to visit them, but  they cannot remain constant guests in one place. No matter how close the relationship, the advice of the Book of Proverbs (25:17): "Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house", applies to some degree. The children will have their own affairs and will not appreciate constant visits by their parents. If parents have many children there is no problem, for they are able to divide their visits between them. However, if they have only one childe, they will have to spend much of their time alone, with no one to speak with.

The most disturbing factor is that birth control has become acceptable and no one argues or protests against it. This matter is of great importance, but is often ignored at conventions and meetings at which Torah conscious men or women gather to discuss various issues. Without minimizing the value and importance of the other topics they discuss, proper attention should be given to this fundamental matter.

This matter is also related to Behaalosecha, the portion of the Torah, which describes the lighting of the Menorah. Each Jew is a candle (Book of Proverbs 20:27). A candle's purpose is not to remain stored away in a box, but to be kindled in order to spread light throughout the world. As soon as a Jewish child is born, he is a candle who can shed light and thus influence his environment and the world at large.

This is also connected to the holiday of Shavuous. Our sages (Mechilta Shemos 19:11, Devorim Rabbah 7:8) explain that if even one Jew has been absent from Mount Sinai, theTorah could not have been given, thus, teaching us the importance of every Jew and the possible consequences which result if a Jew is prevented from being born into the world.

Our sages (Yevamos 62a) also explain that Moshiach will not come until all the souls have descended into this world. Through having children the time of his coming is hastened. May it be speedily in our days.

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