Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

How Many Is Too Many?

The writer, a woman, calls upon all Orthodox Jews to reject “the evil feminists” of Kolech and “have as many children as possible, as soon as possible”. For there is no greater joy in life than having many children.

Her arguments are weak (read it for yourself) and the ending says it all: “Trust me”. Why should I trust her?

As a proud father of 2 beautiful boys (a 6 year old and 8 month old) I can attest to the joys of parenthood. Giving the gift of life to one’s offspring is both very powerful and oftentimes emotional. I cannot imagine my life without my family.

I must take issue with this woman’s assertion that “the greatest gift we can give our families is a big family. Very big”.

In the VIN comments, there is a quote from R’ Shlomo Zalman Aurbach. When approached with a shaila regarding a woman who had 6 children and suffered a nervous breakdown for a heter to use birth control. His response, “why are you asking me, ask the Rav who gave her a heter to have 6 children in the first place!?”

Reb Moshe Feinstein writes in his Tshuvos that if the mother would suffer any physical, psychological or emotional harm from bearing more children she must use birth control.

Having a large family is not rooted in halacha. It is rooted in a social pressure to conform.

What has happened is the children of the “survivors” and that generation had a social calling to have large families. They were able to bear it (for the most part) with a low cost of living and 9-5 jobs, leaving time and money to spare. Enough to support many of those children in Kollel.

For many people pregnancy and childbirth as well as child rearing are difficult. For many families the cost of living is too high to support a large family. Work hours are long and the money does not go as far as it used to go.

Today’s society requires different approaches to life’s challenges from previous generations. The cost of living is higher. This forces most families to need a dual income. Who is going to raise these large families? What about the marriages? Husbands and wives who work full time, come home tired with children who need their time and attention. The idea of marriage in Judaism is to develop a relationship with a significant other. This cannot be ignored either!

Our schools are suffering from unprecedented deficits and budget cutting. Parents are having a hard time paying the tuition bills. Large families may be all of “your joy” but they can be an unfair burden on the tzibbur.

I am not calling for a “child cap” ala China. I am saying use your sechel and please don’t tell me what is good for you is good for everyone. Please don’t preach to me about what you think is right when it is not based on halacha.

Bitachon does not allow for recklessness. We cannot overburden ourselves or the system and expect bitachon to bail us out. There are children of large families who I know resented the lack of attention they received, the handouts they needed and the hustle and bustle of their busy homes. Those parents were likely ill equipped to deal with the large family dynamics and their children felt it.

Also, I happen to think that there are folks who have lots of kids to distract themselves from their unhappy lives, or their unhappy marriages (yes like a drug). Those folks need help. Not bigger families.

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One Response

  1. ilanadavita says:

    I once read a comment on Bereshit’s commandment to “‘Be fruitful, and multiply” that “multiply” came first and that it gave us the obligation to “be fruitful” i.e. create a sustainable environment before asking us to “multiply”.

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July 2009

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