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Family-Planning

by Mrs. Malka Touger

A Partner in the Dynamic of Creation

  

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To1 our forebears, children were the greatest nachat (pride and pleasure) possible, and the more children, the more nachat.

The first Mitzvah in the Torah is to2 "be fruitful and multiply." To bring up children, to initiate them into the faith of their fathers and mothers, to educate them in the Torah and the mitzvahs, - this is the true nachat that has always been eagerly treasured by our people.

Today, in many quarters, this approach is being challenged.

With well-meaning concern, couples are being urged to plot out the size of their families in advance, so that the time of their children's conception be anticipated and adequately prepared for.

It must be clearly stated at the outset that according to the Halachah, Jewish law, the use of contraception is a matter which requires Rabbinic consultation.

Some methods are unequivocally prohibited. Other means are permitted, but only in special circumstances, and only after consultation with competent Halachic authorities.

Though compliance with the Halachah overrules human reason, in this case the two are consonant; common experience attests to the wisdom of the Torah approach.

Our Torah tradition has nurtured families which have built homes filled with care, communication, and satisfying inner purpose, raising children who are prepared to accept their roles in society with joy and responsibility.3

Couples who have spurned the potential blessing of life which G-d offered them in their younger years may not be granted it later on
The Third Partner
What lies at the heart of the Torah approach? - The conception that faith in G-d is not restricted merely to the synagogue, but embraces every aspect of our existence. And there is no area in which this is so evident as having children.

Man cannot create life; no power on earth can guarantee the birth of a baby. The key to that decision4 is in the hands of G-d alone. He is the third Partner in the conception of every child.5

Any concerns and reservations that a couple may have, the third Partner understands too; He also knows what potentials they have to cope with those concerns. He is gracious and merciful, and will grant children only when there is the potential for them to lead a life with meaning and purpose.

Besides, when a partnership is offered and rejected, a second offer may not be forthcoming so rapidly. Couples who have spurned the potential blessing of life which G-d offered them in their younger years may not be granted it later on.

A couple should accept G-d's blessings when He offers them, gratefully. Let them rest assured that the third Partner, being benevolent and all-knowing, can be trusted to know what time is the best time.

Managing G-d's Accounts
Faith in the third Partner's planning also resolves one of the commonest justifications offered for family planning - the fear of being unable to support more than a certain proposed number of children.

Naturally, parents want the best for their children, and this entails accepting a financial burden. But being a good provider is not determined by one's own efforts alone.6

True, the Torah requires that a man work to provide for his family. But it is a primary tenet of Judaism that all success and all wealth comes from G-d, that it is His blessings that give sustenance,7 not one's own unaided efforts.

He will provide for all the children He gives to a couple:8 "He Who gives life gives food."

Couples who undertake financial responsibilities beyond their immediate capacities, and find it quite natural and reasonable to depend on family and friends to help them get married and set up their home, should certainly find it natural and reasonable to depend on Him of Whom it is written,9 "The silver is Mine, the gold is Mine."

Footnotes

  • 1. In a series of addresses in 5740-41 [1980-81], the Rebbe discussed the assumptions underlying the arguments commonly advanced to justify family planning. The above essay is mainly a free summary of addresses delivered on the following occasions: Shabbos Parshat Naso, 5740 (see the essay entitled "The Torah Outlook on Family Planning" in Sichos In English, Vol. VI, p. 50ff.); The N'shei uBnos Chabad Convention, 17 Sivan, 5740 (see the essay entitled "Family Planning" in Sichos In English, Vol. VI, p. 79ff.); and Shabbat Parshat Shlach, 5740 (see Sichos In English, Vol. VI, p. 94). Soon after these addresses, sundry critics claimed that they were an unjustified "invasion of privacy," an offense against "freedom of choice," and in one case, " a violation of the Constitution" (!). The closing section of the above essay, beginning with the subheading "Freedom of Choice," is a free adaptation of part of the Rebbe's response to these critics on Shabbos Parshas Korach, 5740 (see the essay entitled "Free Choice and Responsibility" in Sichos In English, Vol. VI, pp. 103-106). The Rebbe again spoke on this subject on Rosh Chodesh Shvat, 5741 (see the essay entitled "Family Planning" in Sichos In English, Vol. VIII, p. 179ff.).
  • 2. Genesis 1:28. The fact that procreation is the first mitzvah in the Torah indicates its primary importance. According to Scriptural law, a father has fulfilled this command once he has brought at least one son and one daughter into the world. Nevertheless, even after this mitzvah is fulfilled, there remains a Rabbinic command to continue having children. (See Maimonides, Laws of Marriage 15:1, 4, 16; Code of Jewish Law, Even HaEzer, sec. 1.)
  • 3. For a comprehensive analysis of the social and nationwide obligations involved, such as the total Jewish birthrate, the needs of the Jewish community, and the like, see the article by Rabbi Z. Posner entitled "By Whatever Means...," in The Modern Jewish Woman: A Unique Perspective (Lubavitch Educational Foundation for Jewish Marriage Enrichment, N.Y., 1981).
  • 4. Taanit 2a.
  • 5. Kiddushin 30b.
  • 6. We are warned against such a delusion in the verse, "My strength and the power of my hand have made me all this prosperity" (Deuteronomy 8:17).
  • 7. Cf. "It is the blessing of G-d that bestows wealth" (Proverbs 10:22).
  • 8. Popular Aramaic adage, based on a teaching of R. Shmuel bar Nachmani in Taanit 8b.
  • 9. Haggai 2:8.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Intimacy » Reproductive Issues
Life Cycle » Marriage » Family Life
Daily Life » Family Life

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Sarah
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Rebecca
Second of the Jewish Matriarchs. Wife of the Patriarch Isaac, and father of Jacob. b. 1675 BCE, d. 1553 BCE.
Rachel
Third of the four Jewish matriarchs. Daughter of Laban, favorite wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Died while giving birth to Benjamin in 1557 BCE.
Leah
Fourth of the four Jewish matriarchs. Elder daughter of Laban, wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of six of the Tribes, including Levi and Judah.
Samuel
1. A prophet and judge who appointed Saul as the first king of Israel in the 9th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, named after the abovementioned Samuel, one of the main characters of the book.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Family Purity
Laws relating to intimacy between husband and wife. The primary point of Family Purity is the woman's purifying immersion in a ritual bath which allows the couple to resume intimate relations after the woman's menstrual period.