Parenting

Having a Large Family

Many couples these days experience doubts when it comes to having more children. They fear that additional children will create unwanted responsibilities, financial strains, or negative effects on their careers. Some believe they will fail to provide for all their children equally and therefore wish to prevent the unborn child from being deprived. While others are simply uncomfortable with the idea of walking down the street with more than two or three kids, as that may clash with some strange social norms that exist in their circles. But what these people do not realize is that true happiness for both the parents and the children resides in large families, where many siblings are raised together.

It should be noted that for the parents, this happiness accompanies them throughout their lives but increases seven-fold as they advance in age.

Furthermore, children who grow up in large families are better equipped for life and attain a higher quality of education than those who are raised in smaller families. And this is besides for other respectable advantages which will soon be discussed.

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Let’s begin with a statement made by Oren Rosenstein (a journalist and mediator who has written a book about pregnancy from a man’s perspective). In an article published in the media, Rosenstein makes a rare confession about the false beliefs he had in the past regarding large families, and the truth that caused him to change his mind 180 degrees.

I used to think theyre like crazy rabbits no aspirations, no careers, no hobbies.

What about the quality time that each child deserves? And why do people who have no money need so many kids? Whats going to be when these kids start asking for Nikes? College? A house or a car?

But now, please accept my correction: The only solution for older, spoiled children with behavioral problems is to place them in a house full of kids.

This way, they have fun entertaining each other and demand less attention than if they were to be alone. When parents have kids that are close in age, they lose out on sleep for about eight years or so. But parents who wait too long between each child are sleep deprived forever. And money isnt much of an issue either because each child can wear his older siblings clothing. When children live this way their sense of togetherness develops more, and besides, the younger kids always want what the older ones have anyway (and even if not, they still develop a sense of maturity and learn to be frugal and content with what they have. This is the authors comment).

And obviously, being a young parent is better – no back aches, no major career demandsthis leaves more time to devote to the kids. It also means that the grandparents are younger and therefore more likely to help out. And the father is also young enough to play with his kids. But overall – theres a greater level of patience and openness to change.

As true as this narrative is, it does not thoroughly express the happiness felt by the parents, nor does it sufficiently reflect these matters, which are increased seven-fold when observed from a Jewish standpoint. Let’s explain.

Parents who fear that the addition of a new child would hinder their ability to adequately provide for all their kids, must remember that on top of the precious gift that the children would receive with a new addition to the family, they would also acquire an asset for life one that is worth all the money in the world and whose benefit will accompany them forever. Moreover, by living with many siblings under one roof, they acquire important social skills. They learn to share their possessions with others, comply, and provide for their siblings – especially their younger ones. At the same time, and with the right guidance, they learn how to achieve their goals by asserting themselves in a wise manner but without hurting anyone along the way. They also learn to take responsibility and carry the load. In addition, the older siblings learn how to take care of their baby brothers and sisters, which gives them a head start on raising their own families in the future.

Experience shows that children who grow up as part of a group, develop a happiness for life and a healthy mind. They go out into the big world fully equipped with satisfaction, wisdom, and a good self-esteem.

Meaning, it would be wrong of parents to think that if they wanted to provide the best for their child, they would have to give him his own room with his own personal possessions so he can use them all by himself. This is the typical modern thought process – but not only does it not benefit the child, it is even detrimental to him. A child who grows up under these conditions, will lack the coping skills necessary to function within society in a healthy way and will often fail the challenges of life that concern giving and sharing. Children, on the other hand, who share a room with their siblings and sleep on bunk beds and so on, will turn out to be level-headed and experienced when faced with various social challenges and will generally be more successful with their own families in the future.

There are many benefits for the parents as well. It is quite common to see parents who have small children in addition to older ones, remain young spirited and full of energy. Their feeling of responsibility for their young children and the need to take care of their physical and emotional demands preserves the parents’ vigor and keeps them young at heart much more than other people their age whose kids are older and do not need to be looked after or entertained by their parents.

Interestingly, these types of parents will usually give off a sense of inner peace, happiness and self-confidence, even when they’re outside the home, that stems from  the gratification they feel towards the large family that stands behind them.

The relationship of a couple with young children resembles that of newlyweds. It tends to be preserved for a long period of time, despite the normal ups and downs of life.

Parents such as these are successful and efficient at taking care of their kids in a peaceful and balanced way and make less mistakes in parenting than others would. This can be clearly seen in homes where the mother is also a grandmother and is still young enough to have children of her own.

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A mother who realizes her motherly potential and provides life to additional children after her other children have grown or have gotten married, lives with a great inner satisfaction and with a wonderful feeling of self-actualization. Women like these will attest to the fact that no career in the world can provide them with this level of gratification.

But if parents only have two kids, they may feel very lonely in their advanced age, as the burden of taking care of them falls solely on these two kids who are busy with their own lives and their own families. This is especially true if one of them lives far away, or if their spouse does not allow them to take care of their parents in the proper way, or if something tragic has happened to one of them and he is no longer alive – as such incidents do sadly occur. And the poor parent remains alone, old and weary, without any one of his close relatives whom he has cared for so much in his lifetime, to lean on for support. There are many men and women like this, who end their lives with pain and sadness often resulting from a lack of proper care and attention of close family members – and then people wonder why they died so soon.

On the other hand, elderly parents who have seven or ten children, and have succeeded in raising them with Jewish values, can strongly relate to the following verse:[1] “Those who tearfully sow will reap in glad song”.

I remember when I was younger, when my eldest uncle on my mother’s side and his wife were already older, my uncle had become blind following a failed operation on his eyes. Besides for the wonderful support of their sons and daughters who came to visit and assist them, they had tens of grandchildren who argued over who will get to stay at their grandparents’ house. They eventually reached a compromise and decided to create a schedule in which two grandchildren would come together at a time after their long school days and stay with them until the morning. They would clean and organize the house while some would even cook and bake. The joy these grandchildren had is unforgettable. They did their work with a great sense of humor and a sense of happiness for having received this privilege. It is also hard to forget the radiant faces and delightful smiles the old couple had while their grandchildren came over to help them and converse with them. The grandchildren did not feel like this work was burdensome for them and there were always enough volunteers during the course of these rounds.

Additionally, when a parent is admitted to the hospital, G-d forbid, which is a common occurrence among the elderly, there is a big difference between a parent of two adults who have been raised in the proper way, and a parent of eight or ten adults who have been raised in the proper way. The latter will almost never find himself alone at the mercy of the busy doctors and nurses. One of his children will always stay by his bedside and care for his hospitalized parent who is dearer to him than anything in the world.

Unfortunately, in the first years of marriage, most couples focus on the immediate discomfort of having any kids and not on their future benefits – as the verse states:[2]

“Who is called a ‘wise man’? The person who sees the fruits of his labor.”

They are frightened by the question: “How will we be able to take care of five or seven children?” But they forget the simple fact that when siblings who are close in age grow up together as a group, they entertain each other naturally. The older ones play with the younger ones and even begin to take care of them at a certain point. The mother teaches them how to change them, feed them, and do everything else that is necessary. This gives her more time for herself than she would have had with only two small children.

The mother will even realize that there’s no significant difference in preparation time when cooking for a small family or a large family. All she has to do is add a little more to the pot, and by taking care of a large family she becomes seasoned and highly skilled over time. Also, when the kids know how to share with each other happily, the older kids will naturally collaborate and help the mother with all the matters of the household as is normally seen in large families. This is typically done in a joyful, pleasant manner. The kids do their work while maintaining a light, fun-filled attitude and sense of humor with each other as well as with their mother. This also gives them the experience they need for their future family life.

A mother like this, who leads her large family with wisdom and strength and proudly manages the task of caring for her children, becomes fully gratified in a way that cannot be described – as she has self-actualized herself to be the queen of the house and a wife and mother of a large family.

Concerns About Finances, Child Rearing, and Other Troubling Matters

Despite all that was said above, some parents may still feel that they are different than most people, and it is clear to them that having another child would be very burdensome for them. But these types of parents must remember that if it was decreed upon man to work hard and exert much effort, he will work hard and exert much effort. And it is better for that hard work to be exerted towards the rearing of a pure child than towards some other hardship that serves no purpose.

There is no amount of money in the world that is more valuable than a child. And if people work hard for decades to pay off an apartment, how much more so does one have to work for a child? The apartment stays behind in this world, but a child is an eternal asset.

However, some people are concerned that their income will not cover the expenses of an additional child. What they do not realize is that by thinking this way, they are failing their test of faith, as every person who comes to the world has a budget that is designated for him. And when another soul joins a family, it brings its own budget along with it. And who like the Creator of the world has the ability to provide for the head of the household that which is due to him for the sustenance of his children?

On the contrary, the sages of Kabbalah indicate in their teachings that there’s a sort of Divine “birth grant” given to the parents for each child they bring to the world. And we have actually heard and seen testimonies by parents who recount: “When our first son was born, we purchased a certain piece of furniture or we bought a new car and so on. And when the second one was born we bought such and such or opened up such and such business. And by the third child, we earned such and such or bought an apartment”. The same goes for the fourth, fifth, and every subsequent child

And this is besides for the obligation that every man has of trusting in G-d, as every person must know and remember that with or without additional children, it is in G-d’s hands to make him rich or poor. And he must trust in Him as being the One who grants life, and that He will certainly give him his livelihood as long as G-d wills that person to remain alive. After all, how will that person live if he does not have what to live on? And the more he strengthens his trust in G-d, Who gives food and sustenance to everyone, the faster his salvation will come. After all, G-d does not disappoint those who trust Him sincerely. And certainly, no harm will come to him because of a good deed that he has done according to the Will of G-d – Who wishes to populate the word and hasten the redemption.

A person also has to reflect upon the length of time it takes him to toil and work in order to finance the purchase of an apartment. And he does this out of joy and a clear understanding that the work is worthwhile – that he will have an apartment for the rest of his life. And if this is so with regard to a temporary house, how many apartments is a child with an eternal soul worth? Wouldn’t it make sense to put in a little extra effort and even feel some financial strain and congestion at home, as long as he merits to have another child who’s more precious than gold?

Every woman who fears that the time she invests in raising her additional children will have a negative impact on her career, must strengthen herself with this thought; she must reflect upon the true and simple fact that one additional child is worth more than all the money in the world and more than any kind of career. And how can a person give up on what’s precious and exalted for something cheap and insignificant?

However, some have an understandable fear concerning the low standard of education of this generation’s youth. They feel: “With the way the youth of this generation is going these days, let’s first try handling two or three before attempting to manage seven!”

However, every experienced individual knows that discipline is generally easier to achieve in a large family. The reason for this is simple. A child who is one of many feels like he is one inhabitant out of many other inhabitants led by a king and a queen. After all, in a large family, parents who manage all the matters of the household receive a status of supreme authority in the eyes of their children, as the children all participate in the chores of the house, each one according to his skill level and ability under the guidance of the parents. On the other hand, when there are one or two children in a family, they will at best, feel like they are equal to the parents and at worst, they may feel like they are above their parents and the parents are simply there to serve them. And since we unfortunately see this in many homes, we don’t realize that one of the factors that helps prevent this kind of chutzpah towards the parents and helps achieve discipline, authority, and participation in household duties is: more siblings.

torah meaning

It would now be appropriate to bring up the importance of Torah education which instills in children the depth of the mitzvah of “Honor your father and your mother”[3] and all its precepts. A child who grows up in the lap of Torah feels in the depths of his soul that his parents are almost equal to the Creator of the world, as we’ve discussed in the chapter on respecting our parents.

However, when a child grows up in an environment in which no major emphasis is placed on respecting his parents and he is raised with a sense of equality towards them, then only a miracle will cause him to appreciate, on his own and at a young age, the great obligation he has for the people who have brought him into the world and worked so hard to raise him – as it’s been said:

“In a family that teaches the value of the mitzvah of honoring parents, the parents become a king and queen, leading well-raised, respectful royal subjects. After all, every king and queen would want to have as many citizens as possible. But when the parents run their home like a democracy that lacks respect for the parents, the parents become the coalition while the kids take on the role of opposition – just like it is in any democratic country – and what coalition in the world would want its opposition to be large in number?”

These words were obviously said in jest, but the more the kids are taught at home and in school according to the guidelines of the Torah, the more pleasure the parents will gain from them.

From here we learn that all the fears people have associated with producing a large family are baseless. Aside from individual cases that are legitimate (for example, if having more children poses a physical or mental threat to the mother, or any other issues defined as legitimate by Jewish law), nothing else can justify the prevention of having more children in a family. Therefore, whenever there’s any doubt in this matter, the couple should consult with a G-d fearing Torah scholar. There’s no doubt that all these baseless fears are nothing but a product of the evil inclination who tries to distort the facts and mislead the parents – especially because of the great physical and spiritual treasure that’s concealed in every additional child.

Besides for all the benefits previously mentioned, having a large family has an added demographic advantage for the Jewish nation as a whole – both in Israel and across the world. It also serves a great spiritual purpose for humanity as well as the Jewish people in particular.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, there were 16.5 million Jews living in the world in 1939. But after the terrible Holocaust that eradicated 6 million Jews, the number of Jews was reduced by one third and had naturally stabilized in 1948 at only 11.5 million. Today, according to official records, there are 13.5 million Jews around the world. But according to polls, this number includes people who consider themselves Jewish, even if they are not actually Jewish according to halacha. In other words: the number of Jews is actually smaller than what is publicized.

It should be mentioned that according to the Jewish People Policy Institute by the Jewish Agency, the yearly growth rate of the Jewish people is 0.08% – that is twenty times lower than the growth rate of the world. This means that the percentage rate of Jews in comparison to the world population is gradually declining. And thus, according to polls taken in the US, the number of Jews in the US has dropped in the 1990s by 300-500 thousand! And this is not a result of migration, rather a low birth rate versus the death rate of the elderly as well as rapid rates of assimilation.

In Israel, the fertility rate currently stands at a national average of 2.6 children per Jewish woman; 4.5 children per Arab woman who’s a citizen of Israel; and about 6 children per woman who’s a resident of Gaza and the Palestinian territories.

According to the current growth rate, what will the future hold for the population size of Jews and Muslims in Israel in a few decades if we do not come to our senses and accelerate the Jewish birthrate in Israel? And how many Jews will there be in the world in general in light of the terrible assimilation and low birthrate?

It is important to note that in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the situation is worse than in most other cities in the country. According to a study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, the growth rate of the Arab population is double than that of the Jewish growth rate! In the chart below, you can clearly see the significant contrast in the current population’s growth rate. Therefore, if we do not do something about this in time, what will Jerusalem look like in fifty years?

And PLO leader, Yasser Arafat has already expressed it with the following words: “The most powerful weapon the Palestinians have is the womb of the Muslim woman”.

Therefore, the primary national obligation imposed on all heads of Jewish families is to increase the size of the Jewish nation, regardless of their religious level. I once heard from the Kabbalist, Rabbi David Batzri about an interesting calculation conducted by the head of the Yeshiva of “Porat Yosef”, Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l. In his words, he spoke about the strange widespread practice among many Jewish families to have only two children, versus the correct practice to try and increase the family size and the people of Israel as much as G-d allows.

He said the following: “The next generation of people who settle for two children – if each one of their children will have only two children, they will total four. And in the third generation, when each of the four children will have two children each, they will be eight. In the fourth generation, sixteen. And by the fifth generation they will total

thirty-two people who will form a part of the people of Israel.

But in a family in which the practice is to have ten children, the first generation will total ten, and if each of the ten will have ten, they will equal a hundred. In the third generation, a thousand. In the fourth generation, ten thousand. And by the fifth generation they will total one hundred thousand!”

This simple, thought-provoking calculation illustrates the importance of the responsibility we must have towards the numerical proliferation of the nation of Israel, especially after the terrible holocaust that destroyed about a third of our people.

Remember though, that the above fertility rate of Jewish women in Israel (2.6 children) is the average between religious families and those who are not religious. And thus, a reasonable increase of births among non-religious families would suffice to favorably change the overall balance of the nation of Israel.

And when every Jewish couple makes their contribution to the Jewish people, they must remember that they are giving pleasure to the Creator who seeks to populate the world, as it says:[4] “For thus said Hashem, Creator of the heavens, He is the G-d, the One who fashioned the earth and its Maker; He established it. He did not create it for emptiness; He fashioned it to be inhabited…”

As our sages have deduced from this verse in a number of places in the Talmud, that the importance of the mitzvah of bringing more children into the world even applies to a person who has already fulfilled this mitzvah

 

Notes and Sources

[1] Tehillim 126:5

[2] Tamid 32a

[3] Devarim 5:15

[4] Yeshayahu 45:18. Also refer to Megilla 27a; Psachim 88b; Yevamot 62a

Adapted from “The Keys to Life” by Rabbi Zamir Cohen

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