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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

What is your faith group's position on the number of children couples should have? Has this changed in recent years as the population ages, especially in North America?

This sounds like the question -- what is the best move in chess? There is no best move, there is a best move for a very specific configuration on the chess board.

In Jewish law, we have a minimum, and no maximum. The minimum number of children a couple should have is replenishment -- one boy and one girl. In other words, the couple should leave this world having at the very least replaced themselves.

There is no upper limit. Obviously, there are factors that will weigh heavily in determining how many children a couple will be able to have. This includes the health of the mother, the age at which the couple marry, and the ability of the couple to conceive, among other factors. But in principle, there is no upper limit.

This is because we "conceive" of children as the ultimate in sharing, a true manifestation of imitatio Dei, of emulating God by bringing more people into existence to enjoy the beauty of God's world. The more, the better. The world was created for it to be inhabited, not for it to be desolate.

This is a general principle. There are always exceptions to general principles, but these do not detract from the principle and the intrinsic value it espouses.

Insofar as the last part of your question is concerned, the principle does not change because the population ages. Why should it? If anything, because we are living longer, it is better to have more children, so that as parents age, there will be more children to share the load of elder care for the parents.

This is because under normal circumstances, no one can give loving and tender care as nicely as a child. More children means the potential for a better rested cadre of loving care givers.

In real life, this does always pan out so smoothly, but the theory is sound and solid.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on October 20, 2007

Thu, February 27 2020 2 Adar 5780