This class is dedicated by Ephraim Sobol in loving memory of his father,
Shlomo Mordechai ben Yaakov a"h.
The Mitzvah: The commandment of p'ru u'revu, procreation is to have children
- at least one boy and one girl - who are, in turn, physically able to have
children of their own.
"Every living thing from single cells to plants and animals reproduce."
Sit back for a moment and let this statement sink in. Now isn't that
incredible? Within the myriads of G-d's creatures, there is an inbuilt
biological function for organisms not only to survive but also to preserve
and propagate the species.
What is strange, however, is how the act of human procreation is anything
but instinctive. On the contrary, this is canonized as a mitzvah whose
profound spiritual character is underscored in its position: the first of
the 613 commandments to appear in the Torah.
Procreation is associated with blessing. Immediately after the creation of
Adam and Eve, G-d blessed the couple to "be fruitful and multiply, fill the
earth and subdue it"(Genesis 1:28). And in the aftermath of the Deluge -
that almost wiped out mankind - Noah and the remnants of the animal kingdom
were commanded by G-d: "let them teem on the earth and be fruitful and
multiply on the earth" (Genesis 8:17).
Yet if procreation is, indeed, innate to the animal kingdom, why then should
it assume the guise of a mitzvah? And in what way is this "a blessing"?
The answer has to do with the sacrosanct nature of human life.
For man, life - the foundation of his existence - is truly the greatest of
blessings. Every child is a unique individual, not just another member of
mankind. Thus the importance of a child's birth is precisely because he
stands as a microcosm for the creation of the world. (See Talmud Bavli,
Sanhedrin 37a- "Whoever saves one soul, it is as if he has saves the whole
Of the three parties contributing to human life, the father and mother give
the child its physical form. Yet life only begins in earnest once G-d
implants within the body a divine spark, its soul (See Talmud Bavli,
Kiddushin 30b). It is specifically in this endeavor of "creation", that man
transcends the animal kingdom by entering a partnership with G-d. Just as he
is fashioned "in the image of G-d" (Genesis 1:27), procreation sees man
emulate the Master of the Universe; how like his Creator, he too, is one who
The magnificent creation of the universe is itself associated with
"goodness" and "blessing" ("G-d saw all that He had made [in creation] and
behold it was very good.G-d blessed the seventh day" - Genesis 1:31, 2:3).
The reason is because blessing - as with all acts of kindness and charity-
overflows from the good of the benefactor. All resources at his disposal are
altruistically directed, going beyond himself, to benefit others. Of course,
this analogy accurately expresses the essence of G-d's Creation exclusively
for mankind's benefit as His Infinite blessing and abundance showered down
onto His creatures.
It lies within the confines of man's finite lifespan on earth to "create"
worlds - i.e. to invest holiness (the spiritual component, soul) to reside
and find expression within the physical forms on Earth (body). In the same
way that a Jew is instructed to be fruitful in having children, he must
equally focus on the spiritual fruits of his labors. Indeed, from the
statement "These are the offspring of Noah - Noah was a righteous man"
(Genesis 6:9), our sages conclude that the primary offspring of the
righteous are, in fact, their good deeds, their mitzvos classified as their
spiritual "children" (Rashi ad loc).
Only by realization that life itself is man's most precious asset can he
weather the tide and surmount the hardships and difficulties of living. The
world was "blessed"; it was created to be populated, for life to grow and
thrive. And the mitzvah of procreation is the means how man mirrors and
partners G-d in the creation of life.
The sanctity of life is so important that it calls for the suspension of all
the precepts (save for the three cardinal sins) to preserve even one human
life! Furiously clinging onto life throughout the millennia, the Jew has
preserved. He has persistently strived to involve himself in the creation of
children that will continue his legacy of creating goodness and blessing in
all of his actions; so that, like him, future generations would also
dedicate their whole existence to serving G-d.