The Jewish people are numerically very small, relative to the population of the other religions and of the world generally. In a world of one billion Christians and one billion Moslems, seven hundred million Hindus and half a billion Buddhists, the thirteen or fourteen million Jews seem to hardly matter. Yet, anyone who reads the daily newspapers of the world must think that Jews comprise a sizable section of the world population. The disproportionate influence of Jews, individually and nationally, over all of the centuries of civilization is one of the signs of our choseness. Yet, the fact that the Jewish people, more than fifty years after the Holocaust has not restored itself numerically to its pre-World War II size is a worrisome condition. It is the product of increasing numbers of Jewish singles, of women marrying later and maintaining careers, of intermarriage and assimilation and of thousands of abortions every year. Combined, these reasons spell demographic troubles for the future vitality and growth of the Jewish people.
The parsha of Tazria deals at least indirectly with the necessity and holiness of having children. Though the Torah couches the relevant part of the parsha regarding children and reproduction in terms of tahara and tumah – ritual purity and impurity – the clear message of the Torah is its reiteration of God’s blessing and challenge to mankind to “be fruitful and multiply.” If this is true regarding mankind generally, it is doubly true regarding the Jewish people. For though, the Lord warned us in advance that “you will be the smallest of all nations” there is nevertheless an obligation upon us to see to it that there be a critical mass of Jews present in the world to be of importance and influence. For Judaism to survive and prosper, there must be Jews. That simple lesson unfortunately has been lost on a lot of Jews who have adopted the me-first, no pain or sacrifice, hedonistic and selfish attitudes of our post-modern society.
Having children, how many, when, etc. is really a very personal decision. People from the outside have no right to interfere in other people’s personal decisions regarding so intimate a subject. Nevertheless, there is a general attitude, a Torah direction, that should influence the personal decision of individual Jews regarding this matter. This general attitude of “be fruitful and multiply” flies in the face of much of current mores in the general Western world. Therefore, the Jewish attitude towards family and children needs special reinforcement and strengthening in our schools and homes. In the private life of every Jew there must also be a public sense of loyalty and responsibility to the Jewish people, its traditions and destiny. Children are our first and main responsibility. They are our commitment to the eternity of Israel. That is certainly the subliminal message of the words of the Torah that begin this week’s parsha.
Rabbi Berel Wein