The Rebbe’s Guidance on Planning a Family

The Rebbe’s words on the importance of having children, and the brochos that having a large family brings.

From A Chassidisher Derher, Kislev 5780

Editor’s note: A new Chassidisher Derher WhatsApp series will be starting on this topic on Monday. To subscribe: No need to resubscribe if you already receive Derher’s WhatsApp messages.

The First Mitzvah

Bearing children is the single most important thing that a person can do. The very first mitzvah of the 613 mitzvos is פרו ורבו – be fruitful and multiply – ומלאו את הארץ וכבשה – and fill the earth and subdue it.

The fact that it’s the first mitzvah in the Torah—even before “I am Hashem your G-d”—shows just how important it is. The Midrash tells us that “the concept of Torah” came before the creation of the world, but “the concept of Yidden” came before everything, including Torah. The birth of another Jewish child comes before everything, even “the concept of Torah!”

The mitzvah from the Torah is to have two children: a boy and a girl, but the mitzvah of chachamim is that one should continue having children as long as possible, “for anyone who adds a soul to the Jewish people is considered as if he built an entire world.”. It is the first mitzvah in the Torah—and it’s also the first bracha in the Torah, for it is the greatest bracha that one can be blessed with.

Every individual is an olam malei, an entire world. When you bring a child into the world, you are bringing an entire world, and you are creating an infinite lineage of people that will come from that child. When you choose not to have another child, that is spiritually eliminating an entire lineage of people that could have resulted from this child. Yidden throughout all the generations—in Eretz Yisroel, as well as during all times of galus—always considered it to be the greatest bracha to have many children. This goes back to the earliest history of the Jewish people.

The Imahos were very different from one another: Sara performed outreach to women, which we don’t find by the other Imahos; Rivka had unique qualities that the other Imahos didn’t have, and so on—and we derive a lesson from each of their individual qualities. There is only one thing that we find by every single one of the Imahos—Sara, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah—a yearning and striving to have children. “Sara hut avekgelait a velt!” (loosely: ‘She gave it her all’). She came with complaints to Avraham Avinu, and she didn’t allow him to rest: she needed to have children! The same was true with Rivka and Rochel. Even Leah, who merited to have children immediately after her marriage, did everything in her power to have more.


We see clearly that the greatest nachas that a person can have is from raising a family. By no means is it easy but when, after all the hardships, doubts and questions, you come out successfully on the other side with children and grandchildren who follow the ways of Torah and mitzvos, there is no greater feeling! Lefum tzaara agra (according to the pain is the gain). You can’t receive this same nachas from a single child, for with every additional child comes a new world of nachas, each in their own unique way: one child gives nachas in the arena of Torah, another in avoda, and a third in gemmilus chassadim.

When a person doesn’t have as many children as they can, they are denying themselves the greatest bracha, light, and warmth that Hashem can give a person. It is only in the darkness of today’s galus that people tragically consider children a burden. It is not hard to find older people who regret the fact that they didn’t raise large families—“They grab their heads that they let slip such a lofty and precious opportunity to have more children”—but it’s too late…

This can be felt on a practical level. “When children grow up and move away to build their own families,” the Rebbe said, “the parents want to visit their children and grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. But if they have only one or two children, they can only visit every half a year or so…The parents can’t sit in their children’s homes all the time. Between trips, they are forced to be alone, without having someone to open themselves up to. Whereas parents who have many children can visit one child, stay for a while—and then move on to the next child. Similarly, the children and grandchildren come to visit their parents and grandparents from time to time, and everyone sits together—a minyan at the ,ושמחת לפני ה’ אלוקיך אתה ובניך ובנותיך—table and the grandfathers and grandmothers receive much nachas from their children and grandchildren.”

The Model Family?

The mitzvah of having children was entrusted to every single couple—whether or not their home environment is ideal; whether or not they are confident in their ability to raise good children; and whether or not they believe that they have the financial resources to continue having children. It applies whether they already have two children (a boy and a girl), or they’ve already caught up with Yaakov Avinu, with twelve boys and a girl—they are still enjoined to have more.

There are three partners in the creation of every child: the father, the mother, and Hashem. The father and mother can only control that they definitely won’t have children, but anything past that, in fact everything else— that the mother will become pregnant, that the child will be healthy, and how the child’s life will turn out—is controlled completely by the third partner, Hashem. And Hashem gave his opinion as to whether or not a person should try having children; He said pru u’rvu, be fruitful and multiply—without exceptions or quotas. The mitzvah applies until you’ve fulfilled the second part of the possuk, that you’ve filled the world and conquered it. If in fact there’s a situation when one is not meant to have children at that time, for whatever reason, then Hashem will ensure that you won’t.

Family Planning: An Impostor Hiding in a Kapote

The Rebbe truly felt that family planning was actively hurting families, and his language in the sichos on the topic were often quite sharp. Below, we bring the Rebbe’s words as they were said, but we encourage our readers to watch and listen to the original sichos, where one can hear the compassion and care with which the Rebbe was speaking.

On the surface, the Rebbe said, “family planning” may sound like a sensible idea: If you plan everything else in your life, how much more so should you be organized in an endeavor as significant as child-bearing, to ensure that the children should come at the appropriate time and ideal circumstance. In reality, however, it is a dangerous “plan,” concealed in a “silk kapote,” in holy clothing; it might have a fancy, politically correct name— family planning—but really it’s a deceptive term for disrupting Hashem’s natural order, the natural functions of our bodies.

“One must know that when you disrupt Hashem’s ways and prevent birth, you are damaging yourself and everyone around you.”And it has terrible effects on family life as well: “…It causes tensions in the relationship between husband and wife, which, in turn, leads to spoiling, r”l, their life together— here there are precautions, here there are limitations, here comes a fight, and here there is a strain. When you disrupt the normal way that Hashem set up life in His Torah, and you start introducing changes, it hurts the relationship and shalom bayis between husband and wife, and it even hurts their health—both the wife’s and the husband’s.”

What about getting a heter for health? There is a scenario when it is permitted to hold off on having children—when it is dangerous for the mother. It is impossible for the parents to have unbiased judgement in this matter, and a rav must be consulted. If, in fact, the situation calls for a heter, then it is the Torah itself that is directing the person to push off having children. However, if a heter is not really necessary, and parents made the decision that they shouldn’t be having children for other reasons, then even if they do manage to get a heter from a rav, they should know that the yetzer hara is behind it, he is concealed in holy clothing.

When one finds heterim for things that the yetzer hara wants, they are a naval birshus haTorah, a disgrace with the Torah’s permission.

Unstable Home

In addition to teaching the general authentic Torah perspective on this topic, namely, that having children is the single most important goal and it overrides all other considerations, the Rebbe also expounded upon certain specific scenarios which are commonly brought up regarding this outlook: Should a couple be encouraged to have more children if the shalom bayis is lacking, or when the level of frumkeit leaves ample room for improvement?

We have a lesson for this in Torah: in certain situations that a woman acts very inappropriately, she gains the status of a sota. She is brought to the Beis Hamikdash and tested with the sota water to determine as to whether she was indeed faithful to her husband. If she fails the test, she dies. But if she passes, the Torah promises her that, as repayment for all the embarrassment and suffering she endured, she will be blessed in the realm of childbirth: if she was barren, she will have children; if she already has children, she will have more children, and more beautiful ones.

Think about it: Whether or not the woman actually sinned, this couple’s shalom bayis is clearly not doing well, and this woman is obviously not tzniusdik. Yet the Torah says that the greatest bracha that can be given to this family is to have more children! So in fact, the opposite is true. When you start disrupting the natural order that Hashem set up—by doing family planning—that itself causes tension and fights between the husband and wife.

Am I Ready to be a Parent?

Some people think that because raising children is such a serious responsibility, they will wait until they feel certain that they can be good parents and positively influence their children. Otherwise, it’s too much of a risk that the children won’t be brought up well. Here, too, we have a lesson from the Torah. King Chizkiyahu saw with ruach hakodesh that he would have evil progeny, and he made the decision not to have children. Yet Hashem punished him for this. The navi told him: בהדי כבשי דרחמנא למה לך מאי דמפקדת איבעי לך למעבד ומה דניחא קמיה קודשא בריך הוא לעביד – Why do you mix into Hashem’s ways? That which you have been commanded [the mitzvah of procreation] you are required to perform, and that which is acceptable in the eyes of Hashem, blessed be He, let Him perform.”

Chizkiyahu was not simply concerned that his children would turn out bad—he knew it! In fact, he went on to have Menashe, one of the most evil kings in the history of the Jewish people. Yet—that wasn’t his calculation to make: he needed to fulfill his obligation to have children, and the rest was up to Hashem. (Many of the later descendants of Chizkiyahu, it turns out, were in fact great tzadikim.) How much more so is this true if you’re only “worried” that your children might not come out right. You must nevertheless fulfill your mitzvah of having children, with joy and bitachon, and Hashem will grant you success in educating them.

Financial Considerations

Beyond the considerations above, which seem to be of the more moral variety, there seem to be practical considerations. The current mindset in America is that a responsible person only has children when he knows how he will cover the significant expenses involved. As much as it costs to raise children in the secular world, it costs even more to raise a Jewish family, especially with the high cost of tuition (for which we pay double: taxes for the public schools, and tuition for schooling).

The Rebbe spoke strongly about never allowing such considerations to get in the way of having children. How can you make such calculations when you’re dealing with the greatest bracha that you can be blessed with?29 Such a mindset means that you are a “weak believer.” It is a fundamental part of our faith that Hashem is the one who provides our parnasa, as we say in benching. Hashem has the responsibility to sustain all of the billions of humans in the world, and also the animals, insects, and even vegetation—and he always comes through for each one of them.

When you bring a child into the world, Hashem is the one who has the responsibility of sustaining him, and a new channel of parnasa is created for each child. Later on, this channel will go directly to him, but for the first part of his life, the parents have the merit to serve as Hashem’s messengers to bring the parnasa—Hashem’s money—to the child. True, the parents need to create a vessel to receive Hashem’s parnasa—but that’s all it is, a vessel. If you choose not to have children— and, consequently, the new channels of parnasa they come with—you’re harming your own parnasa!

“This person has been working hard to make a living, and he only made this-and-this amount of money, which wouldn’t be enough to support more children. So—he says—this proves that he was right [not to have more children]! “He was wrong! The Gemara says that ‘a child is born together with his loaf of bread.’ When Hashem partners with parents and gives them a child—Hashem’s child—then He provides parnasa because of the child. If a person stops this process, he is hurting his own parnasa!”

“The bracha of Hashem brings riches, not only bare necessities. So if you want riches—both physically and spiritually—you need to provide the vessels [through having children]. If there are no vessels, ‘the oil will stop flowing.’”

The Elephant in the Room: Peer Pressure

The most difficult challenge of all—the challenge that often lurks behind all the other excuses and considerations—is peer pressure, the fact that having a large family runs contrary to today’s culture, and can cause someone to feel ridiculed by their friends and neighbors. This is especially true in today’s day and age, when women are out and about and meet other women with a non-Torah outlook on family building; some of those secular views on families may rub off on them as well.

We must always remember, the Rebbe said, that it might not be considered “cultured” and “modern” and “in style” to have a large family—but the same “modernity” and “culture” that brought Hitler and the Nazis yemach shemam is what’s creating the atmosphere that it’s not cultural to have children—thus fulfilling Hitler’s goal. When one takes an objective view and compares the family life of these “peers” to that of those who lead a family in accordance with Torah—that itself should be enough to put this issue to rest.

For a printable version of the full article, click here.

Editor’s note: A new Chassidisher Derher WhatsApp series will be starting on this topic on Monday. To subscribe: No need to resubscribe if you already receive Derher’s WhatsApp messages.

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