The First Child — The First of Many

.. One of the strongest objections for delaying the birth of the first child and/or limiting the number of children is fear of the financial inability to support children.

Naturally, parents want the best for their children, and fear of being unable to provide adequately is a powerful deterrent to having them. This is a genuine concern — but based on an assumption that springs from a weakness of faith and presumptuousness.

One who fears that he will not be able to provide is assuming that it is completely through his efforts that he succeeds.

True, Torah requires that man work to provide for his family. But it is a primary tenet of Judaism that all success comes from G‑d, that it is His blessings that give sustenance, not one’s own efforts alone. It is G‑d who provides for all of His creatures; another mouth will not overburden Him.

But the objections continue. Granted that having children is a fine, even beautiful thing; but at least give people the choice as to when to have children.

However, can people be faulted for delaying their first child until they feel emotionally and financially able, or for wishing to space their children, to have a break between one child and the next?

This argument is seemingly logical and certainly appealing. But while it is an axiom of Judaism that man has free choice, do not confuse this with an unlimited opportunity to choose. A child is not a faucet, to be turned on at will.

No power on earth can guarantee the birth of a baby. That decision, that power, is G‑d’s, and G‑d’s alone, the third Partner in every child. The possible blessing so disdained earlier may not be available later.

Take His blessings when He offers them, gratefully, and rest assured that this third Partner is benevolent, all-knowing, Who can be trusted to know the best time.

Bluntly: it is presumptuous for anyone to see herself as the final authority determining life. Attempts to regulate life based solely on man’s limited understanding are foolhardy, and the stakes are too high to risk the unpredictable.

Statistics reveal some sobering facts. Precisely in the past few generations, when the concept of family planning has become so widespread, we see the highest rates of marital discord.

Disharmony in the home, separations, divorces, ugly quarrels, tension, nervous frustrations, psychiatric disorders — the problems are legion, matched only by their severity.

Compare the present with previous generations, especially in Jewish homes, where family planning was unthinkable. The divorce rate was infinitesimal, respect and harmony between spouses legendary in the eyes of the world. And let us not forget the effect on the children, growing up in a household of peace and harmony and shared ideals and values.

The reason for the gulf between generations is simple. Man was created in a certain way, and attempts to interfere must lead to disruptions.

The human body is infinitely intricate. Disrupting its natural functions inevitably causes problems. Family planning, presented as helpful and logical, causes many of the marital problems so prevalent today.

Children, many children, are the greatest gift and blessing G‑d can bestow upon us; do not let imagined obstacles stand in the way of enjoying these blessings.

(Sichos Kodesh 5741, Vol. II, pp. 99-108)

The Precious Gift of Children

I am astonished by the statement in your letter:

You write that there is justification in the statement of a married woman of many years, that she is avoiding pregnancy because she finds her financial situation wanting. She is therefore waiting until matters will be in order [and will be able to move into a dwelling that she feels to be appropriate].

Children are, after all, a great and precious gift from G‑d. Even when one hopes to receive a gift from a human being, lehavdil, it is entirely unseemly to say to the benefactor: “Presently, I am not interested in receiving your gift. When I will be ready to change my mind — I’ll let you know.”

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)1

Leave the Timing Up to G‑d

.. In general, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at any length that children are a special blessing from G‑d, and indeed, one of the most essential blessings.

It is also self-evident that this is not a matter in which a human being can choose the right time and set up his or her own timetable.

Clearly, a Jew should not attempt to interfere in G‑d’s affairs. In other words, a Jew is expected to live a normal life, in accordance with the will of G‑d as revealed in the Torah and codified in the Shulchan Aruch.

He is to leave the question of pregnancy to G‑d.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, written in the year 5732)

Conduct During Pregnancy: Notifying Others

The Rebbe’s Blessing

In almost all instances, the Rebbe would issue the following blessing upon notification that a couple was expecting a child:

May G‑d grant that your entire pregnancy proceed to a normal and easy completion, and that healthy and viable offspring be born full term of a regular and easy birth.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIV, p. 77)2

Wait Till the Fifth Month Before Publicizing the News

You are no doubt aware of the directive of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, that “until she enters the fifth month, do not publicize the news.”

As is implicit in his words, the emphasis here is on “publicizing” — as opposed to notifying those who are extremely close, not in a manner of publicity.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XX, p. 200)3

In reply to your question regarding the directive of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, not to publicize [the news of the pregnancy] until the woman enters the fifth month:

The intent of the directive is with regard to publicizing. However, it is self-understood that the doctor must be told, and that relatives and good friends may be told.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VIII, p. 209)

Special Conduct During the Time of Pregnancy

The Conduct of the Expectant Mother Has an Effect on the Child

.. Moreover, the conduct of the expectant mother during the time of her pregnancy has an effect on the child, which is why it is the custom of righteous women that — for the sake of their child — during the time of their pregnancy they are much more scrupulous in refraining from untoward matters and much more scrupulous in the spiritual beautification and adornment of Torah and mitzvos.

(Hisvaaduyos 5747, Vol. II, p. 37)

Special Conduct for Both Husband and Wife

In reply to your letter in which you convey to me the good news that you have entered the second month — approximately — of your pregnancy:

Surely, as I have mentioned to ... if at all possible you are not to publicize the news “until the fifth month” — to use the expression of my father-in-law, the Rebbe.

I would suggest [to you the following]:

a) Surely you are following your doctors’ orders — those of whom you already visited — regarding your diet, not overstraining yourself, etc.

b) Check all the mezuzos in your home and exchange the non-kosher ones for kosher ones.

c) Keep the fine custom of Jewish women, that of giving tzedakah to the fund of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes prior to lighting candles every Erev Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov.

d) Your husband, the Rav sheyichye, should continue reciting the daily portion of Psalms (as it is divided by the days of the month) at least until after you give birth in a good and auspicious hour.

So, too, in the Prayer Before Retiring at Night, your husband should recite — prior to Hamapil — the 20th Psalm, Lamenatzeiach ... Ya’ancha. After he concludes the chapter, he should once again recite the second verse, Ya’ancha, and have in mind that G‑d should consider it as if he had all the intentions (kavanos) that are to be thought of at that time.4

May G‑d grant you an easy pregnancy; may you carry to term and give birth in a regular and easy way to a healthy child.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VI, p. 104)

Check the Mezuzos and Give Tzedakah Every Weekday

.. With regard to your question about a special manner of conduct [during the term of pregnancy]:

I believe that I have already written to you that I have not heard that there are any [specific directives].

However, in general terms, you should check the mezuzos of your home, and also give a few cents to tzedakah every weekday morning. Understandably, this is in addition to the tzedakah that your wife surely gives prior to lighting candles every Erev Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VII, p. 303)

Propitious Deeds That Can Assist
In Being Blessed With Children

Scrupulous Observance of Taharas Hamishpachah

.. At times the impediment to G‑d’s blessing for healthy and viable children is the result of a lack of scrupulous and meticulous observance of the laws and regulations of Taharas Hamishpachah, family purity, (niddah, hefsek taharah, immersion in a kosher mikveh, etc.).

Since lack of [thorough] knowledge [of these laws] leads to their imperfect performance, a practicing Rav should inform the two of you all the detailed laws — with the understanding that you are to observe them from here on out.

It would be proper to check your tefillin, as well as the mezuzos in your home, that they all be kosher according to Jewish law.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, p. 178)

Taharas Hamishpachah Is the Special Receptacle
For Receiving the Blessing of Children

.. Conducting oneself on an ongoing basis in accordance to G‑d’s will is the general conduit and receptacle for receiving G‑d’s blessings — in addition to the fact that the commandments must be performed in any case, since they are G‑d’s will.

In addition, each and every particular mitzvah is connected with a particular segulah and blessing, and as known, the blessing for healthy and viable children is connected with the observance of the laws and regulations of Taharas Hamishpachah.

It therefore would be appropriate for the two of you to be extremely meticulous in this matter, particularly since with the passage of time some pertinent details may have been forgotten. It is thus worthwhile for the two of you to review the laws again.

May G‑d fulfill your heart’s desires for the good, and may you convey glad tidings.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXII, p. 299)

Diligent Study of Chassidus

.. There is the well-known letter of the Alter Rebbe, wherein he writes that diligent and assiduous study of Chassidus — a study that leads to love and awe [of G‑d] — is a segulah for the birth of sons and daughters.5

Although you write that you have an established study session [in Chassidus] every Thursday night, this clearly does not suffice.

In addition to the concrete certainty that one must study Chassidus every Shabbos, it would also be appropriate for you to establish two or three more study sessions [in Chassidus] during the week as well.

If at all possible, these sessions should be organized in a manner that there will not be a passage of three days without the study of Chassidus. Understandably, all the above is in addition to the study of Tanya, as divided in the Study Guide (Moreh Shiur) according to the days of the year.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 185)

Disseminating the Wellsprings of Chassidus

.. You can explain to her that her sacred work of disseminating Chassidus acts as a segulah for the birth of children, as is to be understood from the letters of the Alter Rebbe printed in Meah She’arim6 and in Ginzei Nistaros7 as well as in other locations.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 340)

Increase Your Performance of Torah and Mitzvos
Clarify If Offense Was Given — Check Tefillin and Mezuzos

In reply to your letter relating to your sister, who has been married for many years and has yet to be blessed with children:

I wonder why you did not mention whether they have consulted with fertility experts; if they have not as yet done so, they should do so now.

This is in keeping with the directive of our Sages, of blessed memory, who in commenting on the verse,8 “and he shall be healed,” state: “From here we learn that the Torah gave a healer the ability [and power] to heal.”9

However, a Jew’s physical and spiritual welfare are inextricably bound together, as they are “one nation on earth,”10 and in the language of the Alter Rebbe:11 “This means that even in mundane [“earthly”] matters they will not be separated from G‑d’s true unity [and oneness].”

Therefore, they are to increase their performance of Torah and mitzvos and strengthen their faith and trust in G‑d, the Creator and Conductor of the entire world, that He watches over them with individual Divine Providence with regard to all the above.

In a case such as the above, it would also be appropriate for them to ascertain whether their shidduch with each other did not wound the pride of any Jewish young man or woman to the extent that it necessitates asking their forgiveness. [If they do have to ask forgiveness, they can do so] either in the presence of the aggrieved party or [if this is not possible,] in the aggrieved party’s absence.

They should also check the husband’s tefillin, as well as the mezuzos in their home, that they all be kosher according to Jewish law. Also, the wife should observe the custom of Jewish women of giving tzedakah prior to lighting candles every Erev Shabbos and every Erev Yom Tov.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 32)

Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael

With regard to conceiving a child:

Making aliyah from the Diaspora to Eretz Yisrael is a segulah for this matter.12

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXII, p. 299)

Male Offspring

Strengthen Your Love of a Fellow Jew,Torah and G‑d

In reply to your letter, in which you convey the request of ... that he be blessed with healthy male offspring:

It would be proper for him to strengthen his degree of love of a fellow Jew, love of Torah and love of G‑d. For as is well known in the writings of Kabbalah and Chassidus, producing the spiritual (male) offspring of love is an auspicious qualification (segulah) toward producing a physical male offspring.

This, [i.e., the production of the spiritual male offspring of love,] is accomplished by contemplating G‑d’s greatness, as the Rambam states.13 This will, in turn, elicit from Above many long and goodly years, and the production of physical male offspring.

Therefore, [i.e., in order to also strengthen his degree of love of fellow Jew and love of Torah] until his wife bears him a male child, he should give — bli neder —every weekday one or two francs to tzedakah prior to morning prayers. It would be appropriate for this tzedakah to be associated with feeding impoverished [Torah] students.

When a child will be born to him, he should name the child after my father-in-law, the Rebbe, that name being Yosef Yitzchak.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VII, p. 51)

Be Hospitable to Guests and Strangers

With regard to being blessed with a male offspring:

There is a story that I heard from my father-in-law, the Rebbe ... with the lesson that one may merit a son through the mitzvah of hospitality, hachnosas orchim.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIX, p. 333)