We have chosen to address this subject because we are adopting a chronological approach to life-cycle, in which each section will focus on a particular section of Jewish life, working through progressively from birth to bereavement. In order to talk about birth issues, we will start from the question of having children, which predictably takes us forward into the married state, a subject that we will revisit in a later section. However, although our choice is dictated by chronology, it is fortuitous indeed - and fitting as well - to open with a subject that goes right to the heart of some of the biggest issues in the Jewish world-view.
In the introduction we said that life cycle moments and rituals usually contain the keys to some of the basic cultural ideas of the specific group: we will see this idea beautifully illustrated when we come to talk now of the issue of children. Children are one of the clearest expressions of life, and therefore it stands to reason that an examination of the relationship of a culture to the issues of children actually opens up the whole question of the culture's relationship to the value of life. Since, for Judaism, the idea of the sanctification of life stands right at the center of the value system, as soon as we start to talk about the idea of having children we find ourselves immediately in an examination of some of the most fundamental ideas of Judaism.
In addition, this subject will open up some other very central issues within Judaism, including Jewish survival, gender issues, memory and others.
At the end of this and each of the other sections we bring a number of possible educational activities for use in the classroom, the clubroom, or other educational settings. They are designed to reflect the text of this background section, following and exploring its various themes and ideas.