B: Text Section
In this section we bring together the various texts to which references have been made throughout the previous section and add in, with some commentary, some extra texts that are relevant within the context. These extra texts can be used as the basis of further activities, either individually, or juxtaposed with the other texts, in order to further enrich the activities.
16. The barrenness of Sarah
And Abram and Nahor [his brother] took them wives. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai… But Sarai was barren, she had no child.
17. The first commandment
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
18. The importance of bearing children
Rabbi Eliezer stated: He who does not engage in [the commandment to] "go forth and multiply" is as someone who sheds blood… Rabbi Jacob said, he is as someone who diminishes the Divine image… Ben Azzai said, he is as someone who sheds blood and diminishes the Divine image.
Bab. Talmud, Tractate Yebamot, 63b.
There is an interesting continuation to this quote. Ben Azzai, the last speaker named above, is known as one of the Sages who had no children, and the Talmudic discussion continues accordingly.
18b. The importance of bearing children: Don't preach, do!
Rabbi Eliezer said to Ben Azzai: "Such words sound well when they issue from the mouths of those who practice them. There are some who preach well and practice well; others practice well but do not preach well. You preach well but do not practice well." Ben Azzai replied, "But what shall I do seeing that my soul yearns for Torah. The world can continue through others".
Bab. Talmud, Tractate Yebamot, 63b.
19. Childbearing - a command for all times?
Blessed is the one who has not been born,
Or who having been born, has died,
But as for those of us who are alive,
We ache because we see the afflictions of Zion and Jerusalem's fate…
Women, pray for barrenness,
For barren women will be the happiest, those without sons will be glad,
And those with sons will grieve.
Why should a woman bear children in pain, only to bury them in grief?
Why should we have sons?
Why should we give names to our seed,
When the mother Jerusalem is desolate and her sons are captive.
The Apocalypse of Baruch; from the Pseudepigrapha.
20. Regrets about birth: the curse of Jeremiah
Jeremiah, who lived in the last years of the First Temple, had an extraordinarily difficult life. Because of the unpopular messages that he was bringing to the people in the name of G-d, he was constantly rejected and maltreated by the Jews. At a certain point, he became so utterly depressed by the treatment that he received that he uttered the famous curse which is perhaps the most painful statement uttered by any individual in the course of the Tanach.
Cursed be the day that I was born!
Let not the day be blessed when my mother bore me!
Cursed be the man who brought my father the news and said;
"A boy is born to you" and gave him such joy.
Let that man become like the cities
Which the L-rd overthrew without regret!
Let him hear shrieks in the morning and battle shouts at noontide,
Because that day he did not kill me before birth
So that my mother might be my grave,
And her womb big with me for all time.
Why did I ever come forth from the womb,
To see misery and woe,
To spend all my days in shame?
21. The question of gender: a disagreement
No man may abstain from keeping the law "be fruitful and multiply" unless he already has children; according to the School of Shammai, two sons; according to the School of Hillel, a son and a daughter since it is written (Bereishit Ch.5 v.2) "male and female He created them."
22. The question of gender: the first creation story's version
So G-d created the man in his own image. In the image of G-d He created him. Male and female He created them.
We now bring in an additional four rabbinic opinions bearing on the importance of children. Any of these quotes (and there are more) individually, and certainly all of them together, can be used to show the rabbinic view that it is essential to try and have children.
23. On those without children
We have been taught: He who has no son is as though he were dead, utterly demolished. As though he were dead, for Rachel said "Give me children or else I shall die." (Gen. 30:1). As though utterly demolished, for Sarah said, "It may be that I shall be rebuilt through her" (Gen. 16:2), and only that which has been thoroughly demolished requires rebuilding.
Midrash: Bereishit Rabbah 45:2
24. The importance of procreation: for this the world exists
The world was created only for fruition and increase as it is said; "He created it not a waste. He formed it to be inhabited." (Isaiah 45:18)
Bab. Talmud, Berachot, 10a
25. G-D's presence: among the children
[It is said in Bereishit Ch.17:7] "To be a G-d unto thee and to thy seed after thee". When there exists "seed after thee" the Presence dwells among them but when there is none, among whom is it to dwell? Among sticks and stones?
Bab. Talmud, Yebamot, 64a
26. The disgrace of the barren woman
(It is written in Psalm 145:14) "The L-rd supports all that fall". This refers to such as barren women who fall in status in their own homes. "And makes all who are bent stand straight" (same place in Psalms). As soon as the Holy One remembers them with children, they are enabled to stand upright. You can see for yourself that it is so. Leah had been the disdained one in the house, but as soon as the Holy One remembered her with children she was enabled to stand straight.
Midrash: Bereishit Rabbah 71:2.
We end with two Biblical cases, mentioned - but not quoted - in the body of the text, which attest to the importance of having children and which themselves have entered the Jewish world-view as proof texts for the importance of having children.
27. The disgrace of the barren woman: Rachel as test case
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children or I shall die." ... G-d remembered Rachel. He listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, "G-d has taken away my disgrace." She named him Joseph and said, may G-d give me another son.
Bereishit 30:1, 22-23 .
28. Yearning for children: the story of Hannah
Hannah had no children…the L-rd had closed her womb…[Once at the tabernacle in Shiloh] in bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the L-rd. And she made a vow, saying "Oh L-rd Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me and not forget your servant but give her a human seed (make her pregnant), then I will give the child to the L-rd for life…
As she kept on praying to the L-rd, Eli (the priest in charge of the shrine), observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."
"It is not so, my L-rd", replied Hannah. "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer. I was pouring out my soul to the L-rd. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman. I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."
Eli answered, "Go in peace and may the G-d of Israel grant you what you have requested from him." … The L-rd remembered her. In the course of time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She called him Samuel.
First Samuel 1:2-20