A guest post by TikunOlam
I have been thinking a lot about babies lately. I have a new niece, born in Israel. I have a brand new nephew who hasn't even been named yet. One of our favorite cousins just announced that she is expecting her first. A lot of good news. The family keeps growing. So much simcha and so many beautiful children.
As many of you know, I am also hoping to have a new "baby" in my home in the near future. In fact, today is our last home visit before our application to become a foster/adoptive family is (finally) complete.
With babies on the brain I started thinking back to what I learned while growing up about the mitzvah of "peru u'revu" (the requirement to reproduce). I remember learning (and I am hoping that there are readers out there that could further educate me) that there are various opinions as to what fulfills the mitzvah. I remember learning that according to one opinion, Jews are required to have at least one boy and one girl. I remember that according to another opinion, the requirement is to have 2 boys and 2 girls. I don't remember the sources or even if I am remembering this correctly.
Clearly, having children is a major focus for observant Jews. I have been told from some of the readers here that having large families is a central focus in the chareidi community. Therefore it is not uncommon to see families of 9, 10, even 13 children. In the Modern Orthodox community, families are somewhat smaller, but still larger than the old 2.3 average or today's even smaller 1.7 child average. Today, it seems, having two children in the MO world is almost unheard of and it is very common to have four or five (or more) per family.
Babies on the brain got me wondering about what the OJ thoughts on adoption are. I understand that there is a great deal of money spent on fertility treatments in the chareidi community. Is this because adoption is not considered a way to fulfill this mitzvah?
I also started thinking about other issues that make this mitzvah complicated. And I started wondering, how far is a couple required to go to "go forth and multiply?" What if having an additional child would compromise the mother's health? What if there is a child with special needs in the family and a new addition would take so much time away from the child with special needs that the child would suffer from neglect? What if a man or a woman, for psychological reasons, feels unable to care for another child? What if the mother is required to take medications that might have some detrimental affect on the fetus? What if a couple thinks that the health of the marriage would become compromised if they were to have another child? I know it is a lot of questions (and I edited this down to fewer than I really have), but I have babies on the brain. I'd like to learn more.