Having Children

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There is a positive mitzvah to bring children into the world and raise them to be proper Jews.[1] A possible reason behind this mitzvah is that Hashem didn't want the world to be empty.[2] Additionally, it is also the doorway to all mitzvot because only living people can fulfill mitzvot and the Torah was given to man and not the angels.[3]

General

  1. The mitzvah is to endeavor to have children according to his ability.[4]
  2. Technically, only men are obligated in this mitzvah.[5] Nonetheless, women who do have children do fulfill a mitzvah in aiding her husband to have children.[6] Additionally, some say that women are obligated to have children in order to ensure that the world is populated.[7]
  3. A person fulfills his obligation once he has two children, one son and one daughter.[8]
  4. Continuing to have more children is also an important mitzvah.[9] Nonetheless, it is important to take into account other values and concerns.[10]

Pregnancy

  1. Some say that it is a segula for a woman to have an easy labor if her husband opens the aron kodesh during her 9th month.[11]

Mitzvah of Onah

  1. There is a mitzvah of oneh (Heb. עונה; lit. time) for a husband to fulfill his wife's needs in terms of tashmish. There are certain guidelines of how often he is obligated to attend to those needs.[12] Beyond that, anytime when she is interested he is obligated to gladden his wife.[13]

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and Invitro Fertilization (IVF)

For a Couple

  1. Most poskim hold that it is permitted for a couple to do IUI or IVF,[14] the child is considered their child,[15] and the father fulfills Pru Urevu.[16] However, many poskim only allowed it after ten years of being married.[17]
    1. Some poskim hold that a person doesn't fulfill pru urevu but does fulfill another rabbinic mitzvah of shevet.[18]

Receiving Non-Jewish Sperm Donation

  1. In extenuating circumstances some poskim allow a married woman to get a sperm donation from a non-Jew.[19] Other poskim hold that it is forbidden.[20]
  2. A child from a non-Jewish sperm donation into a Jewish mother is completely Jewish. If it is a first born should have a pidyon haben, though without a bracha.[21]

Receiving Jewish Sperm Donation

  1. The poskim forbid a woman from getting sperm donation from Jewish sperm.[22]
  2. After the fact, a sperm donation from another man into a married woman does not make the woman forbidden to her husband. Some poskim hold that the child is not a mamzer and if it is a girl can even marry a kohen,[23] while others hold that the child is a mamzer.[24] Some hold that her and her husband need to separate while she's pregnant and for another 24 months.[25]

While She Is a Niddah

  1. There is a major question if doing IUI or IVF is permitted when a woman is still a niddah.[26]

Related Topics

Sources

  1. Rambam (Asin), Sefer HaChinuch (no. 1)
  2. Yishayahu 45:18, Sefer HaChinuch (no. 1)
  3. Sefer HaChinuch (no. 1)
  4. The language of the Gemara Shabbat 31a in heaven a person will be asked whether he "involved" himself in Pru Urevu and not whether he actually fulfilled the mitzvah. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe EH 2:18) writes that the actual mitzvah for men is to have relations with his wife in order to have children. However, when his wife actually gives birth to children, that isn't this mitzvah but an exemption of the mitzvah. The Minchat Chinuch (no. 1, s.v. VeIm Adam), however, assumes that having the children is the actual fulfillment of the mitzvah. Rav Soloveitchik quoted by Rav Schachter in a shiur (Yevamot 47, min 54-9) on yutorah.org had a compromise opinion in which a person fulfills the action of the mitzvah (maaseh ha'mitzvah) with relations and fulfills the completion of the mitzvah (kiyum ha'mitzvah) when his wife actually gives birth to children.
  5. Yevamot 65b, Sefer HaChinuch (no. 1), Rambam (Ishut 15:2), Shulchan Aruch EH 1:1. The Mishna (Yevamot 65b) states that women are exempt from this mitzvah because the end of the pasuk states that people should conquer the world and that isn't the tendency of women. Meshech Chachma (Beresheet 9:7) suggests that the reason the Torah exempted women is because having children is dangerous and the Torah wouldn't obligate them to put themselves in danger.
  6. Ran (Kiddushin 16b)
  7. Tosfot Bava Batra 13a s.v. Sheneemar implies that women are obligated in the mitzvah of "לא תהו בראה לשבת יצרה". Levush YD 249:15 codifies this. See this article by the Schlesinger Institute for more sources.
  8. Yevamot 61b, Rambam (Ishut 15:4), Shulchan Aruch EH 1:5
  9. Rabbi Yehoshua in Yevamot 62b states that if one had children when he is younger he should continue to try to have children when he is older because one never knows the outcome of his children. The Rambam (Ishut 15:16) writes that even though already fulfilled his mitzvah of having children, he has a derabbanan mitzvah to have more children and if he does it is as though he built an entire world. Rabbi Melamed adds that there is a mitzvah of VeHalachta Bedrachav to have more children. Tosfot Bava Batra 60b s.v. din writes that if everyone would only have one son and one daughter, the Jewish nation would cease to exist.
  10. Rabbi Melamed explains that it is important to weigh one's decision carefully. For example, he says, if a person knows that if he has more than eight children they will have a lot of stress, frustration, and difficulty, then it is likely advisable not to continue to fulfill this mitzvah if it will cause one to sin and negatively impact the Chinuch of the children.
  11. The Chida Avodas HaKodesh; Moreh B'etzba 3:4
  12. Ketubot 47b, Rambam Ishut 12:2, Shulchan Aruch E.H. 69:2
  13. Gemara Pesachim 72b introduces that beyond the mitzvah of oneh there is a mitzvah to gladden his wife. Rashi s.v. lismoch who explains that this mitzvah applies when his wife is interested. Nishmat Adam (Shabbat 147:1) codifies this mitzvah in another context. Birkat Eliyahu (on Gra last volume Kuntres Toeh Bdvar Mitzvah p. 7) wonders why the poskim didn't codify this mitzvah. See Mesivta Pesachim 72b cites the Rivan who thinks that this is only rabbinic, while the Raavad (Shaar Hakedusha s.v. vhashlishit) thinks it is biblical. Rav Chaim Ozer in Achiezer 3:83 that dispute.
    • Is it permitted? Bitul Zera: Yaskil Avdi EH 5:10:1:4 writes that it is forbidden to do IUI or IVF because of bitul zera. Even if the child is considered their child and fulfills pru urevu, it is still forbidden. He thinks that bitul zera is not related to her becoming pregnant. It is only permitted to emit zera in the act of tashmish with his wife in the place where Hashem allowed it.
    • Minchat Yitzchak 1:50 is willing to rely on Maharsham who held that it isn't bitul zera if through the process they can have a child and fulfill pru urevu. A proof for this is Tosfot Sanhedrin who compares the halachic parameters of pru urevu and hashchatat zera.
    • Har Tzvi EH 4 writes that a person fulfills pru urevu with artificial insemination as a) According to the Bet Shmuel even his zera caused his wife to become pregnant through a bath (nitaber b'ambati) he fulfills his mitzvah. b) According to the Taz, who disagrees with the Bet Shmuel here since the person intended to do the mitzvah he fulfills the mitzvah. Additionally, if the doctor is Jewish he could be his agent (shaliach adam kmoto). Also, it isn't prohibited because of bitul zera since the goal is purposeful and not destructive.
    • Igrot Moshe EH 1:71 and 2:18 writes that it is permitted to do IUI or IVF for a couple that can’t have children naturally. It isn’t considered bitul zera levatala since there is a purpose in emitting zera (similar to Maharsham). Minchat Shlomo 2:124:2 agrees. However, Rav Moshe writes that they should have zera come out into a condom or into a cup during tashmish. If his wife is a niddah or he's single he should have zera come out by following the suggestions of Chazal in Yevamot 76.
  14. Igrot Moshe EH 1:10 rules like the Bet Shmuel.
  15. The Chelkat Mechokek ponders whether a man whose zera came out into a bath and impregnated his wife fulfills pru urevu and the child is his child. Rabbenu Peretz writes that if a woman slept on the sheets with her husband's zera and became pregnant from that zera the child would be kosher. The child is not considered a ben haniddah since there was no prohibited biya. However, with zera of another man a woman should be careful because it could lead a brother to marry a sister unknowingly. His proof is from Ben Sira who was a child of Yirmiyahu's zera that impregnated his wife while she was in the bath according to Ben Sira. Rabbenu Peretz implies that the genetic father is the father even though there was no biya. Bet Shmuel quotes this proof and concludes that the father whose zera impregnated his wife while she was in the bath is considered the father and fulfills pru urevu. Tashbetz 3:263 is also of this opinion.
  16. Maharsham 3:268, Minchat Yitzchak 1:50, Yabia Omer EH 2:1:10
  17. Minchat Shlomo 2:124:4
  18. Minchat Shlomo 2:124:4, Igrot Moshe EH 1:10
  19. Shevet Halevi 3:175 writes that it is forbidden from the Torah based on Sanhedrin 58a, however, it is not an isur karet like the Satmer Rav held. The Satmer Rav in Divrei Yoel EH 2:107:1 forbids it because there is an issue of not being able to identify the child as having come from zera of kedusha or not (see Yevamot 42a).
  20. Shevet Halevi 3:176
  21. Yaskil Avdi 5:10:1:6 writes that it is terrible to allow any IVF because they might come to allow a sperm donation from someone other than her husband. Igrot Moshe EH 1:71 writes that they should not do sperm donation from a Jew because of the issue that since the father is unknown it could lead to siblings marrying one another. Yabia Omer EH 2:1:9 quotes the Maarchei Lev 73 who writes that it is Biblically forbidden under the prohibition of adultery. While Yabia Omer disagrees that it isn't Biblically forbidden, it is nonetheless forbidden. Shevet Halevi 3:175, Igrot Moshe EH 1:71, Minchat Shlomo 2:124, and Shevet Halevi 3:176 also forbid it.
  22. If there was IUI of sperm from someone other than her husband, Igrot Moshe EH 1:10 wrote that the child is not a mamzer because there was no cohabitation that was forbidden. Also, the child if it is a girl could even marry a kohen if the sperm is from a non-Jew since there was no prohibited cohabitation. Also, the Rif holds that even a child of a non-Jewish father and Jewish mother can marry a kohen. Even though we don’t usually follow the Rif here we could because of the first reason.
  23. Minchat Shlomo 2:124:1. His reasoning is that mamzerut doesn't depend on a forbidden cohabitation. It depends on the mixture of the genetic material of a forbidden relationship. He admits that Rabbenu Peretz is a clear proof that the child is not a mamzer but perhaps halacha doesn't follow Rabbenu Peretz. Divrei Yoel EH 2:107:4-5 agrees and even suggests that it is considered giyluy ervah. He considers the opinion of Igrot Moshe who understood from Rabbenu Peretz that the child is not a mamzer a mistake.
  24. Yabia Omer EH 2:1:9
  25. Maharsham 3:268 forbids doing IUI while she's a niddah. Even though from Rabbenu Peretz (cited by Bach 195:5) it seems like there would be no impact on the child, he is unwilling to be lenient. Also, see Shiltei Giborim Shevuot 2a who quotes Maharam who disagrees. Yabia Omer 2:1:10 also quotes Birkei Yosef in name of Rav Shlomo of London who was also strict. Shevet Halevi 4:97 and 6:203 agrees with the Maharsham and forbids IUI while she's pregnant.
    • Minchat Yitzchak 1:50 suggests that she go to mikveh before the procedure even if it is only 7 days after she became a niddah and is not permitted to her husband until after she goes to mikveh after shiva nekiyim.
    • Igrot Moshe EH 2:18 allows a woman to do IUI while she's a niddah and does not allow her to go to mikveh early since it could lead to mistakes in the future. He also writes that the child is not considered tainted as a ben haniddah since there was no prohibited cohabitation. Similarly, Yabia Omer EH 2:1:10 is lenient to do IUI or IVF while she's a niddah in extenuating circumstances. See Minchat Shlomo 2:124 who seems to favor the approach of Rabbenu Peretz over Rav Shlomo of London for this question.