The Torah presents the concept of having children as a blessing. In Bereishit the verse says, "Hashem blessed Adam and Chava and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply." Unfortunately, in today's world, certainly in the West, having a child is not seen as a blessing. The Torah defines a blessing as something that magnifies and maximizes one's potential. When Hashem looked at man, the apex of creation, he said, "My blessing to you is to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the world." This clearly does not mean having one child. Filling the world is the ultimate blessing. It makes you more. You might ask, "More what?" It certainly does not make you feel more relaxed or richer financially.
Let's explore what being a person is. The Maharal divides personhood into 3 segments, the intellectual-spiritual self, the choosing self, and the physical self. The physical self of the parent is not improved by child-raising. That is a consequence of the curses that were given after the blessing to have children. But intellectually and spiritually, parents have the ability to give over who they are to another human being. A parent can create his own original work of art, and your child is your palette. This is incomparable to any other experience in life. There's nothing more enriching or rewarding than raising children, which gives one the opportunity to maximize who one truly is. The activities of raising children parallel Hashem's attribute of
No other human relationship can compare to it.
Having children makes you a more fulfilled, actualized, person in every way, except physically and materially. Western society fails to realize that we are here on a very brief journey. Investing in your physical self as an end in itself is always a bad bargain.
Every day we say in
Poteiach et yadecha u'masbia l'chol chai ratzon
." The words
poteich et yadecha
spell out the mystic name
. This name means Hashem can and does cut through all the material barriers to give a person exactly what he needs. Having a child is a blessing, but it is tinged with the curses that were given after the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. Left alone a curse remains a curse. When one responds to it as a challenge, the curse turns into a blessing.
Rabbeinu Yonah writes in Igeret Hateshuva, that when a woman is expecting a child she should constantly pray. People sometimes relate to
as they do to a shopping list. If I do everything right, I'll get what I want. Most of us have had the experience of
for something and not getting it. We sometimes don't see the benefit of this. In truth all
are answered but there are three kinds of yesses. The first yes occurs when you ask for what you want and you get it immediately, and you can see it is a consequence of the
. The second yes is, "This not what you need or want. I will give you something better than what you asked for." And Hashem can credibly say that. The third kind of yes, is, "Yes, but not today. You'll receive it on the day that you'll really make use of it." But the answer is always yes.
When a woman is expecting a child, she should pray constantly to draw down abundance from above. The Moreh Nevuchim says that the more a person seeks Hashem the more he will find Him. The less a person seeks Him the less he will see the answer to his prayers and His presence in general. Rabbeinu Yonah writes that one should pray that the child be a
. However, isn't it the child's choice? The gemara says, "Everything is in the hands of heaven except fear of Heaven." We do see that people have to choose
. They may have every advantage, but due to their own bad choices walk away from the advantages they were born into. One of the clichés that people who are off the
repeat is that it's the fault of their family. But in truth, a significant portion come from exemplary homes. Something else went wrong. It could have been the school system or their friends or their choice to pursue immediate pleasure rather than sticking to a religion where you have to say no to yourself now and again.
The prayer of a parent is for the child to have a conducive atmosphere where he can choose
easily. Let his kindergarten teacher be inspiring, let the books he takes out of the library be books that are good for him, let him make good choices.
doesn't only mean fear of punishment, although it starts with that. It's standing in awe of Hashem and trembling before His greatness. That's what one should wish for one's children and one must pray for it before they are born.