by Rav Simcha Klein
1. Everything expressed in this shiur is from a purely general hashkafic perspective. In terms of the applied halacha, there can be exceptions and no serious decision in this area should be made without consulting a Rov familiar with the particular family situation.
2. Society’s attitudes on this topic are intrinsically connected to the understanding that the primary purpose of having children is for personal gratification.
3. The term for a large family in Hebrew is “mishpachah berucha yeladim” – a family blessed with children, denoting the Torah view of large families as a blessing. It is important to note that recently there has been an attempt by secular Israelis to change that term to “mishpachah merubat yeladim” – a family with many children, subtly reflecting the current secular world view that large families are not at all a blessing.
4. When the unaffiliated express surprise at the family size of Torah Jews, often the best response is simply to say to them that large families are our personal way of taking revenge on Hitler and his henchmen who wanted to decimate the Jewish people. For some odd reason this particular explanation goes over well with secular people. (Perhaps because everyone can identify with the concept of revenge.)
5. In addition to the Biblical mitzvah to attempt to have a boy and a girl based from the verse “Be fruitful and multiply” (Bereishis 9:1; see Even Haezer siman 1), there is also a rabbinic mitzvah to continue bearing children into old age; see Yevamos (62b), Even Haezer (siman 1), Mishnah Berurah (339:16).
6. In midst of a personal conversation I merited to have with Rav Scheinberg Z”L on this topic, he exclaimed with great feeling – “I have five wonderful children, but how I wish I had more children”. (At the time of that discussion, each one of his five children where already great-grandparents many times over).
7. According to the current world view, the default position of couples is not to have children and a conscious decision needs to be made in order to have children. The Torah view however is that the default position of couples is to have as many children as possible, a conscious decision needs to be made in order to stop having children.
8. As the Navi (Yeshaya 45:18) teaches us – כִּי כֹה אָמַר ה’ בּוֹרֵא הַשָּׁמַיִם הוּא הָאֱלֹקים יֹצֵר הָאָרֶץ וְעֹשָׂהּ הוּא כוֹנְנָהּ, לֹא תֹהוּ בְרָאָהּ לָשֶׁבֶת יְצָרָהּ.
9. See Mishnah Torah (Ishus 15:16) – וז”ל, “אף על פי שקיים אדם מצות פריה ורביה הרי הוא מצווה מדברי סופרים שלא יבטל מלפרות ולרבות כל זמן שיש בו כח, שכל המוסיף נפש אחת בישראל כאילו בנה עולם” עכ”ל.
10. See Shemos (19:6) – “והייתם לי סגלה מכל העמים, כי לא כל הארץ, ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש”.
11. For an additional perspective on this point see Avodah Zarah (5b) – “אמר רבי יוסי אין בן דוד בא עד שיכלו נשמות שבגוף”
12. Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer (25:2), see also Mishnah Torah (Dayos 3:3).
13. See Mesillas Yesharim (perek 1).
14. See Chofetz Chaim (Ahavas Chesed chelek 2, perek 2).
15. See Mishnah Torah (Dayos 1:6-7) were the Rambam explains that only ongoing repetitious behavior can effectively mold and transform a person’s psyche. This idea is also elaborated upon by the Rambam in his commentary on Avos (3:15).
16. According to the Shla”h (preface to Toldos Ha’adam) the very name of man – “adam” is rooted in the term “adameh” which means to emulate and copy, for his primary objective in this world is to emulate Hashem as it says: “Adameh l’elyon” (Yeshaya 14:4).
17. See Sotah (14a), Shabbos (133b), Toras Kohanim (beginning of Kedoshim), Sifrei (on Parshas Eikev), and Tanna D’Bai Eliyahu (Perek 26), for explicit Biblical sources and examples of traits of Hashem that we are obligated to imitate.
18. The sefer Tomer Devorah by Rav Moshe Cordovero Z”L is dedicated to clarifying in detail what exactly are the character traits exhibited by Hashem which we need to emulate.
19. Both in this world and the next; see what the Ramchal writes at the beginning of Daas Tevunos and Derech Hashem.
20. See Sanhedren (104a) – .ברא מזכה אבאSee also the amazing words of the Rashbah (responsa vol. 5 siman 49) – וז”ל “כי זהו תכלית כל שכר האדם שישאר ממנו בעולם הגשמי עובד אלקים, ואז נראה לו כאלו הוא בעצמו העובד ואינו מת אלא חי, שהוא הוליד מי שעובד להשם יתברך” עכ”ל.
21. See the beautiful words of the Shelah Hakadosh (shaar haosios 4:25) describing how children can save their parents from heavenly punishment.