I have lived as an Orthodox Jew for the past 20 years, and while I love the frum (observant) community and lifestyle, I have no desire to have children. I find them annoying. If I let my feelings be known in the community I won't get set up on dates. Why am I being forced to lie about liking kids? What should I do?
Thanks for your question. Such a question requires a much more personal response: knowing you, your situation, your age, your concerns, your history, etc. It would be easy to say that there is a mitzvah of pru u-revu (to be fruitful and multiply) and ask you to submit to the biblical commandment regardless of your personal feelings. But that is too simplistic. A person who is unable or unfit or unwilling to be a parent probably should not be; the safety and welfare of innocent lives are at stake. But as for dating—if your potential partner is interested in having children, of what benefit is there in going out for the purpose of marriage…it can lead nowhere and be personally and emotionally taxing on you and your dates. I am sure that there are others out there who share your feelings. Keep looking and good luck.
This is a fascinating question on many levels and certainly a challenging one.If I had the opportunity to dialogue with you personally, I might ask you the following.For example, if you consider yourself to be an Orthodox Jew, what is your relationship to Halacha (the system of Jewish law) and to the mitzvot, the obligations that stem from it?
Though it is often difficult to observe all the commandments, at the very least it is a goal by which we should strive to live our lives.In Conservative Judaism we often speak of the ladder of mitzvot, the idea that we constantly strive to do more and be more through the fulfillment of the commandments. By expressing yourself as living as an Orthodox Jew, I would be interested to know how you respond to this very fundamental aspect of Judaism.
This idea comes to the forefront when we speak of the mitzvah of procreation.Having children is a fundamental mitzvah, a basic building block of the Jewish family and community.We read in Beresheet (Genesis) 1:27-28, “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sea, and all the living things that creep on earth.” There are 613 commandments found in the Torah, the first being the mitzvah of procreation.
How do you respond to this obligation, particularly as an Orthodox Jew?Not only is it mentioned in the Torah, but throughout rabbinic literature do we find this mitzvah elaborated upon.In addition, there are commentators who state that this mitzvah refers to men, not women.Yet, even in that case, fertility is an obligation of the couple.
Before I continue, I wish to state that we are not speaking of a situation where one is infertile.There is great pain involved in these circumstances as we read on Rosh Hashanah when we are reminded both of Sarah’s infertility and that of Hannah.To learn more about this issue from a Jewish perspective, I highly recommended the book “And Hannah Wept” by Rabbi Michael Gold (Jewish Publication Society).
Your remark “I find children annoying” is quite troubling to me.If you were unable to have children I would understand and give you counsel and comfort as to how to move forward with your partner.But that is not the case.You speak of children in terms of how they impinge on your lifestyle, the burden they would place on you.And that is very true.We find the phrase in Jewish literature, “tzaar gidel banim”, the pain of raising children.It is not an easy task and can seem overwhelming at times.Yet the blessings in bringing children into the world can give one so much joy and help to put into perspective our own place in the world.At the same time, given a commitment to Judaism and Jewish life, we place great importance and ensuring that there will be a future for us and our people.
However, if you still feel strongly that you do not want children for whatever reason and in spite of the centrality it has in Jewish life, you are obligated to tell whomever you might date.Marriage is often a difficult endeavor but to enter into a relationship without being open and honest is certainly a recipe for disaster.Trust and truthfulness must be primary throughout the dating process and though the subject may not come up at an initial date, it cannot be overlooked as two people get to know each other.
To begin with, I am a reform rabbi, but I can relate to your angst. You want the freedom to be who you are. The reality is that in the frum community women are expected to bear as many children as their bodies will allow. Your annoyance with children means that you do not share one of the basic values of the community.
It appears to me that you have two equally unhealthy, unethical choices, and a third painful and ethical but healthier one.
1. Lie to any and all who are interested in you, and conceal your use of birth control. Thus you will live the rest of your life in the closet, and deny your mate one of his most important desires.
2. Hide your feelings but behaviorally accept and live the standards of the community; be miserable in the role as a mother, and become a terrible parent.
3. Come out of the closet, and live your own somewhat frum life style, and meet men who will accept you as you are, and who don't want children.
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