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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Studying Breshit – who is obligated to have children?

Posted by rabbiart on October 19, 2008

This coming Tuesday night we of course complete the Torah and begin the Torah again, and on Shabbat we read Parshat Breshit.  As they say in show business, everything old is new again.  What show did that first appear in?  Does anybody know?

Studying Breshit is at the same time easy and challenging.  Plenty of good provocative material, but what can one say that hasn’t already been said?  Inspired by Beth Sirull’s mention of making a list of reading material in preparing for a drash, here’s what I’m reading as I study Breshit.

  • Martin Buber — On the Bible (in translation of course). In particular his chpater on The Tree of Knowledge
  • Asher Ben-Zion Buchman — Bedibur Echod: Thoughts on the unity of the weekly sidrah by
  • Bill Moyers — Genesis: A Living Conversation
  • Elliot Dorff — Knowing God:Jewish Journeys to the Unknowable (just the section on Creation pp. 61-66)

Of course I always check Sefer HaHinuch (The Book of Education) for mitzvot in the parshah. Always a good place to start; there is one mitzvah in Parshat Breshit; to “be fruitful and multiply”.  Right off the bat we are confronted with distinctions between men and women.  According to the author, quoting a R. Meir of Dvinsk “It is not unlikely that the Torah freed the woman from the religious obligation to “be fruitful and multiply” and imposed it only on the man, because… the woman endangers her life in pregnancy and childbirth [and hence it could not be made her religious duty]”  On the other hand, he says “But only for the preservation of the species did HaShem so form her nature that her yearning to have children is stronger than the man’s.

Here’s a good opportunity to wrestle with the Torah and with the tradition that interprets it.  IF we were to say that childbirth is no longer dangerous (true in many countries of the “developed world”), THEN we could say that there is no reason to exempt women from this obligation.  Of course, we could always go with the undeniable fact that it is women who bear the major role of pregnancy, childbirth, and even to this day, child-raising.  So how could this mitzvah not apply equally to both men and women?

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One Response to “Studying Breshit – who is obligated to have children?”

  1. […] Studying Breshit […]

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