This posting is chapter 11 of the 2002 2nd edition of my book, “Judaim and Global Survival.” I have not updated it.
“For the Jewish people, the problem [of the population bomb] does not exist. On the contrary, it would be more accurate to describe our situation as a “Population Bust”… which spells demographic disaster for Jewry.”
Jewish Population: Renascence or Oblivion — a report of the N. Y. Jewish Federation[i] [written in 2001]
“Jews are rightfully concerned about the seriousness of the world population problem. However, there is also widespread concern in the Jewish community about the effects of reduced Jewish population and assimilation”.[ii]
RAPID POPULATION GROWTH
Explosive population growth is one of the critical problems that the world faces today. It is largely due to an increase in life expectancies, largely due to improved standards of living and advances in sanitation and medical technology.[iii] There is now widespread concern about the world’s ability to provide enough food, energy, housing, employment, education, and health care for the rapidly increasing global population, while simultaneously protecting our environment, quality of life, and political freedom. While, as indicated in Chapter six, rapid population growth is more a result of poverty and injustice than their cause, it is still a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
While it took until about 1830 for the world’s population to reach one billion people, currently human population is growing by approximately a billion people every 12 years. According to the Population Reference Bureau’s 2001 “World Population Data Sheet,” world population in mid-2001 was 6.137 billion people. It is growing extremely rapidly and is projected to reach 7.818 billion by 2025 and 9.036 billion by 2050.[iv] These values assume a slowing of present population growth rates; if current rates of population growth continued, the world population would double in only fifty-four years.[v]There is currently a world population increase of almost 80 million people each year.[vi] At this rate, the world population increases more than the entire present population of the United States every 4 years![vii] It increases as much every three days as it did in an entire century for most of the centuries that humans have been on Earth.[viii]
Many poor countries, such as Somalia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, have population-doubling periods of less than 25 years.[ix] This means that in order to maintain present, generally inadequate conditions, these countries must double their supply of food, energy, clean water, housing, schools, and jobs in less than a quarter century. Since this is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many countries, the result will almost surely be increasing poverty, malnutrition, civil unrest, and revolution.
Additional population problems are created by the growing movement of people from rural areas to cities, searching for better jobs and social conditions. The very rapid increases in urban populations can be seen from the following: while the world’s three largest cities in 1960 were New York (14.2 million), Tokyo (11.0 million), and London (9.1 million), by 2015, the three largest cities are expected to be Tokyo (28.9 million), Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India (26.2 million), and Lagos, Nigeria (24.6 million).[x] Many Third World cities have been unable to meet the needs of their rapidly growing populations. People living on the sprawling outskirts of many of these cities have inadequate housing, sanitation, employment, and education, and hence there is vast human suffering and great potential for social unrest.
Rapid population growth is not only a problem for poorer countries. The U.S. population is projected to more than double from 281 million people in 2000 to 571 million in the next century, largely due to immigration.[xi] Considering the very high average standard of living in the U.S. and the many environmental problems created by the present population, this has very severe implications for air and water pollution, climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, and the availability of sufficient oil, water, and other resources, There may be food shortages in the United States, and in countries dependent on food imports from the U.S., because arable land is expected to shrink from 400 million acres today to 290 million by 2050.[xii]
Even without the expected continued sharp increase in population, an estimated 20 million people currently die annually from hunger and its effects, and over 7 million infants died in 2000 before their first birthday.[xiii] Meanwhile, environmental dangers and degradations increase everywhere.
The 1992 Union of Concerned Scientists’ “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” proclaims: “Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth.”[xiv]
While there has been some recent progress in slowing the rate of population increase, the following factors contribute to population growth momentum:
* While birth rates have actually dropped recently in most countries of the world, death rates have decreased even more sharply, due to better medical and sanitary conditions, and are likely to continue to decline.
* The largest population increases are occurring in poor countries, where children are desired for economic reasons.[xv] Even while advances have reduced the level of poverty in developing societies, the absolute number of destitute people is increasing.
* Thirty-three percent of people in poorer countries are under fifteen years of age.[xvi] These young people will soon be moving into their reproductive years.
Many people believe that rapid population growth is the greatest problem currently facing the world. They emphasize correlations between population increases and hunger, resource depletion, pollution, and other problems. One group, “Zero Population Growth” (ZPG)[xvii], argues that only with a stabilized population will the world’s people be able to have clean air and water, a decent place to live, a meaningful job, and a good education. They have been working to publicize problems caused by population growth and to advocate for reducing U.S. births and the rate of immigration to the U.S. They encourage couples to voluntarily limit their reproduction to a maximum of two children. Another group, “Negative Population Growth,” argues that we have already passed the optimum U.S. population and must soon decrease our population.[xviii] They also advocate restrictions on immigration and reductions in birth rates.
JEWISH TEACHINGS CONCERNING POPULATION
How should Jews respond to arguments of advocates of reduced family size? The first mitzvah of the Torah is the duty of procreation. On the sixth day of creation, God created human beings, male and female, and blessed them and commanded them:
“Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”. Genesis 1:28
Later, after the Flood, this mandate was repeated to Noah: “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 9:1).
The blessing of fertility was extended to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:16). Through Isaac, Abraham was to be blessed with seed as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore (Genesis 15:5). This blessing was repeated to Jacob, in the early years of his life (Genesis 28:14) and also later (Genesis 35:11). The principal blessing that Torah personalities conferred on their children and grandchildren was that of fertility. This was true of Isaac’s blessing to Jacob (Genesis 28:3), Jacob’s blessing to Manasseh and Ephraim (his grandchildren) (Genesis 48:16), and Jacob’s blessing to Joseph (Genesis 49:25).
The following is one of many Talmudic passages that stress the importance of having children:
“Rabbi Eliezer stated: ‘He who does not engage in the propagation of the race is as though he sheds blood; for it is said, ‘whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed,’ and this is immediately followed by the text, ‘And you, be you fruitful and multiply.”‘ Rabbi Jacob said: “[One who does not propagate], it is as though he has diminished the Divine image; since it is said, ‘For in the image of God He made man,’ and this is immediately followed by, ‘And you be fruitful.’ ” Ben Azzai said: “It is as though he sheds blood and diminishes the Divine image, since it is said, ‘And you, be you fruitful and multiply.'”[xix]
Every human life is sacred and every new life brings God’s image anew into the world. Hence Judaism has always regarded marriage and procreation as sacred duties and divine imperatives. People are to populate the earth, for the world that God created is “very good” and people should follow God’s commandment to be fruitful and multlply “with the intention of preserving the human species.”[xx]
Judaism is never content with general formulations. It always provides specific indications of how commandments are to be carried out. Hence the Mishnah considered the question of how large a family one needs in order to satisfy the injunction to have children:
“A married man shall not abstain from the performance of the duty of propagation of the race unless he already has children. As to the number, Beit Shammai (the school of Shammai) ruled: two males, and Beit Hillel ruled: a male and female, for it is stated in scripture, male and female He created them”.[xxi]
According to the Talmud, for Beit Shammai, the model for the sufficiency of two sons was Moses, since he had two sons.[xxii] The disciples of Hillel base their opinion on the story of creation (Adam and Eve). The prevailing halachic opinion agrees with Beit Hillel.
Although the rabbis considered it meritorious for Jews to have large families, they looked at birth control more favorably after a couple had a son and a daughter.[xxiii] However, rabbis generally encouraged couples not to limit themselves to two children. This is consistent with Maimonides’ injunction:
Even if a person has fulfilled the commandment of “be fruitful and multiply,” he is still enjoined not to refrain from fruitfulness and increase as long as he is able, for he who adds a life in Israel [is as he who created a world].[xxiv]
The Jewish tradition teaches that those who have no biological children can give “birth” in other ways. For example, the Talmud states that if someone teaches Torah to his friend’s child, “it is as if he gave birth to him,”[xxv] as it is written: “These are the offspring of Aaron and Moses… ” (Numbers 3:1) The Talmud points out that the verses which follow only list the sons of Aaron, yet the Torah calls them the “offspring” of both Moses and Aaron! This is because Moses taught them Torah, and through his teaching, states the Talmud, he became their spiritual parent.
Another example is the following Talmudic statement:[xxvi] “Whoever teaches his friend’s child Torah, it is as if he made him, as it is written (concerning the disciples of Abraham and Sarah): ‘the souls they made in Haran’ (Genesis 12:5).” In Haran, Abraham and Sarah served as teachers and guides to the spiritually-searching men and women of their generation and brought them to God and the Abrahamic tradition. Rashi, in his commentary on the words, “the souls they made,” says that they brought people “under the wings of the Shechinah – the Divine Presence.” Their teachings gave new life to these searching souls, and from the perspective of the Torah, these are “the souls they made in Haran.”
CURRENT JEWISH POPULATION ISSUES
Probably the most detailed study of recent Jewish population statistics is “Prospecting the Jewish Future: Population Projections, 2000 – 2080,”[xxvii] a study conducted for the American Jewish Committee. The report provides the following facts about current Jewish population and population trends.
* While Jewish population has grown in the past 55 years, it has not replaced the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.[xxviii]
* Annual average population growth rates for world Jewry were 0.18 percent in the 1970s, 0.04 percent in the 1980s, and 0.22 percent in the 1990s – hence close to zero population growth.[xxix]
* An important demographic factor is the rapid increase of intermarriages between Jews and non-Jews in Diaspora communities, especially since the 1960s, and the failure of most of these couples’ children to identify as Jews.[xxx] While marriages across religious lines occur rarely in Israel, fifty percent of marriages in the United States involving Jews join Jews with a non-Jewish mate. In other Diaspora communities, they are about 70 percent in Russia and the Ukraine, 50 percent in France, 40 percent in the United Kingdom, and above 30 percent in Canada and Australia.[xxxi] A majority of Jews in the United States are indifferent to Judaism and/or lack knowledge of basic Jewish teachings.[xxxii]
* The Diaspora Jewish community decreased from 10.4 million people in 1945 to 10.2 million in 1960, to an estimated 8.3 million in 2000.[xxxiii] Meanwhile, Israel’s Jewish population increased from about half a million people in 1945 to almost 4.9 million in 2000.[xxxiv]
* Fertility rates (average number of children per woman during childbearing years) in Diaspora communities vary from 0.9 to 1.7 children, far below the replacement fertility level of 2.1 children that replaces the parents and thus keeps the population constant. By contrast, the Jewish fertility rate in Israel is 2.6, well above the replacement fertility level.[xxxv]
* The world Jewish population is projected to increase from 13.1 million in 2000 to 13.8 million by 2020, 14 million by the beginning of the 2030s, and 15 million around the year 2080, producing about a seventeen percent increase for the entire period.[xxxvi] This increase masks very different trends in Israel and the Diaspora. In Israel, the Jewish population is projected to increase from 4.9 million in 2000 to over 10 million in 2080, hence to more than double.[xxxvii] By contrast, the Diaspora Jewish community is projected to decrease from 8.3 million in 2000 to 5.2 million in 2080.[xxxviii] Because of these trends, it is projected that more Jews will live in Israel than in any other country by 2020, and an absolute majority of the Jewish population will live there by 2050.[xxxix] (The seventeen percent increase for the world Jewish population mentioned above is far smaller than the population growth rate projected for the world, meaning that the percentage of the world’s people who are Jews will continue to sharply decrease.)
Based on these facts, many Jews believe that one of the critical challenges today is the issue of Jewish survival in the Diaspora. They argue that the low Jewish birth rate, along with high rates of intermarriage and assimilation, pose a grave danger to the Jewish people.
This is the central thesis of a reference work: Jewish Population: Renascence or Oblivion, edited by Judith Zimmerman and Barbara Trainin, which is a record of the proceedings of a conference on Jewish population in 1978, sponsored by the Commission on Synagogue Relations of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. In her introduction Judith Zimmerman, chairperson of the Federation’s task force on Jewish population, outlines the twofold purpose of the conference and the report:
1. To sound an alarm and alert the Jewish community that the Jewish population is declining. We are practicing negative population growth, i.e., we are not even replacing our present numbers. This phenomenon, coupled with increased assimilation and mixed marriages, threatens Jewish survival.
2. To determine whether the Jewish community can, in the words of Dr. Steven M. Cohen (who presented a paper at the conference), “effectively intervene to minimize population losses.”[xl]
A Time magazine article, “The Disappearing Jews,” reports that Orthodox Rabbi Norman Lamm– president of Yeshiva University–recommends that “each Jewish couple should have four or five children because Jews are a disappearing species.” Rabbi Lamm calls for immediate “bold and courageous action” by Jewish educators and community leaders to reverse a situation that “borders on the catastrophic.”[xli] He suggests steps to increase the Jewish birth rate, such as local federations providing scholarship money for children from large Jewish families to attend Jewish schools, and instructing our children as young as nursery-school age in the concept that large families should be the norm.
In June 1977, the Reform Movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, a group that generally adopts liberal stands, urged Jewish couples “to have at least two or three children.”[xlii] Rabbi Sol Roth, former president of the New York Board of Rabbis, suggests that “Jewish families should have at least three children, and the goal of zero population growth should find no application in the Jewish community.”[xliii]
Jews have responded to arguments by advocates of zero population growth in several ways:
*Since Jews constitute less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the world’s population, the Jewish contribution to world population growth cannot matter significantly.
* Since 6 million Jews — one-third of the Jewish people — were killed in the Holocaust, Jews have a special obligation to bring children into the world to replace their numbers.
* Jews have made special contributions to the world, far beyond their very small proportion of the world’s population, in areas such as science, the arts, education, business, and politics. Hence increasing the number of Jewish children might well increase the general level of accomplishment in the world. It is also important that Judaism survive because the world badly needs the Jewish messages of peace, justice, and righteousness.
Rabbi David M. Feldman argues that “Jews have the paradoxical right to work for the cause of population control while regarding themselves as an exception to the rule.”[xliv]
Some advocates of maintaining or increasing the Jewish population have attacked the premises of the zero population growth movement. There is much merit in their argument, since, as discussed, rapid population growth, while a very serious concern, is not the prime cause of the world’s problems. But these critics have often ignored the facts that millions are dying annually due to hunger and its effects, that half the world’s people suffer from poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, and disease, and that the world’s ecosystems are being increasingly threatened. They also put great faith in technology as a solution to global problems, not taking into account that many of today’s problems have been caused or worsened by the misuse of technology over many years.
It should be pointed out that there are many encouraging signs for future Jewish survival and security:[xlv]
* Some segments of Judaism, such as the fervently Orthodox and Chassidim, are growing in numbers; they tend to have high fertility rates, little or no intermarriage, and relatively little assimilation or defection from Judaism. The fact that these groups are often underrepresented in surveys throws some doubt on the estimates of Jewish population trends previously discussed. These groups may be replenishing Jewish population, matching losses among the rest of the Jewish population. This possibility is supported by the fact that in Israel, 10 percent of the families produce 40 percent of the children.[xlvi]
* There has been a tremendous increase in the number of Jewish day schools in the United States. There was a record enrollment in 2000, with 185,000 students enrolled in about 670 Jewish day schools throughout the U.S.[xlvii] Eighty percent of day school students are enrolled in Orthodox schools.[xlviii] But non-Orthodox schools have been experiencing rapid growth in registration as well, with an increase of about 20 percent in the 1990s.[xlix]
* The many Yeshivas for high school and college students make the U.S. a potential new center of Talmudic learning. There are currently more yeshivas and yeshiva students in Israel than in any time or place in Jewish history.
* There are many ba’alei and ba’alot teshuvah (returnees to traditional Jewish observance) in the U.S., Israel, and the rest of the world. These people generally bring a renewed dedication and involvement to Judaism.
* There has been evidence of renewed Jewish commitment among Reform Jews, a large number of whom unfortunately assimilated in previous generations. New Reform prayerbooks contain more Hebrew and increasingly engage concepts such as mitzvot. In recent decades, the Reform movement has affirmed Jewish peoplehood, encouraged aliyah (moving to Israel), and asserted that Jews have a stake and responsibility in building the state of Israel.
* Jewish programs on college campuses have been developing rapidly. Many young Jews are having serious encounters with Judaism on college campuses.
* Thousands of scholars are researching Yiddishkeit (Jewish tradition). Hebrew literature and Jewish scholarship are flourishing in Israel.
Thus in many ways, as a counter to the assimilation of many Jews, there has been a marked improvement in the quality and intensity of Jewish life in the last generation.
It should be pointed out that there have been many false prophecies of Jewish disappearance in the past. The late Professor Simon Rawidowicz pointed out that Jews are “the ever-dying people,” with each generation since early in Jewish history believing that it might be the last one.[l] It is interesting to note that the patriarchs Abraham and Isaac each had two children with his matriarchal wifeand in each case one of them (Abraham’s son Ishmael and Isaac’s son Esau) left the faith.
In spite of Judaism’s strong emphasis on procreation, there are justifications in Jewish sacred writings for aspects of the zero population growth philosophy:
1. While in Egypt, Joseph had two sons during the seven years of plenty, but no additional children during the seven years of famine. The renowned Biblical commentator Rashi interprets this to mean that when there is widespread hunger, one should not bring additional children into the world.[li]
2. According to the Talmud, Noah was commanded to desist from procreation on the ark, since it contained only enough provisions for those who entered the ark.
3. It can be argued that when Adam and later Noah were commanded to “Be fruitful and multiply”, the earth was far emptier than it is today. Now that the earth is “overfilled”, as indicated by the poverty, malnutrition, and squalor faced by so many of the world’s people, perhaps Jewish tradition should come to a new understanding of this commandment.
There would thus seem to be some rationale for Jews to advocate some version of zero population growth. But we should look more deeply into the problem. Are current crises due primarily to too many people or are there other, more important causes?
Perhaps what the world needs today is not zero population growth (ZPG), but zero population-impact growth (ZPIG).[lii] For it is not just the number of people that is important, but how much they produce, consume, and waste. Affluent nations have an impact on the environment extremely disproportionate to their populations. The United States, with about four-and-a half percent of the world’s population consumes 30 percent of the world’s natural resource base, using 20 percent of the planet’s metals, 24 percent of its energy (the highest per capita consumption in the world), and 25 percent of its fossil fuels.[liii] It has been estimated that an average American has 50 times the impact of an average person in poorer countries, based on resources used and pollution caused. This means that the U.S. 2000 population of 281 million people[liv] has an impact on ecosystems equal to over 14 billion Third World people, or over twice the world’s 2000 population of about 6 billion people.
Most people connect current widespread hunger and resource scarcities in the world today to overpopulation. Yet, numerous studies have concluded that there is currently enough food in the world to feed all the world’s people adequately: the problem lies in waste, injustice and inequitable distribution.[lv] For example, in the U. S., over 70 percent of the grain goes to feed the almost ten billion animals destined for slaughter in the U.S. each year, and two-thirds of U.S. grain exports are used for animal feed, while at least a billion of the world’s people lack enough food.
Poverty, injustice, and inequality also contribute to continued population growth. The poorer countries do not provide unemployment benefits, sick leave, or retirement pensions. Hence, children become the only form of security in periods of unemployment, illness, and old age. They are also regarded as economic assets, since by the age of seven or eight, children are net contributors to their families — fetching water and firewood from distant places, looking after younger children, cooking and cleaning, thus freeing adults for other jobs. Furthermore, infant death rates are still relatively high in the underdeveloped world, so that many children are desired in order to insure that some will survive to provide security in one’s old age.
Because of these conditions, family planning programs by themselves are ineffective in lowering birth rates. It is necessary to improve people’s economic and social conditions, so that they will not feel the need for more children to provide economic survival and old-age security. With an improved economic outlook, people start to limit their families, as has occurred in the United States and in the more affluent countries of Europe. However, unless the world changes its present unjust and inequitable social, political, and economic conditions, the world’s population will continue to grow rapidly, along with global hunger, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and violence.
There need be no inconsistency between Jewish survival and global survival, in the area of population growth. A Jew can have a large family and still help reduce famine and poverty in the world by working for conservation and justice. A family of five that has an impact equal to the consumption and pollution caused by five or ten families in India or another poor country does far less harm (in using resources and causing environmental damage) than a family of three with an impact equal to fifty Indians per person.
A Jew who has few or no children can work for Jewish survival by striving to increase Jewish commitment through example, teaching, and writing. Judaism teaches that our good deeds can be our “main offspring.”[lvi] The Torah states: “These are the offspring of Noah: Noah was a righteous man…” (Genesis 6:9). The verse begins to introduce the offspring of Noah, and before it mentions the names of his children, it tells us that he was righteous. The classical biblical commentator Rashi states that this teaches us that Noah’s most important offspring were his “good deeds,” and he cites Midrash Tanchuma which states: “The main offspring of righteous people are their good deeds.”
The Jewish community should help provide support to those Jews who wish to have large families by:
* providing Jewish day-care facilities (these can be also used to educate and provide a social and psychological support system for Jewish children);
* providing child care during synagogue services, in Jewish centers, and during other Jewish organizational activities, to make it easier for young parents to be involved in Jewish and general community activities;
* providing scholarship help for larger families in Jewish schools;
* changing the dues structures of synagogues and Jewish centers, so that they do not penalize large families.[lvii]
There are additional ways that the Jewish community can work for Jewish survival besides exhorting Jews to have large families:
* Providing programs to make Judaism more challenging and exciting. For example, involvement in some of the issues discussed in this book might entice alienated Jews to return to Judaism and thereby reduce assimilation and intermarriage.
* Improving Jewish education, and lowering tuition rates at Jewish schools so that more children can attend.
* Applying “physical fitness for Jewish survival” by teaching Jews the benefits of nutritious meals, proper exercise, and avoidance of alcohol and drug abuse and tobacco.
Ways in which Jews can work for better global conditions that would eventually lead to reduced population growth rates are discussed in “Action Ideas” in the Appendix.
Jews can and should work for both Jewish and global survival and can play a major role in addressing current critical population issues. While reaffirming that every human life is sacred and that every birth brings God’s image anew into the world, we should support family planning programs consistent with Jewish teachings and people’s cultures and religious beliefs. We should strive to make people aware that rapid population growth is more a result of global problems than their root cause.
While helping Jews who wish to have large families, the Jewish community should strive to create a more meaningful, dynamic, committed, Jewish life, and also work for a global society that conserves resources, practices justice, seeks peace, and reduces hunger and poverty, thereby lessening people’s need to have so many children. Finally, as we battle for justice and a more equitable sharing of the earth’s abundant resources, which are necessary to improve conditions for all the world’s people, we should make others aware that this is also the most effective way to move the world to a more sustainable population path.
[iii] A very good source for current reliable statistics on population is the Population Reference Bureau, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D. C. 20037 (phone: 202-483-1100; web site: www.prb.org). Their annual “World Population Data Sheet” is especially valuable. They also produce modules and other background material on various aspects of population. A source for many valuable population-related articles is “Beyond the Numbers: A Reader on Population, Consumption, and the Environment,” Laurie Ann Mazur (editor), (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1994).
[iv] “2001 World Population Data Sheet,” Population Reference Bureau, Inc., Washington, D.C.
[v] Calculation based on the “2001 World Population Data Sheet.”
[viii] Ed Ayres, God’s Last Offer: Negotiating for a Sustainable Future, New York/London: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999, 43, 44.
[ix] Calculation based on the “2001 World Population Data Sheet”
[x] “World Population: More Than Just Numbers, Population Reference Bureau booklet, 1999.
[xi] Jim Motovelli, “Balancing Act,” E Magazine, November, December 2000, 29. The article’s 2000 population estimate of 275 million was changed to 281 million to be consistent with the 2000 census, as reported on the front page of the December 29, 2000 New York Times.
[xii] Ibid, 31.
[xiii] Calculation based on the “2000 World Population Data Sheet.”
[xv] 2000 World Population Data Sheet. An example is that the population doubling time for Africa was only 29 years, while it was 653 years for Northern Europe, where many countries have stabilized or decreasing populations. The 2001 Data Sheet did not include doubling times.
[xvi] Calculation based on the “2001 World Population Data Sheet”
[xix] David S. Shapiro, “Be Fruitful and Multiply,” Jewish Bioethics, Fred Rosner and J. Bleich, ed., New York: Sanhedrin Press, 1979, pp. 71,72.
[xx] Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot, 212.
[xxi] Yebamot 61b.
[xxiii] Other statements in the Jewish tradition which show the great importance placed on raising a family include:
To refrain from having children is to impair the divine image. (Midrash Genesis Rabbah 34:14)
One who brings no children into the world is like a murderer. (Yevamot 63b)
A childless person is like one who is dead (Nedarim 64b)
Was not the world created only for propagation? (Hagiga 2b)
In his Sefer Hamitzvot, Maimonides comments on the purpose of the first mitzvah:
God has commanded us to be fruitful and multiply with the intention of preserving the human species…. Commandment 212
The Sefer HaChinuch (Book of Education) also cites having children as a fundamental positive commandment, because without it, none of the other mitzvot could be fulfilled. The Talmud teaches that when one is brought to judgment, one of the first questions asked is “Did you undertake to fulfill the duty of procreation?” (Shabbat 31a). The importance of reproduction in order to populate the earth is also indicated by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 45:18):
For thus says the Lord, the Creator of the heavens: He is God, He fashioned the earth and He made it, He has established it; He did not create it to be waste; He has fashioned it so that it will be inhabited.
[xxiv] Maimonides, Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Ishut, 15:16
[xxvii] “Prospecting the Jewish Future: Population Projections, 2000 – 2080,” American Jewish Year Book, 2000, American Jewish Committee, 103 -146.
[xxviii] Ibid, 104.
[xxix] Ibid, 104, 105.
[xxx] Ibid, 105.
[xxxi] Ibid, 110.
[xxxii] Dr. Seymour P. Lachman, “Jewish Population in Accelerating Decline,” Young Israel Viewpoint, Chanukah, 1992 issue, 14.
[xxxiii] Ibid, 105.
[xxxv] Ibid, 110.
[xxxvi] Ibid, 118, 119.
[xxxvii] Ibid, 119.
[xl] Jewish Population, p. viii.
[xli] The Jewish Week, 26 Nov. 1982, 5.
[xlii] Frank, “Population Panic,” 13.
[xliv] David M. Feldman, “Jewish Population: The Halachic Perspective,” in Jewish Population, 42.
[xlv] See Trude Weiss Rosmarin, “The Editor’s Corner,” Jewish Spectator (Fall 1978), 2-4.
[xlvi] Cohen, “Coming Shrinkage,” 21.
[xlvii] Lisa Keys, “Jewish Education Nears Crossroads,” Jewish World, September 8 -14, 2000, 2.
[l] Chaim Waxman, “How Many Are We? Where Are We Going?” Jewish Life (Spring/Summer 1982), 44.
[li] Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 41:50, based on Ta’anit Ila.
[lii] This might be even more appealing to Jews when it is considered that this can be read as Z-PIG, or “Zero Pig,” and the dietary laws forbid the eating of pig flesh.
[liii] 2000 U. S. Census, as indicated on the front page of the December 29, 2000 New York Times.
[liv] 2000 World Population Data Sheet.
[lv] A challenging analysis of the true causes of world hunger is in World Hunger: Twelve Myths, by Frances Moore Lappe, et al, New York: Grove Press, 1998.
[lvii] Jewish Population, x.