Go It Alone?

November 2, 2007 at 8:10 pm | Posted in Judaism, News and Views, Opinion piece | 3 Comments

Judaism places a huge emphasis on marriage and children; you might have heard of the phrase “be fruitful and multiply”, you can see that in 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.
28. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the sky and over all the beasts that tread upon the earth. ” (taken from www.chabad.org)

Jewfaq has this to say about the importance of marriage in Judaism:

“Marriage is vitally important in Judaism. Refraining from marriage is not considered holy, as it is in some other religions. On the contrary, it is considered unnatural. The Talmud says that an unmarried man is constantly thinking of sin…….Marriage is not solely, or even primarily, for the purpose of procreation. Traditional sources recognize that companionship, love and intimacy are the primary purposes of marriage, noting that woman was created in Gen. 2:18 because “it is not good for man to be alone,” rather than because she was necessary for procreation.” (taken from www.jewfaq.org)

What happens when you are dating for what seems like forever and you are no closer to getting married now than you were when you started dating? Women have one factor that weighs on them very heavily, especially as they get older. Newsweek has an interesting article this week on women who choose to be single mothers rather than have no children.  I can’t say I blame these women, sometimes you can try every avenue in the book in order to get married and if it doesn’t work out, what do you do? I think we are so lucky to live in an era where women have options. In previous generations, there was no IVF, or sperm donation. There was more of a stigma attached to single motherhood than there is now. We have good old Murphy Brown to thank for paving the way.

Even though I support the decisions of the women profiled in the Newsweek article, I am not sure that I would made the same choice if I was in their shoes. Hopefully I will not have to find out. With all the emphasis on marriage and children in Orthodox Judaism, I wonder where single people fit in. It is very easy to be single and Jewish in New York City but when you move out of such a large city, you find that religious Jewish singles have it very hard. At least in NYC, we can go to events and classes every night and meet people our age. In more suburban and rural communities, your options are few and far between. For example, the shul I go to when I visit my parents serves mostly senior citizens and young families. Where does a young, single Jew fit in that shul?

I was browsing the Chabad website and I came across the “Dear Rachel” column, women ask Rachel a variety of questions and she answers their questions using Jewish wisdom. A single woman in her 40s asks Rachel if there is a place in Judaism for her even though she is not married and does not have any kids. In her answer to the woman who asked the question, Rachel gave some sensitive thoughts that not only answered this woman’s question but I find that any woman can use this advice in her own life. If you want to see the whole column click here.

“Our Sages teach that there are “70 faces” to the Torah. That means that for every word, every sentence and every concept that exists in the Torah, that there are (at least) 70 different ways of understanding it. Take for example the commandment “be fruitful and multiply.” The classic and simple meaning is “have and raise children.” But if you care to expand your conceptual framework a bit, you could also understand this to mean: be creative, work hard, and contribute to this world and your good deeds and effort will be your legacy, the fruits of your labor… your spiritual children if you will. “

“So even though you may sense an ideal of a married life with children, it is important to understand that there are many ways to be a wife and a mother. We can wed ourselves to observing the Shabbath…And we can be a mother to a sick person in need of love and attention. We can nurture a community project and reach out to others in need. There are wonderful opportunities to wed, and worthy projects to mother. “

I support any informed and educated decision a woman makes regarding having children. We only have one chance in this world and if a woman is not married and wants to have children, if not having kids is something she will regret for the rest of her life, then she should have a child, whether it’s by IVF, adoption, or other methods. If a woman does not have children, then she deserves the same respect. If she is making the best decision for herself, then who am I to criticize? Who is anyone to judge?

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3 Comments »

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  1. Observant single women having children has a mini trend here in Israel. Jpost wrote about it last year.

  2. That’s exactly the right answer. Many of the depressed people in my practice are depressed because they’re not in a relationship. The therapy is always about self-actualization, becoming a more productive member of society, a person who is there when needed, who can be counted upon, who knows things and contributes to the community.

    Single people don’t have to look for a baby sitter. They’re around to DO things and they’re appreciated and loved.

    When they stop looking and start doing they’re infinitely more attractive, of course.

  3. I have a second cousin (not religious) who, after divorce, decided that she wanted a child and got donor sperm to father her child.

    I can understand that more than someone married or not who refuses to have kids.


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