Celebration & Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism

By Rela M. Geffen | Go to book overview
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DAVID NOVAK


"Be Fruitful and Multiply"
Issues Relating to Birth in Judaism

Parenting as a Partnership with God

The unique partnership with God that human procreation involves is perhaps best expressed in a passage in the Talmud which declares that there are three partners in the creation of a human being: God, father, and mother ( Kiddushin 30b). This view has many implications.

There is no question that Jewish tradition, starting with the Bible, has been pronatalist. The very first words that God uttered to the new human creatures in the Garden of Eden were "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" ( Genesis 1:28). The conception and bearing of children is considered to be the type of commandment that makes humans the partners of God in the process of creation itself. Thus, in a famous passage in the Talmud, one rabbi states that when someone refuses to procreate, it is "as if" that person had shed human blood; in other words, that person has diminished human population by the sin of omission. Another rabbi stated, in this same passage, that it is "as if" that person had diminished the divine image, by not enabling humans, who are in the image of God, to be born ( Yevamot 63b).

First, parents are not the absolute creators of their children: they are only their cocreators--God's junior partners, as it were. "Indeed, all lives are Mine: be it the

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