In connection with the main theme of the parsha this week, Vayetze, in which Yaakov Avinu goes to Charan and establishes a family – the foundation of the Jewish People – we share a fascinating letter to an Educational Therapist dealing in Parent Education. The Rebbe addresses questions dealing with some family matters -breast feeding and family planning. This letter is from volume 5 of The Letter and The Spirit, from the section on Family.
By the Grace of G-d
9 Sivan, 5742
Blessing and Greeting:
I have just received your letter. I hasten to reply (via S.D.) because of the importance of the subject matter.
You introduce yourself as an educational therapist, your practice involving largely Parent Education. You have been advocating free breastfeeding, etc., and ask whether you should change or modify your attitude in light of what you heard about the Chabad concept of “severity in kindness” as illustrated by the example of a mother giving too much. You want to be sure that this does not mean that a mother must not nurse her child freely, etc.
It surprises me that anyone should have implied that the said concept puts free breastfeeding in question.
Needless to say, there can be a situation when a mother may be too eager to nurse her infant at a time when she should refrain for some specific reason. But generally and as a rule, it is well known that Judaism favors raising Jewish children normally in all respects – physically, mentally and spiritually, and breast feeding is surely recognized as the most normal method. Hence, there is no need for you to change your attitude to breastfeeding except, of course, in cases where free breastfeeding may involve a possible harmful factor.
Since all the above is really self-evident, yet you have taken the trouble to write to me about it, I take it as an indication to call your attention to another point in the area of Parent Education, wherein there has become evident a trend which is contrary to Judaism, as well as to health. I refer to the advocacy and practice of so-called “family planning” – a euphemism for justifying free limitation of the family. In addition to this being in violation of the first Divine precept in the Torah (in which the primary order is also instructive), namely, “Be fruitful and multiply,” – it is particularly injurious to our Jewish people in that it carries on the horrible policy of our worst enemy, may hi s name be blotted out, to decimate the Jewish people to the point of a “final solution.” It is inconceivable that Jewish parents should think that one more child in the family could be an intolerable burden. Nevertheless, interfering with the normal order, in clear contravention to the Torah, does deprive our people of that additional child and of countless others.
Again there may be expectations in this area too, as when a mother’s health may be seriously affected by the pregnancy. But in such a case a physician’s opinion has to be obtained and the final decision must be made by a competent orthodox Rabbi.
Sad to say, the “health” question is not the main factor in “family planning.” The most prevalent factors are, I believe: 1. Parents seeking an “easier” life; 2. Mothers desiring to pursue a career outside the home; 3. Limitations of travel and the like; 4. General inconvenience of maternity, with pre and post-natal inconveniences, etc.
There is surely no need to elaborate to you n the above and how important it si to conteract this un-Jewish trend to the fullest extent of one’s influence.
Wishing you hatzlacha in your good work.