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Parsha Halacha – Parshat Eikev

How Having Children Brings Moshiach

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The beginning of the Torah portion of Eikev speaks about the reward that we will receive for performing the mitzvot. One of the blessings is that “there will be no sterile male or barren female among you or among your livestock.”[1] The simple meaning is that there will be no barren men or women amongst the Jewish people or their livestock, whether by birth or because of illness.[2] The commentaries explain that the verse alludes also to the following:
  • You will be productive (as opposed to sterile) in your Torah study.[3] When the Torah says that even your animals will not be sterile, this means that even simple, unlearned folk will be able to respond intelligently to questions on the Torah.[4]
  • Your prayers will yield fruit and will be answered by G-d.[5]
    • These interpretations are alluded to by the wording of the verse לא-יהיה בך עקר. Since the word בךhas the numerical value of 22, this can be translated as “The 22 letters that you utter in Torah study and prayer will not be barren but rather will bear fruit.”[6]
  • Your homes (and study halls) will be blessed with students[7] (who are considered like children[8]).
The rest of this article will focus on the connection between having children and hastening the redemption.
The Souls that Will Bring Moshiach
The Talmud in Tractate Yevamot[9] says that “The Son of David (Moshiach) will not come until all of the souls are emptied out of the (Heavenly repository of souls called) Guf/body[10] (by being born into this world). As the verse says, ‘For I will not contend for ever, Neither will I be angry permanently; For the spirit that enwraps itself is from Me, And the souls which I have made.'”[11] This is interpreted to mean[12] that G-d is saying “I be angry permanently (to not bring the redemption. The cause of the delay[13] is) the spirit (souls) which are before Me (and are not yet born).” Hence, the birth of every Jewish baby hastens the redemption.
This can be inferred from the verse in Isaiah (54:3): “For right and left shall you spread forth, and your seed shall inherit nations and repopulate desolate cities,” i.e., when you spread forth to the right and left (by having many children), then your seed shall inherit the nations.”[14]
In this way, the coming redemption is like the exodus from Egypt which we merited because the Jewish people continued to bear children despite the trying times in which they found themselves.[15]
Several reasons are offered as to why Moshiach will come when all the souls are born:
  • When all the souls are born into this world (and everyone does his part to guide the people in this world to the Torah path), the world will be as perfect as we can make it. We will have revealed the Divine Presence in this world to the fullest degree of our capacity since every person in this world reveals the Shechina (Divine presence) in his own unique way. This is a preparation for the revelation of Moshiach when G-d will bring the ultimate perfection to the world, and His revelation will be complete.[16]
  • All the souls in this world are aspects of the soul of the first man, Adam HaRishon, who needs rectification due to his sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge. (This may be why the storage house of souls is called guf/body as all the souls are associated with various aspects of Adam’s body.) When all the souls are born, all those aspects will be corrected, thus bringing the world back to the original Messianic state of perfection.
Keeping Shabbat or Having Children?
The commentaries point out an apparent contradiction: In Tractate Shabbat[17] we learned that if we keep two Shabbatot properly (as explained above) we are promised that Moshiach will come immediately. But according to the teaching in Tractate Yevamot, he cannot come until all the souls have been born into this world. So, if we keep two Shabbatot before all the souls are born, how will he come?
The following resolutions are offered:
  • If we keep two Shabbatot and the souls have not yet been born, G-d will cause the Jewish women to start having many babies at once (septuplets) as they had in Egypt so that the souls will all be born.[18]
  • Along a similar line, the Maharsha[19] explains that many souls can be incarnated in one child as we find that Moshe’s soul contained 600,000 souls. So, if we keep two Shabbatot and the souls are not all yet born, G-d will package many souls into a small number of babies so that Moshiach can come swiftly.
  • The Talmud says that when Moshiach comes, women will give birth to a baby every day. So if we keep two Shabbatot, this blessing will take place immediately, and all the souls will empty out from heaven.[20]
  • The teaching that all souls must be born is referring to a scenario when Moshiach comes at the appointed time whereas if we keep two Shabbatot, we will be deemed meritorious and he can come before the time, even though all the souls are not yet born.[21]
  • Some say that there is actually an argument between the two Talmudic sources and that Rabbi Yochanan, who says that if we keep two Shabbatot we will be immediately redeemed, disagrees with Rav Asi’s teaching that we must wait until all the souls are born.[22]
Don’t Plan the Family
Quoting the above Talmudic teaching, that Moshiach’s arrival is dependent on the birth of more children, the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out the awesome responsibility and great merit every person has, especially in this generation, to try to have more children. And not to make excuses and calculations to delay this mitzvah.
Some people delay having children for various reasons. The Rebbe pointed out the fallacy of those reasons, as follows:[23]
Producing the Perfect Child
Some people are afraid they will not be able to train and inspire their children to be G-d-fearing and upright Jews and that it might be better not to have children if they are not going to be righteous. There is a story in the Tanach[24] that teaches us that this is a mistake. Chizkiyahu, the righteous king of Yehudah, about whom it says, “He trusted in the G-d of Israel; there was none like him among all the kings of Judah who were after him, nor were there before him,”[25] was warned by the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die and would not have a portion in the World to Come because he did not get married and have children. The reason he had not gotten married was because he knew through his prophetic powers that his children would be wicked. (When he eventually had two sons Menashe and Ravshaka,[26] they turned out to be wicked indeed. One morning when Chizkiyahu was carrying them on his shoulders on the way to the Bait Midrash,[27] he heard one say to the other, “Our father’s head is so bald it is perfect to roast fish on.” The other one responded, “It is perfect to sacrifice idols on.” Chizkiyahu immediately threw them off his shoulders, and Ravshaka died.[28] The other one, Menashe, eventually became the king of Judea, was extremely wicked, committing brazen acts of idolatry and murder.[29])
Despite his reason for not marrying, the prophet Yishayahu informed Chizkiyahu that this was none of his business. “Why are you trying to delve into G-d’s mysteries?” he exclaimed. “You must get married, have children and do your best to educate them. If, despite your efforts they are not righteous, you are not to blame.”
In fact, even though Menashe was a sinner, his grandson, King Yoshiyahu was a great Tzadik who led the entire people to teshuvah.
If even Chizkiyahu, who knew that his sons would be sinners, was expected to have children, how much more so must we make every effort to have children even though we don’t know how our children will turn out. In addition, in the merit of fulfilling this mitzvah and through investing effort in educating our children, G-d will surely help to make our undertaking successful.
A Blessing in Parnassah
Some people worry about not being able to pay for the expenses associated with having children. One must remember that it is G-d, after all, who grants us success in our efforts to earn a parnassah (living). And since having children is a mitzvah, every child that we have actually creates a new pipeline for the Divine blessing to affect the entire family.
Emotional Energy
Some people hesitate to have children as they feel they do not have the emotional energy to deal with them (or more of them). One must know that, since G-d is the one who grants us the blessing to have children and G-d does not demand anything that is beyond one’s strength, the very fact that a couple was blessed with a child is a sign that G-d has confidence in them that they have the strength to bring up this child in a loving manner.
May the Jewish people merit to have the final babies that will bring Moshiach, now!

[1] Deut. 7:14
[2] Rashi and Ohr HaChaim
[3] Ba’al HaTurim
[4] Yalkut Shimoni on Parshat No’ach, 7:56. The Midrash cites the following story to illustrate this: Rabbi Yonatan was once traveling to Jerusalem with his donkey driver, a simple Jew. On the way, they met a Samaritan who asked them where they were going. Rabbi Yochanan responded that they were going to pray in Jerusalem. The Samaritan said, “Why are you going to pray on a mountain that was destroyed (Rabbi Yonatan lived several generations after the destruction of the second Bait HaMikdash) when you can pray on a blessed mountain? (He was referring to Mount Gerizim where the Samaritans had their temple.) Rabbi Yonatan asked him what made that mountain blessed. The Samaritan answered that the flood waters (of Noah) had not fallen on it (this was the Samaritan belief). Rabbi Yonatan (temporarily) was unable to refute this false claim. So, his donkey driver asked for permission to respond, which Rabbi Yochanan granted. The simple Jew said, “Is this a tall or small mountain? If it’s a large mountain, the verse specifically says, “And all the tall mountains that were under the heavens were covered up (by the flood) [Gen. 7:19].” If it’s a small mountain, the Torah need not even mention it (as it was certainly covered).” Rabbi Yonatan was so impressed by this response that he got off the donkey and had the driver sit on the donkey while he served as the donkey driver for three kilometers. Rabbi Yonatan commented about this man, “You will be blessed from all the nations, there will no sterile male or barren female among you or among your livestock.” Even your livestock (the simple people) will be fruitful in Torah.
[5] Yalkut Shimoni
[6] Divrei Emet, by the Reb Yaakov Yitzchak (known as the Chozeh) of Lublin
[7] Ibid
[8] See Rashi on Deut. 6:7 and in the sources quoted there
[9] 62a and Niddah 13b
[10] The reason that the storage house of souls is called Guf/body is to indicate that, in truth, all Jewish souls are one just as all limbs in a body are one (Ya’arot Devash by Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz, Derush 1, page 17 in the Machon Or HaSefer edition, D.H. Bevirkat Teka). See also below.
[11] Isaiah 57:16
[12] Rashi on Niddah 13b D.H. Ki
[13] The word יַעֲטוֹף/ Y’aatof which in the simple meaning of the verse means “humble itself” can also mean “delay” (see Gen. 30:42).
[14] Tanna DeVei Eilyahu Zuta, end of chapter 14
[15] Ibid
[16] Sha’arei Ge’ulah, vol. 1 page 162 based on Likutei Sichot, Parshat No’ach 5748
[17] 118b (as explained in last week’s article)
[18] Tosfot, Niddah 13b D.H. Ad Sheyichlu
[19] On Niddah, ibid, D.H Ad Sheyichlu
[20] Eyn Eliyahu on Niddah ibid
[21] Shabbat Shel Mi, on Shabbat ibid, D.H Ilmaleh
[22] Iyun Yaakov on Niddah. He supports this view because Rabbi Yochanan in Niddah is of the opinion that one who had children that predeceased him has not fulfilled the mitzvah of pru urvu (procreation) unless they already had children of their own. Whereas Rav Hunnah holds, that in such a case, one has fulfilled the mitzvah. The Gemara (in Yevamot) explains that Rav Hunnah’s reasoning is that, even if the child passed away, his birth still hastened the redemption by emptying out the repository of souls in heaven. Rabbi Yochanan’s reason for disagreeing with Rav Hunnah’s explanation may be that he disagrees with the idea that Moshiach will come when all the souls are born.
The Talmud (Yevamot 63a) says that the Halacha (final law) follows Rabbi Yochanan, that if one had children and they passed away without first having children of their own, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah of procreation. Thus, according to the Iyun Ya’akov that Rabbi Yochanan argues with Rav Asi, the final ruling is that having more children does not hasten the redemption.
Since all the other commentaries (listed above) gave different answers to reconcile the teachings of Rabbi Yochanan and Rav Asi, it is clear, that in their opinions, Rabbi Yochanan does accept Rav Asi’s teaching that Moshiach’s arrival is contingent on all the souls being born. Support for this viewpoint can be brought from Niddah 13b where the wording of a beriata (a teaching by the authors of the Mishnah) is explained in accordance with Rav Asi’s teaching. Since no one argues on that beraita, it seems to be a unanimously accepted view.
This begs the question, if Rabbi Yochanan agrees that the birth of a baby hastens Moshiach (even if he or she subsequently passes away), why does he disagree with Rav Hunna who says that one fulfills the mitzvah of pru urvu in that circumstance?
It would seem that Rabbi Yochanan is of the opinion that, although one does accomplish something by having a child that predeceases him, he has still not fulfilled the mitzvah of pru urvu. This can only be fulfilled if one settles the world. As the verse says that G-d “did not create the world for emptiness but rather for it to be settled” (Isaiah 45:18).
[23] Likutei Sichot, vol. 25, pg. 33-37
[24] Kings II 20 as explained in Brachot 10a
[25] Kings II 18:5
[26] This Ravshaka is not to be confused with the one who was one of Sancheirev’s main advisors (see Kings II, 18:17 and on and Isaiah 36:2 and on) who was an apostate Jew (see Sanhedrin, 60a) for Chizkiyahu’s son was born after Sancherev’s defeat (see Brachot ibid).
[27] Although he was the king, Chizkiyahu carried them on his shoulders so that they should learn the importance of Torah study (Ben Yehoyada on Brachot, ibid).
[28] Note of the Bach on Brachot 10a. The Ben Ish Chai explains (in Ben Yehoyada) that Chizkiyahu did not intend to kill them but merely to throw them down. G-d, seeing he was destined for a life of sin, caused him to die.
[29] See Kings II, chapter 21, and Sanhedrin 103b. But see Chronicles II, chapter 33 and Sanhedrin 101b and 103a that Menashe did teshuvah, at least on some level.
Wishing You all a Shabbat Shalom!
Aryeh Citron

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