A section of the gemora recently covered in the daf
yomi at the beginning of Erchin (2b) discusses
what to do about a man who is half-free and half-slave. Beis
Shammai argue: "He is forbidden to marry a female slave and
he is forbidden to marry a free woman. Should he not marry at
all? Wasn't the world created for nothing else but for the
creatures to be fruitful and multiply, as it says, `He did
not create it for desolation but to be settled'
(Yeshayohu 45:18)? Rather [than let him remain thus]
for tikkun ho'olom we force his master to make him a
free man and he must write a note to pay for half his value
[to the master]." Beis Hillel accepted this reasoning.
Tikkun Ho'olom are words that appeal to many Jews who
know very little Jewish wisdom, and they fill these inspiring
words with content that they drew from the broken cisterns of
the West. Sometimes the result they work towards under the
slogan of Tikkun Ho'olom can be opposed to the true
Jewish understanding of those words.
To deny a man the opportunity to raise a family is not just
causing him a personal problem. It is a crime against
humanity. It goes against the very purpose of the world
itself. Certainly -- and all the more so -- any individual or
couple who exercises their admittedly free choice not to
raise a family has not just acted against his or their own
long-term interests, but has also failed in the most basic
way to achieve a tikkun ho'olom that is within their
ability to achieve.
The natural behavior of all forms of life -- except for
modern man -- leads them to have offspring and to raise them
to adulthood. The principle that the world was created to be
settled, and that all life strives to produce as many
offspring as it can, is deeply embedded in all natural
The Jews are not the worst offenders against humanity. In
Israel the Jewish fertility rate is about 2.3 children per
woman. All American Jewish women had an average of 1.83
children throughout their lifetimes, though the average
American woman had about 2 children. Both of these figures
are below the simple replacement level of about 2.1 children
and thus far from fulfilling the Biblical injunction "He
created it to be settled." However Europe is much worse: In
France the fertility rate is 1.85; in the UK it is 1.66; in
Germany it is 1.38; and in Italy, Spain and Russia it is only
about 1.27! Even in the developing world where the birth rate
is much higher, it is falling. The United Nations Population
Division projects that future fertility levels in most
developing countries will likely fall below 2.1 children per
woman within the next fifty years.
People do not think of having a family as the central project
of their adult years. Many women decide to have children only
when they are relatively old and it is much harder.
All this comes in an age in which it is easier than it ever
was to have children. Neither mother nor child are likely to
die in childbirth, nor are the young likely to die from
childhood scourges. Most people in the whole world do not
have trouble feeding their children, though many cannot
supply them with a cellphone.
It is not our purpose to advocate that the nations of the
world have more children. Our concern is with the Jewish
The problem is probably not a serious one among Yated
readers, but with the spirit of the world blowing so strongly
in this anti-humanity direction, in this month of Elul -- as
always -- we feel it is important to emphasize that we must
stand firmly against this trend and do our part to bring
about tikkun ho'olom as the Creator originally
intended: "He did not create [the world] for desolation but
to be settled."