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I Can’t Afford Another Kid!

I Can’t Afford Another Kid!

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Question:

My wife wants another child. We’re financially strained as it is, and I think it’s irresponsible to add another mouth to feed when you can’t afford it. Are there no limits to the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply”?

Answer:

You are suggesting that finances should determine how many children we have. If you can’t afford it, don’t have babies. The stork should accept only cash on delivery. Debt and diapers don’t mix. It’s all about the bottom line.

That sounds reasonable. But let’s see if it makes sense.

Let’s say my financial adviser assesses that I can afford to have four children, and no more. So I go ahead and have them. A few years down the road, my situation changes drastically for the worse, and I can no longer pay the bills for a family of six souls. So I call in my youngest and say, “I’m sorry, we made a miscalculation. We thought we could afford you. But you know how unpredictable the market is these days. We’re going to have to let you go.”

How are we supposed to measure how many children we can afford? Can anyone predict what size family we can or can’t fund in the future? Who can say for certain that they can afford even one child?

A family is not a business. It’s about people, not profits. Having a big family means making the choice that our wealth is our children, and though we don’t know what the future holds, we will do all we can to provide for them in every way. If that means taking a few less vacations or having to buy used cars instead of new ones, then the sacrifice is worth it.

There are indeed situations where Jewish law limits our multiplying. If the emotional or physical health of the parents is at risk, or if the strength of their relationship is in question, they may be advised to hold off from having children. But they will determine that together with their spiritual mentor and their health practitioner, not their accountant.

I have often heard people say they wish they could have had more children. I have never heard anyone say they wish they had fewer. Each new soul is a blessing to the world and a blessing to the family. You think you can’t afford to have another one? Perhaps you can’t afford not to.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous September 7, 2017

There's families with a lot of money and few kids and their families are falling apart and families with a lot of kids, not so much money and they are the nicest, warmest, most loving people. So having a lot of kids and not enough money isn't such a strong excuse. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI April 14, 2017

Does your wife understand that you need money to raise children? If not, you have to tell her straight out. She may not like it, but if you're having money problems, you'll need extra help. Reply

Anonymous Canada July 27, 2016

Mommy of many, B So many of the comments below take Hashem out of the picture. Look, I get it, it's hard to believe that there is a higher power who takes care of us every second of the day making sure that we can be all that we can be, but like it or not, believe it or not...He's there. Watching you, His creation, and He wants you to create too!
Hashem's your parent and hey, he could've decided not to have you! But he did have you because you are important to Him.
When you acknowledge Hashem and His desire for you to create goodness and kindness, you must have complete faith that he will give you all that you need to care for your children.

Working on having that faith is a daily exercise that tested constantly. Maintaining a positive attitude and perspective, using all your abilities and strengths to care for your family knowing that Hashem is watching over you, brings down his blessings in abundance.
I speak from experience! I'm a work in progress. May we see revealed goodness. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, Arizona July 27, 2016

To Dashiell You make many valid points. I totally agree. Those who utilize the welfare system to pay for their many children should be ashamed of themselves. It's difficult to believe that Jews would participate in such a practice. What happened to working for a living and living within one's means? Reply

Mike G NYC July 27, 2016

Related article in NY Times The NY Times just published an op/ed on overpopulation in Israel and it's environmental and social impact.

I can't link it here, but if you do a search at the NY Times for "Israel's looming demographic crisis" you can find it.

Basically - Given that world Jewish populations have rebounded from the Holocaust, and Jewish Israelis no longer has to fight a population war with Arab Israelis, the main reasons for encouraging large families have gone away. There are already high levels of poverty, environmental damage, housing shortages, water scarcity, threats to wildlife due to habitat loss, etc... Current population trends are only going to make these issues worse.

Even if you disagree that overpopulation is a problem in the short term, just do the math. If populations double every 30 years, what will Israel look like after it doubles three or four more times? At some point, people have to stop have having six kids a generation. And I'm writing this as the youngest of six! :-) Reply

Abraham miami July 26, 2016

corporativism "and people should always consult with their rabbi."


dear Rabbi,

the same goes corporately with lawyers, accountants, doctors, priests, rabbis, imams, etc...

with all due respect to you, a profession is just a profession, with all it implies, including some type of corporativism.

if i don't feel well i go to a doctor and hear his recommendations, but still make my own decision. many times though i don't consult a doctor and still make my own decision.

the reason is that i am responsible for my own decisions and not always third parties should be involved mainly if i am inclined to get ride of my own responsibility.

so, unless there is no common agreement within a rational and well adjusted couple, i don't think they should consult anybody about having children, not their parents and certainly not other people.

of course this is just my opinion. Reply

Dashiell July 26, 2016

A few less vacations or used cars instead of new? That presupposes you can afford vacations in the first place, or new cars. My wife and I would love to have more children, but I refuse to raise my children in poverty just to have more of them. I've had to rely on food stamps, WIC, and help from others, I never want to live like that again, and I don't want my children thinking that should be normal. It makes me very sad that some Jewish groups maintain their community through these welfare programs. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, Arizona July 21, 2016

To Eliezer Whoa - how did the rabbi get involved with this? The number of children a couple has is a personal matter between the two of them and does not involve a rabbi. Certainly, monetary, physical, and mental issues play a part but it still comes down to what the couple wants. And I'm still not sure that you and I read the same article. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org July 20, 2016

To Barbara My comment was to Anonymous in DC. But the truth is that it can apply to many of the other comments here. The article was written in a best-case scenario, but not always does that work for everyone, and people should always consult with their rabbi. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, Arizona July 19, 2016

Eliezer's Answer to Masha That's not what the author said. Did we read the same article? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org July 18, 2016

Re: I can't afford another kid! That is certainly true. That's why a couple should discuss this very personal and delicate issue with their rabbi, who will work with them within the guidelines of Jewish law to figure out what is best for them. Reply

Masha July 14, 2016

I believe you should only have as many children that you can afford - to just have children without any regard to finances is irresponsible
What I mean is that when Jews have to ask for for public assistance knowing that they are already struggling that is wrong
I am Jewish I am am not specifically saying it is just Jews there are other groups too Prime example Kiryas Joel which has one of the highest poverty rates in the country.
Having 2-3 children is fine. My parents could only afford 2 children
My mom stayed at home. You should only have as many children as you can afford without burdening society for Public assistance (welfare and food stamps)and again whether you are Jewish or not, any race
Do what you can afford. We as Jews get a bad rap for this
God is not going to value you any less having less children Having children and knowing you cannot afford to have is reckless And then asking for public assistance is stealing Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA via jewishpv.com July 14, 2016

Be Fruitful & Multiply Technically, isn't the mitzvah on the man?. I learned this means having 3 daughters, OR 3 sons, OR 1 daughter and 1 son fulfills this mitzvah. I always would have liked to have had another child, and I was blessed with twin sons. I also like how some families have 6 children...1 for each of the 6 million. Reply

M Wa July 11, 2016

Large family and broke I grew up in a large family (4 kids). Forget about used cars instead of new ones. We couldn't afford a used car either. And vacation? Canoeing at the local lake was as far as we got. All my clothes came from Generous People's Outgrown Collection that was delivered to our door in a ubiquitous black garbage bag. We were poor, so poor. My parents tried hard but for various reasons had much difficulty scraping pennies together. But I am so glad our parents had all 4 of us despite the hardship. We all have grown into sensitive, fairly healthy people, menschen, because of that "bleak" ubpbringing. We are close-knit, have a sense of sympathy toward others, appreciation for what we do have, and we don't suffer from a sense of entitlement. Bottom line, I believe, is this: more than a comfortable childhood, your children need a meaningful childhood, which is accomplished through raising them with what money can't buy anyway. Purpose, connection, love. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA via chabadcamarillo.com July 10, 2016

There are those who wish they had fewer children - Here is why someone would have never heard them say it: 1. They may be so busy with their children that they don't have time to talk to adults (except for necessary conversations with the children's teachers, doctors, etc., and work-related conversations).

2. It's embarrassing; it's not likely that they would want admit it (especially to someone with the author's views).

3. They don't want to risk the possibility that their children would learn that they said it and (justifiably) feel unwanted.

4. If they ever get divorced, the children's other parent might use the admission to try to get custody of the children.

5. They say it, just not in a way that a person predisposed to believe something different would "hear". For example, when kids ask why you need to take lessons, pass a test and get a license to before you can drive a car, but don't need to do these things before having children, lots of parents say that if everyone had to learn what having child was like before they had children, then no one would have children. Reply

Anonymous Israel via yichabad.com July 9, 2016

A very naive viewpoint, Rabbi. Israel is full of large, ultra-orthodox families living off charity and state-benefits. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, Arizona July 7, 2016

To Anonymous Sometimes, we, as parents, have to be concerned about "making a living" in order to support our children at least with the basics. We can't always rely only on a higher power. We are told to: "Pray as if everything depended on God; Act as if everything depended on you." A good philosophy, don't you think? Reply

Anonymous July 7, 2016

Hashem provides for all the righteous . Think about Torah before dollars and it may help your parnossa too. Reply

Anonymous D.C. July 7, 2016

I can't afford another kid! The argument is specious and, I believe, dangerous. The rabbis made a distinction between a fetus and a living child with head and shoulders out of the mother's body. So comparing preventing another child with a living child in the family, based on finances, makes no sense. When parents have more children than they can afford, relationships fray and children suffer. We must all strike a balance between maintaining our families financially and emotionally and populating the Jewish people. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, Arizona July 7, 2016

More Children? Rabbi Moss, your argument for more children is interesting and no doubt, Jewishly correct; however, don't you think this is very personal decision to be made between husband and wife that does not include you or I? Reply

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