Few decisions in life can compare to that of having another child. It is no secret that our tradition encourages having many children and observant Jews seem to follow suit.

Interestingly, a Jewish couple can A love for kids? A determination to rebuild post-Holocaust? theoretically fulfill the mitzvah of having children by having one boy and one girl. One of each gender is the minimum according to Torah, for it ensures human survival and continuity. Nevertheless, a family of four is not what one imagines as the size of a typical Orthodox Jewish family, not by a long shot! Indeed, we are obligated to have as many children as possible.

Why? What drives these parents to have large families? A love for kids? Determination to rebuild post-Holocaust? Some innate affection for Honda and Toyota minivans?

The answer, both profound and fundamental, touches on the very foundations of Judaism and its view of the human being. As with most aspects of Jewish life, Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a foremost authority on Torah law) is the go-to place for clarity and precision:

“Although a person has fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying, he is bound by a Rabbinic commandment not to refrain from being fruitful and multiplying as long as he is physically potent, for anyone who adds a soul to the Jewish people is considered as if he built an entire world.”1

An entire world. These words are well-known, but what do they mean?

Children require vast amounts of parental resources, and having another means that this additional human needs to be, well… worth it. Admittedly, this sounds terribly calculated, but let’s face it: it’s the truth.

The Jewish position, as Maimonides puts it, is that the birth of a child is the creation of an entire world. I.e., each potential child is endlessly valuable and infinitely necessary.

G‑d created the physical world as His ultimate place of belonging and revelation. The spiritual worlds are not His primary home. He wants to be here, with us, the physical, living, humans.

We infuse the physical world around us with G‑dliness by studying Torah and fulfilling mitzvahs. G‑d’s final purpose of creation will be realized with the coming of Moshiach, at which time, as a result of our cumulative efforts, He will be fully revealed and felt in this material world.

Each individual plays an integral role in completing the grand purpose of creation. No one person can substitute for another. As such, the Final Redemption will only begin when each soul has descended to this earth to fulfill its mission,2 which is why each life is considered an entire world: the whole purpose of the world hinges on the very existence of each individual.

But there’s more. The Torah tells us that G‑d has an intrinsic and essential love for us that goes beyond what we do. His connection to us is about who we are. In other words, each additional child is not valued just because of their purpose and necessity, but because of their infinite, intrinsic value.

This begins with humankind as a whole. The Torah emphasizes that each of us is created “in the image of G‑d.” However this is to be understood, the idea is that each person has an element of G‑dliness in the very fabric of their being, which is why human life is sacred and non-negotiable.

When the Jewish people emerged from slavery in Egypt, G‑d called us His “Am Segulah” – “treasured nation.”3 Rashi4 interprets “treasure” to mean “the kind of costly vessels and precious stones which kings store away.”

What does this mean?

A treasure on display is intended to further the king’s honor and glory—a necessary part in the conduct of a king who must be held with distinction among his people. But then there are treasures which are not publicly displayed.We are G‑d’s private treasure These are the items which touch the king on a deeply personal level. They are not there to fulfill a certain function, but are of intrinsic value—an end unto themselves. We, the Jewish people, are G‑d’s private treasure. We are not merely the means through which His deepest objective is fulfilled; we are the objective itself.

From a Jewish perspective, the birth of a child is the arrival at the be-all and end-all of everything–absolutely everything.

To be sure, there are certain considerations in terms of health and wellbeing that, by Jewish law, take precedence over having another child. Jewish couples are mandated to be aware of their own situation and act responsibly. These considerations are primarily that of physical and mental health, and the ability to properly care for the children who already exist.

The time-honored custom has been for Jewish couples to be in ongoing contact with a rabbi who is both close to the family and erudite in Jewish law. Together, they forge a wise and responsible way forward.

Nevertheless, the revolutionary stance of Judaism remains the same: While there may be many legitimate exceptions to the continuity of childbirth, these will always remain exceptions, not the rule. “For anyone who adds a soul to the Jewish people is considered as if he built an entire world.”5