In Genesis 21:1, we learn that Abraham remarried three years after the death of Sarah. Once his son Isaac was married off, Abraham, at age 140, married Keturah, who bore him six children.

But who exactly was Keturah and why did Abraham marry her? What pushed him to have six more children so late in life?

Rashi tells us that Keturah was one and the same as Hagar, whom Abraham had married more than 50 years prior (when he was 85 years of age), and who bore his firstborn, Ishmael.1

So why the name change? To teach us that she was pure and good like ketoret, the incense that was offered to G‑d on the altar in the Holy Temple.

You might recall that Hagar had been chased out of Abraham’s home when her son was misbehaving. For many years, she was away from Abraham and his influence.2 Yet during all their years apart, she never cohabited with another man and remained faithful and true to the ethics that Abraham taught.3 Hence, this was another reason for the name change: in Aramaic, keturah means “bound,” and Hagar remained connected to Abraham throughout all those years.4

But if Abraham had intended to remarry Hagar after Sarah died, why did he wait until Isaac married three years later?

Interestingly, Isaac was the matchmaker.5 Soon after his mother’s passing, he traveled to Hagar and brought her back to Abraham’s home. He obviously had positive feelings towards his stepmother and considered her worthy of remarrying his father after his own mother passed away.

Yet, Abraham chose to wait until Isaac was married before he himself remarried. From here the sages learn that one whose wife passes away and who has older children should ideally first see to it that his children are settled before he gets remarried.6

This still doesn’t explain why Abraham chose to get married and have children at age 140. Even in those days, 140 was old (Abraham passed away at 175 and is considered to have lived until a ripe, old age)!

Yet to Abraham, it was important to have many children. Why?

According to the Talmud, one very simple reason for having many children is that you don’t know which one will give you nachat.7 Obviously, Abraham had nachat and spiritual continuity through Isaac, so this most probably wasn’t his worry. So what other reason might he have had for remarrying and siring more children?

Simple. The first mitzvah that G‑d ever gave to mankind was to Adam and Eve immediately after their creation: “Be fruitful and multiply!” He repeated those same words to Noah and his family after the decimation of the Flood: Go have babies!

Overpopulation is not a worry for G‑d; it’s His desire that the world be full of human beings who are decent and good. The world is big enough for us all.

There is no greater act of service we can do than bestowing life onto another human being. The gift of life is truly the greatest gift of all. So while Abraham had already created a nation through Isaac, he still felt obligated to gift life to others.8

An idea that the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke passionately about many times, especially during the ’80s, was bringing many children into the world. He saw this as a Divine endeavor and a source of tremendous blessing for the parents, the community and the world.

After World War II, the Ponevezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahneman, used to visit Miami annually to raise funds for his yeshivah. Rabbi Berel Wein, who was a congregational rabbi in Miami during that period, related this story:

One day, the Ponevezher Rav called me and asked me to arrange a meeting in my home with the younger couples affiliated with my congregation. I told him that I would do so, but I cautioned him that I did not think that he would raise much money from them. He gently told me that he was not going to speak to them about donations at all.

At that meeting, which was very well-attended, the Ponevezher Rav rose and said to them: “My beloved children, the souls of a million and a half Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust are floating in the air above us. Your task is to give those souls bodies to live in.”

On a personal note, I’m the oldest of 12 children, and both my parents come from large families, so I have over 200 first cousins! I can confidently say that big families are pure blessing. I pray that my wife and I should continue to be blessed with the incredible gift of bringing children into this world.

The Talmud says: “The son of David (Moshiach) will not arrive until all the souls in the treasury in heaven [which is referred to as guf] are brought into this world.”9

I’ll leave you with this final thought: You will never regret the kids you have, but too many people regret the ones they didn’t bring into this beautiful world.