In recent months, the Rebbe Shlita has placed great emphasis on the vital importance of bringing Jewish children into the world, decrying also what has become known as “family planning.” In the course of his words at the Farbrengen of 6 Tishrei, 5741, anniversary of the passing-away of his late revered mother, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, נ"ע,the Rebbe utilized the opportunity to further explain the greatness of a Jewish woman’s vocation as a mother, and how bearing children is a preparation for the arrival of Moshiach.

Sarah, Rochel and Chana were all granted children on Rosh Hashanah,” the Talmud tells us (Berachos 29a).

The most obvious similarity between these three great women was the ardent desire and determination of each to bring a Jewish child into the world. In their dedicated yearning to give birth, they were prepared to resort to any means permitted by the Torah. Sarah even went to the unusual extreme of blaming her saintly husband Avraham for her lack of children (Bereishis 16:5) — all in order to attain her ultimate goal of becoming a mother.

The example of these three women teaches us that a Jewish woman’s vocation is to bring Jewish children into the world and to ensure their Jewish upbringing. This is her prayer to G‑d: that He grant her this privilege.

The child’s early Jewish education lies in the mother’s hands to a much greater degree than in the father’s. We see that Avraham, in his great kindness, would have been satisfied with Yishmael as G‑d’s gift of a son in his old age: “If only Yishmael might live before You” (Ibid. 17:18). But Sarah would not accept anything less than the birth and upbringing of the very first Jewish child. Once Yitzchok was born, she continuously strove to safeguard his Jewish upbringing, demanding that Yishmael be removed from his company: “He shall not inherit with my son, with Yitzchok” (Ibid. 21.10), for “In Yitzchok will be called your children” (Ibid. 21:12) — only from him would the Jewish People descend. Her yearning for birth of a Jewish child and subsequent dedication to his total Jewish upbringing resulted, years later, in Yitzchok’s courageous willingness to offer up his life as a sacrifice to G‑d in the famous test of the Akeida (Binding of Yitzchok — Ibid. Ch 24).

The lesson to us from Sarah’s conduct is clear. Since a Jewish woman’s highest vocation is to be the mother of Jewish children and custodian of their education, it is obviously deceptive to argue that one who has already fulfilled the minimum Halachic obligation of bringing at least one son and one daughter into the world, need no longer pursue the Mitzvah to “Be fruitful and multiply.” Only where there is a true Halachic reason for delaying the birth of children can this be permitted — and only after consulting a Rav Every Jew and every Jewish child is “an entire world,” the Talmud says (Sanhedrin 37a). And the fact that procreation is the first Mitzvah in the Torah indicates its primary importance. One must rely upon the Almighty, Who is the Essence of goodness and the Source of all good, and Whose acts are therefore only for our good (although we may not always comprehend it). Surely He will give each family the number of children ideally suited for them, and take care of all their needs. For just as He takes care of even the most minute details of His vast universe, He can surely provide for each Jew, including each newly-born Jewish child — who is called an “entire world.”

Bringing Jewish children into the world is a command of G‑d, a Mitzvah. The word Mitzvah derives etymologically from a root-word meaning “joining” and “uniting,” for one who fulfills G‑d’s command becomes united with Him. Such closeness to G‑d surely results in all the Divine emanations of good and blessing necessary to satisfy one’s needs.

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From these three outstanding women, Sarah, Rochel, and Chana, and their sons Yitzchok, Yosef, and Shmuel, we learn yet another lesson. These mothers of the Jewish people gave their children an education that enabled them to serve G‑d under circumstances of diametrically opposed extremes.

Yitzchok was called a “perfect sacrifice” to G‑d. As such, he never left the Holy Land — “the land that G‑d’s eyes rest upon from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” The Holy Land is the first to receive G‑d’s blessings and through it the blessings flow to other lands. As a result, Yitzchok was extremely wealthy — people would say “Rather the waste of Yitzchok’s mules than the silver and gold of (King) Avimelech” (Rashi, Ibid. 26:13 from Midrash Rabbah).

His life was singularly free of material worry, free of the discomforts of exile which his father Avraham and his son Ya’akov experienced. Even when a famine forced him into exile, it was only to a different part of Eretz Yisroel. And there, too, he was given special privileges by Avimelech, who later also honored him by coming to him especially (together with his commander-in-chief) in order to make a treaty of peace and friendship with him.

Yosef, on the other hand, was in Eretz Yisroel only up to the age of 17. His entire adult life was spent in Mitzrayim (Egypt), the “depravity of the earth.” Even after he passed away, it was well over a hundred years before his bones were returned to Eretz Yisroel. He was forced to suffer for years as slave and prisoner, in order that he might later become ruler of Egypt. As a ruler, his duties occupied most of his time, keeping him from direct involvement in spiritual pursuits. And even as ruler of Egypt, he was still subject to the final authority of Pharaoh — “I will make the throne higher than you” (Ibid. 41:40).

The lesson we learn from this is that there are times in the life of every Jew, child or adult, which parallel the two totally different conditions of life represented by Yitzchok and Yosef. There are times of success and prosperity, freedom from material worry, when everything seems to be going well. And there are times when the physical world imposes difficulties and problems, even pain and suffering, poverty and hardship, limitations and obstacles in one’s service to G‑d.

From Yitzchok we can learn how his material prosperity neither “spoiled” him, nor lessened his devotion to G‑d. On the contrary, the courage and submission to G‑d demonstrated at the Akeida remained with him for the rest of his life.

From Yosef we see how material obstacles, even sufferings, did not allow him to become depressed or unhappy. In fact, his sufferings led to his future role as ruler of Egypt, with greatness and power second only to Pharaoh’s. Likewise, we too, in the midst of our problems, can gain heart and be encouraged to stand firm until events take a turn for the good Although we remain subject to “Pharaoh,” to the limitations of our surrounding environment and the law of the land, yet we can still retain control over our environment to the extent that “no man shall lift his hand or foot” (Ibid 41.44), by utilizing it for service to G‑d

Sometimes we are in doubt as to which aspect of life should predominate. In any given situation, we may be faced with the question as to whether we should exercise control over our environment through the firmness and determination of Torah, or perhaps give in to necessary physical requirements (food and sleep, work and — for children — play, etc ), in order that we be well and prepared to fulfill our G‑d-given mission in the world In such cases of doubt, we must ask a Halachic authority for a Torah-ruling in each specific case

Great care must be taken to ensure a child’s physical wellbeing Particularly, then, in the education of each Jewish child (who is considered, as we have said, an “entire world”) it is vital to ensure his or her spiritual wellbeing. From the child’s earliest years, Jewish mothers would affix Torah-verses to their children’s beds so that their first sight in this world would be sacred letters of Torah. They would lull the child to sleep with a lullaby praising the sweetness of Torah, “di beste sechoira” (the best merchandise), sweeter than the child’s familiar goods such as “rozhinkes mit mandlen” (raisins and almonds).

In this context, we find an interesting comment of one of our great Sages In Pirkei Avos (2:9), Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai praises the exalted qualities of his greatest disciples and surprisingly praises Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya with the words “Happy is she who bore him.” Surely this was a praise, not of Rabbi Yehoshua himself, but of his mother, for, in fact, he owed his greatness to his mother. Immediately after his birth, she would bring his cradle to the House of Learning that he may hear words of Torah, and it was these crucial first impressions which laid the foundation for his future greatness

Of course children should also be given incentives on their own level to study Torah and behave correctly. They may understand, at their level of maturity, only the sweetness of “rozhinkes mit mandlen.” But their education should be such that they later come to realize that true sweetness and value is only in Torah and Mitzvos. The education should provide them with the necessary strength to cope with all situations, whether similar to Yitzchok’s prosperity, or to Yosef’s sufferings and limitations in the physical world. In every situation they should be able to feel the sweetness of Torah and its power to help surmount the problem, seeing the situation as an opportunity for revealing the inner potential for good.

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The third great woman who was granted a child on Rosh Hashanah was Chana. Her name derives from the word chein (“grace” or “charm”), a quality transcending and defying normal human logic. Therefore, her prophecy deals with the exalted spiritual revelations of Moshiach’s era — as G‑d Himself elevates the revelations of Moshiach to their highest pinnacle.

Just as Chana speaks on such a high level, we too, despite the difficulties of exile, can attain a higher spiritual plane of endeavor through toil and depth of concentration in Torah study As the Zohar explains, exile need not be experienced in terms of physical hardship, but rather through exerting one’s energies in “toil of Torah.”

The AriZal (Rabbi Yitzchok Luria), father of modern Kabbalah, would perspire profusely while studying Talmud and Halachah. In the intensity of his concentration and effort to solve all questions and obstacles to clear understanding of the Torah logic and final Halachic decision, he invested such tremendous mental energy that it was manifested physically by his pouring with sweat.

Likewise the Mitteler Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch (1773-1827), in his depth of concentration and intense devotion in prayer and meditation upon the greatness of G‑d, although showing no outward expression of ecstasy, would perspire to the extent that sweat would pour from the tip of his hat! His concentration permeated his being to the extent that it affected the most external portion of his clothing.

Through such toil in Torah-study, we can fulfill any requirements of this dark exile which might otherwise demand physical suffering and difficulties. On the contrary, toil in Torah-study can ensure that the material aspects of life remain “bright” and prosperous. And when Torah is studied in this way, one elevates one’s own inner “spark of Moshiach,” to become revealed in a personal “redemption.”

When Moshiach will finally arrive in the future total, worldwide Redemption, we will return to Eretz Yisroel by way of Rochel’s tomb, Just as the Jews passed by on their way to exile in Bavel. Then, on their way into exile, it was the soul of Rochel which came to give them encouragement. And, in the future Redemption, as we emerge out of exile, it will again be Rochel who will encourage us, and take pride in the fact that all her children are returning home.

And G‑d Himself will “return” from the exile of His Divine Presence, guiding each Jew “by the hand” out of exile, and leading him home, to an Eretz Yisroel complete in all its boundaries as specified by the Torah; the result of a Jewish people complete in its national integrity, observing the complete Torah without compromise.