Adopting a Child

.. As to my opinion whether you should adopt a child [since you are childless]:

In most instances the manner of conduct with an adopted child is such that they do not reveal to the child that he or she is adopted — in any event, the adoptive parents treat him entirely as if the child were their own flesh and blood.

This leads to the prohibitions of hugging and kissing [an older child by the parent of the opposite sex] (something that is only permitted to the actual birth parents and not to the adoptive parents).

[As for] that which is cited in sefarim about [the great quality of] raising an orphan in one’s home, this is understandably only when one conducts oneself in the lawful manner cited above. This is indeed one of the most difficult things to accomplish.

Only when one is sure of his ability to conduct himself in this correct manner is there room for thought about adoption.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIII, p. 24)

What to Take Into Account When Considering Adoption

In reply to your letter from Sunday in which you write about the difficulties you are encountering in adopting a child from Eretz Yisrael. You ask me whether to travel there in connection with the above in order to ascertain additional details and to carry on discussions about this, etc.:

With regard to adoption in general, it is important to first realize the difficulties that are related to it according to our holy Torah, as explained in Shulchan Aruch.

[These difficulties will be better understood] by prefacing that the laws regarding an adopted child are different from those regarding one’s natural child, for which reason embracing, kissing and yichud,[i.e., being secluded in certain defined circumstances with a person of the opposite sex who is not an immediate relative,] which are permitted between a [natural] father and daughter and a [natural] mother and son, are prohibited in the case of [an older] adopted child.

It is self-understood how difficult it is to maintain this form of behavior when the children are raised in such a way that their adoptive status is withheld from them and they think they are their adoptive parents’ natural-born children.

You should therefore interest yourself in adopting a child only after you take the above into account and most firmly and steadfastly resolve to conduct yourself with the child in keeping with our sacred Torah, the Torah of Life.

Should you and your husband decide to do so, and you think that if one of you were to visit Eretz Yisrael there would be a good chance of adopting a boy or girl, then you should undertake the journey in a good and auspicious hour.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIV, p. 130)

Matters of Jewish Law Relating to Adoption

.. The steadily increasing number of people who seek to adopt children includes couples who are most particular about even the minutest detail of the enactments of our Sages.

Yet I have observed that many such couples have not noted that all restrictions — such as embracing and kissing, and likewise yichud, [i.e., being secluded in certain defined circumstances with a person of the opposite sex who is not an immediate relative] — apply in full to adopted children.

Various books and booklets that I have seen deal with problems such as how to ensure that brothers and sisters do not marry; others deal with problems related to inheritance and the like.

All these latter questions, however, arise many years after adoption and are only in the category of a possible doubt, and [in part] involve [only] financial matters. The prohibitions mentioned earlier, by contrast, such as yichud, must certainly be confronted. Moreover, they first present themselves many years before the adopted children attain marriageable age.

It is self-evident that this situation is not the same as the widespread Jewish tradition of bringing up an orphaned boy or girl. For nowadays the intention of adoptive parents is to conceal the fact that they are not the child’s true parents: they go out of their way not to stir the least suspicion in the child’s mind that they relate to him differently from the way his friends’ parents relate to them.

Moreover, many adoption societies elicit assurances from the outset that the child will be reared without any complication or disturbance — in other words, that the relationship in every aspect will be the same as with one’s own child. In addition, doctors and psychologists lend their weight to this attitude, arguing that it is vital for the child’s unhampered development.

To such distinguished individuals as yourselves, further elaboration is surely superfluous.1

It should only be added that the number of adoptions is several times the number estimated or published by statisticians, since many adoptive parents — and even more so, many of those who hand over their children for adoption — do not wish to publicize the fact for numerous reasons.

It is therefore to be hoped that all these facts and warnings about the seriousness of the issues involved that will be printed in the coming volume [of Otzar HaPoskim] will suffice to rectify the above situation which must, at long last, be corrected.

.. Due emphasis should be given to a prohibition which presents itself daily, and which in today’s conditions is well nigh impossible to be heedful of except through constant and punctilious efforts, even when the adoptive parents are G‑d-fearing people. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIII, p. 310)