The economic setbacks of the past few years have been hard on everyone--from the billionaire with thousands of employees to the hired worker or small businessman. Some are dealing with losses of huge sums of money while others must contend with unemployment, in the worst case, or at the very least, with wage cuts, loss of savings and a rise in the cost of living. All these factors together paint a rather bleak economic picture.
The worsening recession has had many implications, both on the world stage as well as in our personal lives. Many people, even those who have not yet fallen below the poverty line, have been tightening their belts and thinking twice before spending money on items they used to buy without hesitation. Anything that isn't strictly necessary is being shelved for now. This has become a general trend--a global decline in living standards, which shows no signs of abating.
One of these changes, which perhaps does not attract as much media attention, is in the birthrate. Today, more and more couples are choosing to defer becoming parents, until their economic situation is more stable. Others are deciding not to enlarge their families until they're sure they can provide their children with all the benefits they feel a child needs for optimal development.
As a rule, it is appropriate to think ahead and to base life decisions on the long range view. However, above all, as Jews we base our lives on faith; it is the true compass with which we navigate every step of our lives.
This is true particularly when it comes to bearing children. In this week's Torah portion we receive a complete lesson in faith. As is known, when our forefathers were in Egypt Pharaoh decreed that all newborn boys be cast into the Nile. Our sages relate that the leader of the Jewish people at the time, Amram ben Yitzhar, separated from his wife Yocheved, since he did not want to have children that would be thrown into the water. Following his example, all Jewish men separated from their wives.
Amram's daughter Miriam, though, had other ideas. She approached her father and asked, "Pharaoh's decree will only annihilate the boys, while with your decision you annihilate the girls as well! Furthermore, Pharaoh is only a flesh-and-blood king; it is doubtful whether he will be able to carry out his decree. However, the step you are taking will definitely bring disaster upon the Jewish people. How can you take responsibility for such an act?
Amram took his young daughter's words to heart. He resumed relations with his wife, and the rest of the people again followed his example. In the end, Yocheved bore Amram another child, Moses, who grew up to lead the Jewish people out of exile.
Our sages say that "A child is born with his bread in his hand." With each child that is born, G-d opens a new channel for livelihood for his entire family. Many parents who have raised large families can attest to this; they see that a blessing enters the home with the birth of each additional child.
Naturally we must also do our part using the tools of nature to provide for our families. However, we must not allow our worries and fears stop us from carrying out our duty and mission to expand the Jewish people. When we do our part, G-d will do His.
True, it is not a simple task, and a great deal of the burden falls upon the mothers. Yet they are assured a great reward. Our sages say: "In the merit of the righteous women our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt, and in their merit we will be redeemed in the future."