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    Children are no laughing matter – Lech L’cha

    Sarah laughing that she will give birth, by James Tissot

    Informed that she would bear a child in old age, Sarah laughed. That’s why her son was Isaac – “Yitzchak”, “laughter”.

    But what was the joke? To be told your family would have a future after all – was that a laughing matter?

    Maybe Sarah’s reaction was not a humorous laugh, but a nervous reaction. More likely, it was an expression of joy and exultation.

    For family continuity was always a crucial matter for Jews. As I heard from someone in a London East End audience years ago, “If we won’t have no children, we won’t have no future”.

    Once upon a time Jews knew that if they had children, Judaism too, not just their own family, had a hope of continuity.

    The problem today is that Jewish continuity is not always on the agenda when parents talk about having children.

    Yet if Jewish identity is strong enough and exciting enough for them they will realise that raising a family is not only the most creative thing they can do for themselves but the most creative contribution they can make towards Judaism.

    However, it is usually only the strictly orthodox who have big enough families to ensure there will be a Jewish future. Others think they are too modern or sophisticated to have large families. Some rate economic prosperity and social convenience higher than the human dimension of children.

    So let’s make a suggestion. Remember the wise saying that we live for a while in ourselves, and for ever in our children. Give yourselves the chance of immortality through a reasonably-sized family, and do something for Judaism at the same time.

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