In this season of graduations, many parents take stock of themselves. Have we conveyed good values to our children? Has our exhausting and completely love-filled child-rearing been net positive? Here are a few choice quotes from the tradition, offered by Wexner Graduate Fellowship Alum, Rabbi Justus Baird (Class 15), to help us think about the enterprise of bringing children into the world:
It takes three to make a child
It is impossible for a person [to be born] without a woman, and it is impossible for a woman [to become pregnant] without a man, and both are impossible without the Divine Presence (J. Berakhot 9:1, 12d).
On the limits of parenting/ On having kids even if you think they’ll be screwed up
In those days Hezekiah was sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet, son of Amoz, came to him and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die and not live [2 Kings 20:1]. What is the meaning of ‘thou shalt die and not live’? Thou shalt die in this world and not live in the world to come. When Hezekiah asked him: “Why is the punishment so severe?” Isaiah replied, “Because you did not try to have children.” Hezekiah: “The reason was because I saw by the holy spirit that the children issuing from me would not be worthy.” Isaiah: “What have you to do with the secrets of the All-Merciful? You should have done what you were commanded, and let the Holy One, blessed be He, do that which pleases Him.” Hezekiah said, “Then give me now your daughter; perhaps through your merit and mine combined virtuous children will issue from me.” (B. Berakhot 10a)
Rabbi Justus Baird is Dean of Auburn Seminary in New York, where he oversees education programs that help build a multi-faith movement for social justice. Prior to becoming Dean in 2012, he directed Auburn’s multi-faith work for five years. Rabbi Baird was ordained at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion where he studied as a Wexner Graduate Fellow (Class 15). As an educational entrepreneur he co-founded Questia.com (1999), a successful and far-reaching academic online library, and Yerusha (2009), an experimental approach to Jewish supplementary school. Raised in Texas, Rabbi Baird lives in Princeton, NJ, with his wife Rabbi Julie Roth (Director of the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University, WGF Class 12) and their three children.