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Adopt and Multiply

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Topic: Adoption, Commandment to be Fruitful & Multiply

[name withheld] wrote:

Thank you for "Ask the Rabbi #79" about p'ru u'rvu (the mitzvah of having children). I'd like to ask a follow-up question. We have not been able to have biological children after 28 years of marriage, numerous state-of-the-art fertility treatments, and observance of Taharat Mishpaha (family purity). We received blessings from several rebbes, and have checked our mezuzot and tefillin more often than necessary. We have two adopted sons who bring us much joy. My question is this: Have we, or have we not fulfilled this mitzvah? If not, how can we? Another question: Since my husband is a Levi, how is our bar mitzvah-age son to be called up to the Torah? And my husband refuses to wash the hands of the Kohanim because he says it would hurt our son's feelings, since he cannot go up with him while all the other sons go up with their fathers. Is this OK, or is there some other way of dealing with it?

Dear [name withheld],

I spoke to Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, about your situation. He cited Rabbi Shlomo Kluger's commentary to the Shulchan Aruch, which presents a viewpoint that you can in fact fulfill the mitzvah of p'ru u'rvu by raising a boy and a girl who are not your biological children. This is based on the Talmudic statement "One who raises his neighbor's child is as if he gave birth to him."

In another vein, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l writes that the mitzvah of p'ru u'rvu is to try to have children. He reasons that the Torah would not obligate you to actually have children, since that is something out of your control.

As far as washing the hands of the Kohanim, Rabbi Scheinberg said that your son is actually allowed to do so.

When your son is called to the Torah, the name of his biological father should be used - if the father was Jewish. If you don't know the biological father's name, he should be called to the Torah as 'so-and-so ben (son of) Avraham Avinu.' However, if this causes any embarrassment whatsoever, the name should be said quietly. If this still causes embarrassment, or in a case where the child does not yet know he's adopted, he can be called by the name of the adoptive father. Still, he shouldn't be called to the Torah as a Levi. A clever way to de-emphasize his 'non-Levi' status is to call him for 'Maftir' - something that applies to Levi and non-Levi alike!


  • Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 1 and Chochmat Shlomo.
  • Iggrot Moshe Even Haezer 2:18.
  • Shulchan Aruch O.C. 128 Baer Hativ 8.
  • Sanhedrin 19b, Yalkut Yosef vol. 2 135-8.

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