Dear Rabbi Bernath,
I have a problem. I’m getting close to 30 and I’m not married yet. The pressure is building around me – from my mother, my friends, even my rabbi. I’m not nervous about marriage, per se, but I do have a hangup about having kids. I just think the world is such a crazy place, especially these past few years, so how can I bring a child into this? Obviously this makes dating a little more difficult for me. How do I handle this on dates? Is there something wrong with the way I see the world?
This week, I feel you. I really do.
When your Shabbat is disturbed by the kind of news we heard on Oct. 27, it’s a little bit hard to see the world in a positive light.
Before I get into that side of things, I want to briefly address your first question about dating when you don’t plan to have kids.
You’re hitting the age where, for many people in our society, dating becomes a serious game. When they’re younger, many people just want to have a good time and are seeking some companionship. But certainly at 30, most start thinking about the long term.
That’s why I believe that if you ever make up your mind completely, you need to be very upfront about not wanting to have kids. Like first date upfront (or earlier). Because for many, it’s a deal breaker, and it’s not fair to build a relationship with that restriction under the rug. There are many otherwise happily married couples who divorce just because of this issue.
Now, your second question is much more complex. Is there anything wrong with the way you see the world?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, yes, there is something wrong with seeing the world as you do.
Having children is like making an investment in the future of the world. And as any finance expert will tell you, the most important ingredient in the psyche of an investor is optimism.
Do we have anything to be optimistic about?
If you get your news from the news media, then the answer to that is probably “no.”
No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, there’s bad news to be had all around. If science is your thing, you’ve got global warming to worry about. Economics – well, the economy is on the verge of collapse. And developing countries, especially in Africa, are rife with injustice and inequality.
Doesn’t sound like a world I want to invest in. So that’s why I stopped reading the news and started paying more attention to the world around me.
And I began to see so many positive things: people being wonderful and civil to each other; science advancing to better the world; and societies working hard to improve their lot in the world.
Big picture, the world has never been in a better place. There is less conflict-related death now than ever before, despite what the newspapers say. These are the facts.
The world has been steadily marching forward, progressing toward what we Jews believe will become the Messianic era.
But for us to reach that goal, we need help – help from our children.
When good people have children and teach them to be good, they contribute to the progress of the world. When good people choose not to have children, who knows where the next Albert Einstein or Elon Musk will come from? Where would our world be without them?
I recently had the unpleasant task of giving interviews about the tragedy in Pittsburgh.
“As a rabbi,” I commented, “I need to be the eternal optimist.”
Our ancestors, who experienced never-ending persecution and suffering, had enough optimism to make sure we could be here to talk about it. There’s so much good in the world, despite the horror wrought by one gunman. Our children will be the ones who invent even more good. Let’s give them that chance.