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Is It Proper To Adopt If You Have Biological Children?



The simple answer is, of course. There is no greater mitzvah than to provide a home for an orphan or any Jewish child who is without proper parental support.

My great-grandfather Rav Asher Anshel who was the gabbai of the Shinover Rebbi recalls that the Sanzer Tzadik would often take into his home orphans and raise them. These orphans were called the Sanzer yesomin. My great-grandfather, Rav Asher Anshel, was one of these yesomin that was raised by the Sanzer Tzadik.

– Rabbi Mordechai Weiss lives in Efrat Israel and previously served as an elementary and high school principal in New Jersey and Connecticut. He was also the founder and rav of Young Israel of Margate, New Jersey. His email is [email protected].

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Rabbi Zev Leff

A few factors must be taken into consideration before deciding if this is an advisable choice.

  1. How will this impact on the finances of the family and possibly lead to shalom bayis issues.
  2. How will this impact the other children? Are they willing to take a veritable stranger into their home and share their parents with them. Are there specific problem areas either with the prospective adoptees or with the biological children that will be impacted by the adoption.
  3. If in fact this great mitzvah is possible, then other factors are to be taken into consideration:
  4. Should one seek to adopt only a Jewish born child as some poskim say (Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt”l, among them), since there is a definite priority in taking care of Jewish children before converting non-Jewish children.
  5. Or, because Jewish-born children may have yichus issues that are not necessarily known at the time of adoption and may lead to irreversible problems, perhaps it is better to adopt a non-Jewish child. Hence some poskim (Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, among them) prefer converting a non-Jewish child. (Of course, this conversion can only be valid if the child converting will be brought up to be a truly Torah observant Jew).
  6. What age and what gender child will fit best in the current structure of the family?

If all these factors are considered and this adoption is warranted, one merits the fulfilment of a great mitzvah. One who raises an orphan is as if he gave birth to him. An orphan is defined as any child whose biological parents are not capable of raising him.

– Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu, is a popular lecturer and educator.

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Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

I’m not sure this is a question of appropriateness. It depends on the circumstances and the family dynamics. For example, I’m aware of a family with six children that adopted a disabled child. This enriched the family exponentially and taught so much to the other children about care and sensitivity.

Where it would put a financial strain on the family or would impact in some other way on the wellbeing of the other children, then that could be deemed as not ideal.

I would argue anyone considering it would need to ascertain that they are emotionally capable and would be able to provide for the child, materially, emotionally and spiritually without negatively impacting on their home environment. And then, “tovoi alaihem bracha.”

– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet is a popular Lubavitch lecturer and rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue.

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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Each situation requires its own analysis.

As a general rule, it is a great mitzvah to adopt an orphan and provide a loving home. If a couple has children of their own, it is all the more praiseworthy for them to extend their love to a child not of their own. Before making such a significant decision, the couple obviously has to consider many things relating to family dynamics, finances etc.

The question becomes more complicated when there are childless couples eager to adopt, but when there are very few children available for adoption. In such cases, it would be proper to give precedence to childless couples. But even here, it would have to be determined what would be in the best interest of the child that is to be adopted.

Whether or not couples have biological children of their own, the decision to adopt is not simple. The overriding concern should be for the welfare of the children who are to be adopted.

– Rabbi Marc D. Angel is the director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

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My first reaction to the question, I confess, was shock. Would anyone suggest that a family that, in addition to their biological children, have adopted other children, including children with special needs, is doing something “improper”? Sure, such a family faces unique challenges, but what family doesn’t? I am also aware of certain halachic challenges that adoption might pose, but I do not think any of those challenges would be significant enough to override the benefits of adoption.

Still, in the spirit of due diligence, I reached out to a friend who, together with his wife, fostered and ultimately adopted a child after having several biological children. Indeed, it was this family that first came to mind when I read this week’s question; knowing that this family provides the adopted child with a stable, loving home, permeated by Torah values, and with the full love and support of the older children, I could not imagine why someone would think it improper. Interestingly enough, my friend, the adoptive father, offered some insight into situations where adoption is not necessarily the right course.

The process by which my friend’s family ultimately adopted this child was almost ideal in every sense. The child was only a few days old when they took her in, so any trauma imprinted by the circumstances that warranted adoption were kept to a minimum. They initially took her in temporarily, as a foster child, so the biological children never questioned whether they were inadequate or insufficient for their parents. They had the opportunity to fall in love with this baby girl before she became their sister.

When these variables are not in alignment, adoption can cause tensions and stresses, especially among the biological children, who can grow to resent the adopted sibling. This is especially true if the adopted sibling is around the same age as the biological children or has needs that demand a greater share of the parents’ attention.

My friend’s insights were a real eye-opener, and it qualified, but did not change, my intuitive response. Is it proper for a family with biological children to adopt? Not only is it proper, but it is a wonderful thing to do. However, as it can have significant ramifications for the home environment and for the biological children, a family should undertake a lot of research and counseling before taking such a step, to ensure that it is the right thing for the family as a whole and that the process is being undertaken in a smooth, healthy way.

– Rabbi Elli Fischer is a translator, writer, and historian. He edits Rav Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha in English, cofounded HaMapah, a project to quantify and map rabbinic literature, and is a founding editor of Lehrhaus. Follow him @adderabbi on Twitter or listen to his podcast, “Down the Rabbi Hole.”


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