Adoption-The Mitzvah and Halachic ramifications

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  1. Adoption-The Mitzvah and Halachic ramifications:[1]

The greatness and Mitzvah: One who raises and educates a child is considered as if he gave birth to them[2], even if one is not their biological parent. This is learned from the Torah itself, from where we see that the holy foremothers gave their husbands other wives in marriage in order to raise the children that they will bear. Certainly, it is a great mitzvah to raise an orphan and one who does so is eligible to receive special reward.[3] Accordingly, a couple who cannot have children may adopt another’s child and be considered as if they gave birth to him.[4] However, prior to doing so, one must be aware of all the laws involved with an adopted child, including:[5]

Adopting a Jewish child, versus a gentile child, versus a Jewish child born to nonobservant parents:[6] In a number of letters, the Rebbe recommended couples who are looking for adoption to adopt a child who was born through Torah observant parents who kept the laws of family purity, and mentioned that doing so is a Segula for having future children.[7] He completely negated the consideration of adopting a gentile child.[8] This however, only applies in the event that adopting a Jewish child born to Torah observant parents is available. However, in the event that it is not possible to adopt a child born to Torah observant parents, then in the Rebbe’s opinion, it is better to adopt a gentile child who will then be converted, then to adopt a Jewish child born to non-Torah observant parents.[9]

Conversion:[10] When adopting a gentile child, the child must go through conversion in order to be considered Jewish.[11] If there is question as to whether his mother is Jewish, then one must consult with a competent Rav as to whether the child should be converted and how. Conversion is especially necessary for such a child in the event the child will grow up with in the Jewish community and the chances of assimilation are high. Such a child must be educated according to Torah and mitzvot.[12] If the child goes through conversion below the age of 12 for a girl and 13 for a boy, then the finalization of this conversion is dependent on the child’s consent to continue observing Torah and mitzvot after they reach the age of 12 and 13[13], after being informed that they were not born Jewish.[14] Accordingly, adopting a gentile child and having the child go through conversion, takes the risk of him becoming not Jewish when he or she reaches the age of consent.

Yichud and affectionate touch [hugging and kissing]:[15] It is forbidden for a parent and an adopted child of opposite gender to be in Yichud, or hug and kiss, once the child reaches the age of Yichud, [which is three years old for a girl and nine years old for a boy[16]].[17] However, some Poskim[18] have been Milameid Zechus for those who are lenient in this matter if they were adopted prior to them reaching the age of Yichud prohibition. Practically, most Poskim[19] completely negate this opinion, and the Rebbe’s position on this matter was clear, that Yichud and hugging and kissing between the adoptive parent and child is forbidden irrelevant as to the age of the child when the adoption took place.[20] The Rebbe pressed for this matter to be publicized. Practically, most God-fearing adoptive parents are careful in this matter.[21]

Informing the child that they are adopted: The Poskim[22] rule that one is required to reveal to the child that he is adopted when he reaches of age. This applies even if the child was adopted from Jewish parents in order to prevent incest and applies certainly to a gentile born child in order so he can accept his conversion upon becoming an adult. However, from some sources it is possible to learn that there is no obligation to reveal to the Jewish born child that he is adopted.[23] Nonetheless, it is possible that the sources refer only to a lack of necessity to publicize the matter to others and not to a lack of necessity to inform the child himself.


[1] See Igros Kodesh 6:95; 17:104; 22:268 and 297; Hiskashrus 551 p. 19; 570 p. 15; Nishmas Avraham 4:42; Minchas Shmuel 2:16; Sefer Al Ben Imatzta Lach

[2] See Megillah 13a; Sanhedrin 19b; Kesubos 50a; Chochmas Shlomo E.H. 1:1 [who questions that perhaps it even fulfills the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu!] Bigdei Kehuna 1, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah E.H. 154:27, in end of Teshuvah; Likkutei Sichos 15:480, printed in Shulchan Menachem 6:11 [pp. 38 and 59];

[3] Kesubos 50a; Shemos Raba 45:6

[4] Chazon Yechezkal Hakdama for Tosefta Yevamos

[5] See Igros Kodesh 23:24, 310; Nishmas Avraham ibid

[6] See Hiskashrus ibid; Shulchan Menachem ibid

[7] Igros Kodesh 6:95; 17:104; 22:297

[8] Igros Kodesh 17:104; Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:162; Shevet Halevi 6:202 p. 192; Sefer Al Ben Imatzta Lach 2:1-2

The reason: There are major questions, and debates in the Poskim, regarding the validity of the conversion of a Gentile child and certainly it is best not to enter into these discussions if not necessary. Likewise, when he grows older and is told that he was born a Gentile, he may not consent to remain an observant Jew which would retroactively disqualify his conversion. [Hamaor 5725 p. 66] Likewise, we do not encourage the conversion of Gentiles unless they themselves come forward to convert. [Igros Moshe ibid; Shevet Halevi ibid]

[9] Igros Kodesh 22:297; See also Likkutei Sichos 21:403 with the Rebbe discusses converting an adopted Gentile child so he receive a Jewish soul.

The reason: As such children are considered to have been born in impurity, without Nida purification of the mother, as well as that by a Jewish born child, there is a worry of Mamzeirus [Shtuki Veasufi], and him ending up marrying his biological siblings. [Rebbe ibid]

[10] See Likkutei Sichos 21:403

[11] Is the conversion valid when done to a child? It is possible to convert a Gentile child through Daas Beis Din, due to the rule of Zachin Leadam Shelo Befanav. [Michaber Y.D. 268:7; Kesubos 11a] However, the Poskim rule that this only applies if one of his parents bring him to convert or he himself comes forward with the request to convert. [Rashi ibid; Ritva ibid; Rashba ibid] Accordingly, some Poskim rule that is forbidden to convert someone, even a child, without them understanding what they are doing, and hence the conversion of a Gentile child by the adoptive parents who is not of age of comprehension to understand what is taking place, may not be valid. [See Shach Y.D. 268:15; Darkei Moshe Y.D. 268:4; Bach 268; Tosafus Kesubos 44a; Mordechai Yevamos 40 in name of Ravya; Shita Mekubetzes Kesubos 15b; Zera Yitzchak Y.D. 36; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:678] However, other Poskim rule that a Beis Din has ability to convert a child even if his parents do not bring him to convert and he is not of age of consent. [Ran Kesubos 11a; Tosafus Rid ibid] Practically, it is evident from the Rebbe’s letters that he did not suspect for the stringent opinion if the adoptive parents are Torah observant and adopting a Jewish child born to Torah observant parents is not available. However, if the adoptive parents are not Torah observant, then the Rebbe completely negates adopting a Gentile child. [See Likkutei Sichos 21:403; Igros Kodesh 6:95; 17:104; 22:297; Hiskashrus ibid; Shulchan Menachem ibid footnote 3]

[12] See Igros Kodesh 22:268

[13] Michaber Y.D. 268:7-8

[14] See Minchas Yitzchak 3:99; Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:162

[15] See Nishmas Avraham ibid 3

[16] See Michaber E.H. 22:11; Nishmas Avraham ibid 4

[17] Otzer Haposkim 9:130-132 in name of the Rebbe and many Gedolei Haposkim; Minchas Yitzchak 9:140; Shevet Halevi 5:205-8; 6:196; Devar Halacha 7:20 in name of Chazon Ish; Devar Yehoshua 3 E.H. 16-17; Divrei Yatziv E.H. 46; Nishmas Avraham ibid in name of Rav SZ”A and Rav Elyashiv

[18] See Tzitz Eliezer 6:40-21; Igros Moshe E.H. 4:64-2

[19] See Otzer Haposkim ibid; Shevet Halevi ibid; Minchas Yitzchak ibid; Nishmas Avraham ibid in name of Rav SZ”A and Rav Elyashiv

[20] See Igros Kodesh 23:24; 100, 310, printed in Shulchan Menachem 6:11

[21] Shevet Halevi ibid

[22] Chasam Sofer E.H. 2:125; Igros Moshe E.H. 1:7; 4:64-2; Minchas Yitzchak 4:49-7; 5:44; 9:140; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:774; Mishneh Halachos 4:68; Rav SZ”A in Nishmas Avraham ibid; See Igros Kodesh 23:24; 100, 310, 311

[23] See Temura 16a; Kiddushin 31b; Ramban Bamidbar 26:46; Rama 42:15; Chasam Sofer E.H. 1:76, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah C.M. ibid; Nishmas Avraham ibid 2

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