Ruth Speaks Out

This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.

The Fate of Nations Hinges on the Future of Marriage

a speech by Don Feder, Coalitions Director of the Ruth Institute to The Family Symposium 2021 of the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum – May 14, 2021

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be with you today, to once again address the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum – this time, on the importance of marriage to both individuals and society.

I can’t imagine anything more important. Marriage is central to everything that concerns us as family advocates: Having children, the protection of innocent human life, childrearing, social stability, and curing existential loneliness.

Civilization will rise or fall, based on whether marriage as an institution is renewed or continues on its current course of decline and eventually fades to oblivion.

Marriage is as old as humanity itself.You might say society began when men and women first started committing themselves to each other in marriage.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is largely a family history. It’s the story of Abraham, who married Sarah, their son, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and Jacob, Rachel and Leah, and their descendants.

In the beginning, God did something no government agency or social program has ever succeeded in doing – He created a family through marriage. In the beautifully poetic words of the King James Bible: “Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”Also, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” From this we can see that marriage is an essential part of God’s plan for humanity.

Why one man and one woman? Because male and female complement each other, psychologically as well as physically. The Vatican’s Charter of the Rights of the Family notes: “The family is based on marriage, that intimate union of life in complementarity between a man and a woman.”

There’s a more mundane version of this in the movie “Jerry McGuire,” where the title character tells his wife, “You complete me.”

Perhaps we take marriage for granted because it was once such a natural part of life that it required no justification. You didn’t need to explain to people why they should marry any more that you had to explain to them why they should breathe or eat.

But now, given that state of the institution worldwide, we need to offer a rationale for marriage, especially to the young.

So, why marriage? Here are five reasons:

  1. Married couples are healthier, better off financially, happier and less at risk then their single counterparts.
    1. In the United States, married couples have double the net worth of those who never marry.
    2. Married couples have a lower risk of disease – from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to respiratory problems.
    3. Husbands and wives are 10% to 15% less likely to die prematurely.
    4. Remaining single has been called one of the greatest health risks people can voluntarily assume.
    5. Marriage lowers the risk that individuals will become victims of violent crime.
    6. To recap, individuals who are married are wealthier, healthier and safer. But what about the benefits to society?
    7. Simply put: In marriage, there’s someone else looking out for you. And that can make all of the difference in the world.
  2. Children need a mother and a father (male and female role models) in the home. Children who are living with their married, biological parents are happier, better-adjusted, better students and less likely to fall prey to the pathologies that afflict far too many of the young these days -- drugs, alcohol, crime and pre-marital sex.
  3. Society needs children – Marriage leads to children. Despite the myth of overpopulation, worldwide fertility (the number of children the average woman will have in her lifetime) has been cut almost in half in the past 70 years – falling from 4.7 in 1950 to 2.4 today. This is perilously close to replacement level fertility (2.1). Population growth will stop in this century. Population decline will soon follow. While children are born out of wedlock, most women feel that to have more than one or two requires the kind of security that comes from marriage. So, more marriage equals more children.
  4. Men and women need each other – As marriage has declined loneliness has increased markedly – so has mental illness, addiction and suicides. In Genesis, God says: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him." What was true in the beginning is true today: There is no substitute for the companionship provided by a life partner. Most of us have an innate need to connect intimately to another human being. The Talmud tells us that in the beginning, all souls split into male and female parts. The purpose of marriage is to unite the halves – for each of us to find our soulmate.
  5. Society needs to solve the problem of destructive male instincts – The most dangerous force in any society is unattached males between the ages of 16 and 30. Prisons are filled with them, so are halfway houses, homeless shelters and drug rehabilitation centers. We know this to be instinctively true. Say you were in a bad section of a city at night and you saw a group of tough-looking young men coming toward you. Would you be relieved to learn that they were married? Of course you would. Men and women are different. Men need women to tame the destructive aspect of male nature. (Within marriage, women force men to grow up.) Women need men for protection and security.

If all of this is true, then why is marriage everywhere declining. Pope Francis warned: “Marriage and the family are in crisis. The revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom but in fact it has brought spiritual devastation to countless human beings.” The devastation is all about us.

  • In the United States in 1970, 70% of all adults were married. By 2018 -- in the space of less than 50 years -- the figure had fallen to 50%.
  • Among adults 18 to 24 years old – those in their prime child-bearing years – 45% were married in 1960, compared to only 9% by 2016.
  • Among adults (ages 18 to 44) the number who have ever lived with an unmarried partner now exceeds the number who’ve ever been married (59% to 50%)


Powerful forces are working against marriage:


  1. Commitment-phobia among the young – It’s not just marriage. The generation that’s now in their 20s and 30s seems adverse to any type of commitment. They change jobs every two or three years. They don’t date; they “hook up.” The thought of growing up terrifies them. Their most enduring relationship is with their phone. Marriage takes work, especially in the culture in which we live. Millennials seem to gravitate toward the type of relationships that require the least amount of effort.
  2. Acceptance of cohabitation – Among 18-to-29-year-olds, 78% think cohabitation is all right, even if the partners don’t intend to marry later on. Cohabitation is stiff competition for marriage. Once a couple living together out of wedlock carried moral opprobrium. No longer. Now, it’s whatever-works. Absent is the requirement of exclusivity. There are no ceremonies at the start. Nothing at the end. In most cases, not even a verbal commitment. Now it’s: Do you promise to stay together until boredom sets in or something better comes along?
  3. Absence of fathers in the home – In the United States, 35% of children grow up in homes without fathers. In place of them, there are a succession of the mother’s boyfriends. The childhood home is a school for learning what married life is all about. Without it, children grow up never knowing how husband and wife are supposed to relate to each other. It also makes them less likely to commit to marriage later in life.
  4. A materialistic society that values things over relationships – Generally, the more time and effort we put into acquiring possessions, the less we have for people. There are commercials for new cars, computers and flatscreen TVs. Hare you ever seen an ad for marriage? Until corporations find a way to make a profit from marriage, you won’t. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Singles have more disposable income, which makes them targets for advertisers.
  5. An anti-marriage culture -- Culture has a profound impact on our lives. Movies, music, television and the news media – tell us what to think and, in many cases, how to think. To say the culture is anti-marriage is like saying Planned Parenthood is anti-pregnancy. Regarding marriage, the media’s message is simple: Who needs it? It’s archaic. It will tie you down. Divorce is expensive. Make your own way. When I was growing up, back in the dark ages, there were TV shows like “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show.”Father, mother and children was the norm. Today, it’s the exception. By the way, in entertainment-land, singles living together almost always turns out well – unlike real life. Sex outside marriage is the new normal considered so natural that it’s hardly worth commenting on. Increasingly, Hollywood tries to avoid depicting characters smoking, drinking and engaging in other risky behavior. Sex outside marriage does not fall in this category.
  6. A decline of faith – Religion is the strongest force for marriage – Again, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The Bible tells us marriage is part of God’s eternal plan. Faith sanctifies the bonds of matrimony. But, like the institution of marriage itself, religion is declining. According to opinion surveys, in 2009, 17% of Americans described themselves as “atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular.” Now the figure is 26%. Where church attendance is the weakest, marriage plays a smaller and smaller role in society. Europe is the continent with the lowest church attendance, the lowest rate of marriage and the lowest birth rate.
  7. The Sexual Revolution – The Sexual Revolution is all about desire (however fleeting), detached from loyalty or commitment. It tells us that sex is an absolute right. Marriage is based on exclusivity – on the expectation that sex will be confined to marriage. The Sexual Revolution tells us this is old-fashioned and unrealistic.
  8. Governments (especially of the left) view families as competition - Families are an independent power base in competition with the State. Often, the demands of family are at odds with the demands of government. The need for social cohesion should incline governments to encourage family formation. Instead, the opposite is often the case. In the United States, the Biden administration strongly supports homosexual rights (including gay marriage), abortion on demand at any stage of pregnacy, public school indoctrination and transgenderism (so-called). All weaken the family.

The epitome of the Sexual Revolution is Cultural Marxism.

Almost a century ago, Georg Lukacs, a Hungarian intellectual and one of the fathers of Cultural Marxism, wrote that traditional culture must be destroyed for the workers’ paradise to emerge. Lukacs observed: “I saw the revolutionary destruction of society as the one and only solution to the cultural contradictions of the epoch…Such aworldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries.” By the “old values,” he meant faith and the family – founded on marriage.

Antonio Gramsci, an Italian contemporary of Lukacs, said much the same thing. According to classic Marxist theory, the Russian Revolution should have been the catalyst for revolution worldwide.

Instead, until the Second World War, Bolshevism stopped at Russia’s borders. Writing in the 1920s, Gramsci concluded that family and church gave workers what Marxists call a “false class consciousness,” which meant that even though they were part of the proletariat, they behaved like bourgeoise. So, the only way for communism to succeed was to eliminate religion and the family.

Thus the decline of marriage is a milestone on the road to revolution -- to radically remaking society.

Without marriage, we will enter a brave new world where individuals live largely by and for themselves and social arrangements are transitory and utilitarian. Procreation will be increasingly rare.

To counter this, we need to return to our roots – especially the Bible, a handbook for family living.

Once upon a time, even the United Nations understood the primacy of marriage and family.

Article 16 of the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights acknowledged that the family, based on marriage between man and a woman, is “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” and, as such, is “entitled to protection by society and the state.”

To say the family based on marriage is “the … fundamental group unit of society,” means it’s the foundation. Demolish the foundation, and the entire structure collapses. Marriage is the glue that holds society together.

That’s why marriage matters, and the fight for marriage is the fight for our future -- the fight for civilization itself.

Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Tend to Help

This article was originally published on LifeSiteNews

A pair of recently published scholarly studies challenge the long-held politically-charged notion that counseling efforts to help individuals who experience unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) are harmful, and may well turn the tide on escalating legal efforts to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) that have been waged in the past decade.

Branded with the pejorative label “conversion therapy,” SOCE have been villanized by special interest groups seeking to bolster the idea that homosexuality is an immutable trait in order to substantiate sweeping changes in laws that have served to erode humanity’s understanding of marriage; allowed a barrage of attacks undermining religious liberty; killed the operation of many Christian social programs, especially adoption and foster care organizations; and justified the purposeful denial of fathers and mothers to a generation of children being raised in same-sex households.

In our current political/cultural climate, the significance of these two studies is stunning, as one of them notes:

Currently SOCE provided by licensed therapists have been legally prohibited for minors in 20 states and numerous municipalities in the United States. Efforts to expand the scope of these bans to include adult consumers and non-licensed religious providers are currently underway.

Universally flawed studies by the psychology profession, until now

The investigative studies conducted over the last couple of decades which have led to overwhelming negative attitudes toward SOCE share a universal commonality: They draw their data exclusively from LGBT-identifying populations. In fact, LGBT-identity is among the “inclusion criteria” for the studies. So anyone with same-sex attraction who does not identify as LGBT would likely be excluded, and yet there is a significant minority of individuals with SSA who do not identify as LGBT, but instead prioritize their religious identity.

Because they have, by definition, been excluded from LGBT studies, their experiences are not represented in the bulk of research, leading to skewed, unfounded conclusions and disastrous, ill-advised legislative and judicial outcomes. And yet, the number of same-sex attracted men and women who identify as ex-LGBT is significant.

A second flaw in the majority of LGBT psychological studies is that they’ve failed to take into account pre-SOCE levels of distress. In other words, researchers failed to ask each participant if they were suicidal before entering counseling to change. The studies only asked “Did you attempt SOCE?” and if so, “What is your suicidal tendency now?”

Learning from those who reject identifying as gay

Two new studies, drawing from populations of men who are same-sex attracted but reject identifying as gay, although based on data collected a decade apart, have generated remarkably similar conclusions by the researchers.

Sexual Minorities Who Reject an LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) Identity: Who Are They and Why Does It Matter?” by Rosik, Lefevor, and Beckstead, published in the Spring 2021 Issues in Law & Medicine found that participants who rejected an LGB identity did not have worse levels of depression, anxiety, and psychosocial flourishing than those who were LGB identified.

“The authors conclude by warning against the assumption that theories and constructs acquired from LGB-identified population samples necessarily generalize to sexual minorities who reject LGB identity,” noted André Van Mol, M.D., in a summary of the study published by Chrisian Medical & Dental Association. “They likewise caution against using studies derived from or dominated by LGB-identified individuals rejecting or alienated from traditional faith communities for crafting laws or advocacy that affect sexual minorities in traditional religious communities. Calling out the tribalization of legal and mental health organizations, the psychologists propose that legal, official, and clinical guidance must be derived from data from population-based samples able to identify non-LGBT sexual minorities or those that deliberately recruit such individuals. Mental health professionals are instructed not to assume religious conservative sexual minorities are harming themselves by rejecting LGB identity.”

“The researchers bravely noted the possibility that LGB-rejection and heterosexual identity prioritization represented ‘principles religious conviction more than health-diminishing shame or self-loathing,’” wrote Van Mol.

“Well said,” he added.


The second study, “Efficacy and risk of sexual orientation change efforts: a retrospective analysis of 125 exposed men” by Sullins, Rosik, and Santero, opens up questions about the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2009 report on “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.”

“The APA Report discouraged practices designed to facilitate change but fell short of recommending ethical or legal bans on any professional practices,” note the authors. “Given the opposition to SOCE from professional and funding organizations, it is not surprising very few studies since the time of the APA Report have been conducted offering even modest support for change efforts.”

The researchers findings underscore the damage being done by the widespread suppression of sexual orientation change efforts for those seeking to deal with unwanted same-sex attraction:

Prior to SOCE participation, the large majority of married men (71%) engaged in homosexual sex. After SOCE, that proportion plummeted to only 14%, and was only about half as prevalent among the married men as among unmarried men. From the standpoint of the men in the sample, one of the most important indications of perceived SOCE efficacy may be its association with drastically reduced unwanted same-sex activity which conflicts with the religious norms of their marriages.

“On the one hand, our findings are consistent with converging evidence from twin, genome-wide association studies, population studies and narrative reports that sexual orientation 1) is not an immutable genetic trait, influenced approximately twice as much by environment as by genetic inheritance; 2) is observed to be changeable, even fluid, for some over the life course, 3) is reported to change under strong religious influence,” wrote the researchers. “On the other hand, our findings support prior evidence that sexual orientation is not usually or easily changeable.”

“Overall, we found that a large majority of these sexual minority men perceived their engagement in SOCE to enhance their well-being. Less than 5% of participants reported experiencing negative changes,” they continued. “Reports of positive change were stronger and more widely distributed than those of negative change, most strongly for depression, but also for self-esteem, social functioning, self-harm, suicidality, and alcohol/substance abuse.”

The importance of religious faith

A key observation from the study underscored the high degree of significance of religion in the lives of those most helped by SOCE:

Perhaps the clearest indicator of this divide is the sharply divergent religiosity reported by change-oriented and LGB-identified samples. Fully 88% of our participants reported attendance at religious services weekly or more often, and only 2.4% reported attending rarely or never. By contrast, in a recent population sample of LGB-identified sexual minorities only 9% reported at least weekly religious service attendance and 69% reported attending seldom or never …

It is possible that the prospect of change or stability in sexual orientation is linked to the notably high religiousness of the change-oriented sample and the notably low religiousness of the LGB-identified sample. Future research that incorporates both populations could help to clarify this possibility.

The report concludes by pointing out the weakness of the psychology profession’s approach to efforts to change sexual orientation in recent years and the damage done by their unfounded dismissal of those efforts:

The polarization within organized psychology over SOCE appears to have led to insular research that treats one subgroup of sexual minorities as representative of the whole population, with detrimental consequences for accurately comprehending the complexities of sexual orientation change among these individuals.




The Left’s War on Procreation

- Don Feder

This was originally published on FrontPageMag.

Last week, the left’s war on procreation was headline news.

In the April 29thBritish edition ofVogue,Nell Frizzell wrote a pean to population control: “Is Having a Child Pure Environmental Terrorism?” – a shameless piece of virtue signaling.

Frizzell confessed that when she was pregnant, she “worried feverishly about the strain on the Earth’s resources that another Western child would add.”

The author went on to agonize about the amount of electricity her child would use in his lifetime, the food he would consume and what it would take to grow it – and how the future consumer would add to air pollution, global warming and depleted resources.

It was painful to read and depressing to contemplate – that someone so indoctrinated in the cult of Carbon Footprints can display their ignorance in the mass media.

Then there was the news that Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, America’s Woke power couple, are getting a divorce. Unfortunately, the work of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will continue. With $43.3 billion in assets (larger than the economies of most countries) the Foundation is dedicated to making the world a more barren place.

Its target isn’t Western children but kids in Africa, which, in a way, makes sense. Africa is the only continent with above-replacement fertility. In conjunction with the United Nations Population Fund, the Gates Foundation sponsored a series of international conferences pushing population control, including abortion.

At one in Addis Ababa in 2013, there was, according to UNFPA, “a focus on universal access to reproductive health (code for abortion and government-sponsoredcontraception), especially for young people and other vulnerable groups.”

Bill’s interest in young people was reflected in his friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein, already convicted of soliciting sex from minors when the two first met in 2011.

Along with the UN and International Planned Parenthood, the Gates Foundation is dedicated to eliminating safeguards for unborn children. Melinda believes that until women “have the power not to have children,” life will not improve in emerging nations.

In an “Open Letter to Melinda Gates,” Nigerian pro-life activist and biomedical researcher Obianuju Ekeocha laments: “We are thirsty and they give us condoms. We are hungry and they offer us contraceptive pills. We are sick and they offer us the most modern techniques of abortion…. We are impoverished and they offer us sexual liberation!”

If the billions that Bill and Melinda and their Good Club friends like Ted Turner and George Soros pump into population control were spent on clean water, better nutrition and maternal health care, the condition of Africans would be immeasurably improved. But then they’d be buying life, when what they want is death.

Strip away the humanitarian bombast and we’re left with a brutal reality: The billionaire lefties of the world want fewer Africans. That Africans are still having large families, with polar ice caps supposedly melting and super-storms brewing, offends their sensibilities. Prince Harry is anxious about African population growth infringing on animal habitats. Cheetahs si; children no?

On another front, it looks like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is finally going to do something about the most pro-abortion president in our history (who White House mouthpiece Jen Psaki shamelessly refers to as “a devout Catholic”) at their June meeting.

In his first day in office, Biden repealed the Mexico City Policy (blocking U.S. aid to foreign NGOs promoting or performing abortions). Now, the Hyde Amendment (prohibiting federal funding of abortion domestically) is in his sights. Calling Joe a “devout Catholic” is like calling a Jew who eats bacon cheeseburgers on Yom Kippur “observant.”

The Gateses, the Vogue writer and Biden’s handlers are all neo-Malthusians -- disciples of Paul Ehrlich, the much-discredited prophet of over-population.

After visiting Calcutta in the 1960s, and based on his extensive study of insect life, Ehrlich wrote “The Population Bomb” in 1968, which forecast worldwide famine in the 1970s. If you missed it, you aren’t alone. The Bomb blew up in Ehrlich’s face, like an exploding cigar.

As economist Julian Simon demonstrated in “The Ultimate Resource,” population growth leads to more resources, not less. Rising prices spur exploration and the discovery of new processes to use resources more efficiently.

If population growth leaves a nation stuck in poverty, why are China and India (with the world largest populations) booming? Why did the Industrial Revolution first occur in Britain, which experienced unprecedented population growth in the 18thand early 19thcenturies, instead of Greenland?

While environmental activists view more people as more mouths to feed, others see them as more hands to produce and more brains to innovate.

Despite this reality, the Malthusians are having an undeniable impact. Worldwide fertility rates (the number of children the average woman will have in her lifetime) are falling fast. Sometime in this century, we will get into population decline, perhaps even population freefall.

Replacement fertility is approximately 2.1. Globally, fertility has fallen precipitously, from 4.7 in 1950 to 2.4 today. In the European Union, the average fertility rate is 1.55. In the United State, it dropped from 3.55 during the baby boom years to around 1.9.

That’s why the population-controllers are targeting Africa, the last stronghold of robust fertility.

Overpopulation is a myth. Population decline could soon be a reality. Then it will be a question of who’s left to generate the power, grow the crops and take care of the thousand and one tasks essential to keep society functioning.

We’ll need Fizzell’s child, and his descendants, to help keep the lights on.



The Jewish Roots of Family Values

 - Don Feder

This article was originally published by the Family Research Council.

An article in the February 16, 2010 issue of The Jewish Journal (“Why Are These Korean Christians Keeping Shabbat?”)1 sounds like a Gentile-bites-kosher- hotdog story. Yongsoo Hyun, a Presbyterian minister with a church near Seoul and a Los Angeles-area congregation, leads his followers in studying Jewish family values.

Hyun explains: “Jews successfully conveyed the Torah, the traditions, the history of suffering—and the family values based on the Torah—for 3,000 years with no generation gaps. The Christian people lost the value of how to raise children who are holy. We are recovering that history to spread it all over the world.”

His exaggeration aside (many Christians do know how to raise children in holiness), Hyun seeks a family renaissance by drawing from the wellspring of Western civilization – the Jewish family. Family values are Jewish values. To understand the origins of the traditional family, we must look to the Torah and the traditions of a people who gave the world God-based morality.

In his book, “Toward A Meaningful Life,” the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson—leader of the worldwide Hasidic movement known as Chabad Lubavitch—describes the role of home and family in cultivating those habits which make a society function. “Home is where we learn to cope and to be productive, to work and play, to be comfortable with ourselves and others,” Schneerson says. “Most importantly, home is where we learn about happiness and wholesomeness. ... Our home is a secure base that gives us the confidence to explore the terrain of an unpredictable and often dangerous world.”

More than the synagogue, the home is central to Jewish religious practice. In the Jewish home, Shabbat is ushered in on Friday evening with candle lighting, prayers over bread and wine, and hymns, and bade farewell after sundown on Saturday with the Havdalah ceremony.

The home is also the setting for lighting the Hanukah menorah and conducting the Passover Seder, for festive meals on Rosh Hashanah, the break-fast on Yom Kippur, the Brit Milah (circumcision ceremony) and lighting Yahrzeit candles.2

If family values are Jewish values, Jewish values in turn are Biblical values. Most of Genesis (from Chapter 12 to the end) is the story of a Jewish family – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah and their children and grandchildren. These tales teach timeless truths. The family is firmly established on Divine wisdom.

The first recorded Jewish wedding (Isaac and Rebecca) takes place after the symbolic sacrifice of the first Jewish son, referred to as “the binding of Isaac. This emphasizes the sacred nature of marriage in Jewish tradition. The Hebrew word for a Jewish marriage is “kiddushin”—sanctification or holiness. Traditionally, the bride and groom fast the day before their wedding, to emphasize the spiritual nature of their impending union

Feminists charge that Judaism is “patriarchal”—ironic, in that it was the first religion to raise women above the status of breeding stock. And yet, throughout the Torah, Jewish wives and mothers often take the lead.

Sarah is determined that Ishmael will not inherit with her son—that Abraham’s descendants will come from Isaac. Rebecca arranges for Jacob, not Esau (the eldest), to receive Isaac’s blessing. In Exodus, it’s Moses’ mother, Jochebed, and his sister, Miriam, who saves the future lawgiver from Pharaoh’s death decree, not his father, Amram.

When Abraham is troubled by Sarah’s insistence that he cast out his concubine, Hagar, and her son, God reassures him: “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondswoman; In all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee” (Gen. 21:12).3 (All citations are to “The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text,” The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1958.)

Why “in all that Sarah saith unto thee” rather than in this specific thing? The rabbis tell us that the voice of Sarah symbolizes the Jewish mother, with her intuitive wisdom regarding children. In family matters, her husband should “listen to the voice of Sarah”—defer to her.

Judaism’s teaching on the family does not begin with Abraham and Sarah, but goes back to the Creation. At the beginning of history, G-d does something no social worker, government agency or international organization has been able to duplicate—He creates a family.

Having made Adam, the Master of the Universe makes a judgment, “And the Lord God said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help mate for him’” (Genesis, 2: 18).

But why was Eve (woman) the answer to Adam’s (man’s) aloneness? Why didn’t G-d create another man, a community, or an intelligent, talking animal as a companion for the first man? Here is the Torah’s first great lesson: Without each other, men and women are incomplete. One lacks the attributes the other possesses.

According to Jewish tradition, in the beginning, all souls split into two parts – male and female. Only by finding our soul-mate (bashert, or “destiny” in Yiddish) can we become whole again. In the words of “Jerry Maguire,” she “completes” him.

On being presented with Eve, Adam recognizes their essential unity by declaring, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” The Torah adds, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

In his essay, “The Purpose and Meaning of Sex in Judaism,” Rabbi Michael Gold explains: “The Torah uses the term yada – ‘to know’ – to indicate a sexual relationship. Sex is thus considered more than a mere biological act; it involves intimate knowledge shared by two human beings.”

In Judaism, the primary purpose of marriage is companionship, rather than procreation. Still, childbearing is essential to the Divine plan.

The first commandment in the Bible has nothing to do with trees or fruit. It is a mandate to procreate. (Husband and wife literally become one flesh in their progeny.) “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).

The Book of Psalms instructs us: “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord; The fruit of the womb is a reward. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; They shall not be put to shame, when they speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127: 3-5).

The Talmud declares: “He who does not engage in propagation of the race is as though he has shed blood.”

The way this commandment is kept by observant Jews may be seen in the Jewish birthrate in the United States, which rises with the level of commitment to Jewish living—from 1.86 children per woman among all Jews to 3.3 for modern

Orthodox, 6.6 for traditional Orthodox and 7.9 for Hasidim—approximately twice the Mormon birthrate.

On January 4, 2010, Mrs. Yitta Schwartz of Monroe, New York died at age 94. A Holocaust survivor and member of the Satmar Hasidim, Mrs. Schwartz and her husband had 16 surviving children and, at last count, 170 grandchildren. At the time of her death, Mrs. Schwartz is believed to have had over 2,500 descendants.

Along with marriage and procreation, Judaism emphasizes the relationship of parents and children and the sexual ethic that lies at the heart of Judeo-Christian morality. “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” (Exodus 20:12) is uniquely placed in the Decalogue.

The first four commandments involve mankind’s obligations to God (know that the Lord is God, keep the Sabbath, etc.). The later commandments involve our responsibilities to our fellow man (don’t steal, don’t kill and so on). The fifth is often called the bridge commandment, in that it refers to our obligations to both God and man. By honoring our parents, we honor God as well. As transmitters of the Law, parents are God’s surrogates.

The sages tell us to “revere” our parents. The Torah contains a prohibition against cursing both God and our parents. The Bible prescribes the same penalty for both. In his essay, “The Family In Judaism: Past, Present and Future, Fears and Hopes,” Rabbi David Rosen notes: “That Talmudic texts also refers to Rabbi Joseph who, when he heard his Mother’s footsteps as she approached, would declare, ‘I rise before the Divine Presence which is approaching.’”

The Talmud also says there are three partners in the creation of a child—the mother, the father and God. Honor is due to parents in recognition of their role in generating life, because of their sacrifices in raising a child to maturity and for the part they play as teachers of the Law.

The Shema, Judaism’s quintessential affirmation of faith, begins: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently unto thy children...” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

Teach them to whom—to your neighbors, your friends, your siblings? Teach them to your children. In Judaism, learning (study) is a religious obligation More than rabbis, parents are given the primary responsibility for imparting Divine wisdom.

In the parent/child relationship, obligations flow in both directions. An old rabbinic adage holds: “A man should spend less than his means on food, up to his means on clothes, but beyond his means in honoring his wife and children, because they are dependent on him.”

Children honor their parents, and their father blesses them in turn. In traditional Jewish homes, as part of the Friday evening meal, the father gives a benediction to his sons (“May God make you like Ephraim and Menasseh,” Joseph’s sons adopted by Jacob) and his daughters (“May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah”). A husband also praises his wife by reciting “A Woman of Valor” (Proverbs 31). According to Jewish tradition, this was Abraham’s eulogy for his beloved wife, Sarah.

The foundation of family life is sexual morality, and here the role of Judaism was revolutionary in the ancient world.

In the pagan world into which Judaism came with its right-and-wrong, to speak of sexual morality was a non sequitur—like talking about “moral aerobics” today. Sex was about power relationships—the strong forcing themselves on the weak – and nothing else. There was no code of conduct, just a carnal law of the jungle.

By contrast, Judaism said the God of Israel is to be served by emulating Him— through righteousness and holiness. “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). Thus did the Torah introduce the idea of sexual ethics.

A Jewish circumcision, performed eight days after birth, is referred to as the covenant of circumcision. Removal of the foreskin is called a sign of the covenant sealed in the flesh. But who actually sees this “sign”? The answer is that it’s a sign for the individual himself.

In “Being Jewish: the Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today,” Ari L. Goldman alludes to this when he writes of the Brit Milah (Jewish ritual circumcision, performed on the eighth day say after birth), “Some see in the act a message of sexual restraint.”

The rabbis said the reason the skin is removed from the male appendage (rather than another part of the anatomy, where the sign would be visible to others) is because it is with this organ that the male is most likely to sin. When a Jewish man sees the mark, he should remember the covenant and keep the law, including the mandate to “be holy.”

In his monograph “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality,” author and Jewish lay scholar Dennis Prager explains: “Judaism placed controls on sexual activity. It could no longer dominate religion and social life. It was to be sanctified – which in Hebrew means ‘separated’ – from the world and placed in the home, in the bed of husband and wife. Judaism’s restricting of sexual behavior was one of the essential elements that enabled society to progress (by allowing the family to flourish). Along with ethical monotheism, the revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world, wrought the most far-reaching change in history.”

In “Kosher Sex,” available online at Judaism 101, author Tracey R. Rich observes: “Sex is permissible only within the context of a marriage. In Judaism, sex is not merely a way of experiencing physical pleasure. It is an act of immense significance, which requires commitment and responsibility. The requirement of marriage before sex ensures that sense of commitment and responsibility.”

Leviticus sets forth a series of prohibited sex acts, including incestuous liaisons, rape, bestiality and homosexuality. Again, Prager says, “The one continuous exception [to the acceptance of same-sex relations in the ancient world] was Jewish civilization—and a thousand years later, Christian civilization. Other than the Jews, ‘none of the archaic civilizations prohibited homosexuality per se,’ Dr. David E. Greenberg notes. It was Judaism alone that about 3,000 years ago declared homosexuality wrong.”

Not just wrong, but an “abomination” (or “detestable,” depending on the translation)—a term of censure the Torah reserves for the most severe transgressions, including the ritual prostitution practiced in pagan temples and child sacrifice. Moreover, the Jewish Bible identifies homosexuality as a Canaanite practice and one reason the land was taken from them. Unlike many of the Torah’s laws, the prohibition on sexual immorality, including homosexuality, applies to all of humanity, through the Noahide Code.4

Prager goes on to say, “Judaism cannot make peace with homosexuality because homosexuality denies many of Judaism’s most fundamental principles. It denies life (not life but death comes from sodomy), it denies God’s expressed desire that men and women cohabit, and it denies the root structure that Judaism wishes for all mankind, the family.”

Some fail to appreciate how profoundly Christianity was influenced by Jewish morality. Judeo-Christian ethics is more than a catch phrase. It denotes the Jewish roots of Christian morality, which became the foundation of Western civilization.

In her Newsweek story (“He Made Us All Jews,” December 18, 2006), Lisa Miller wrote: “The Jewish family values that were prevalent in first-century Judea, the values of Mary and Joseph and the young Jesus, became the values of Christianity, and of the regions of the world in which Christianity has long been a critical force.... . And so the growing Jesus would have come of age in a world that cherished procreation, family ties and the history and theology of Israel, including immersion in the Scriptures (with their emphasis on sexual morality and holiness) and the ancient stories of God’s deliverance of his people.

Thus did the Jewish worldview come to dominate the West.

I suppose one could say that the traditional (or natural) family is a Jewish invention. Except, it was the God of Israel, not Israel itself, who ordained the family. Here, Jews, and later the Christians, served as the Divine transmission belt.

This is one of the ways in which all of the families of the earth have been blessed through the Jews.




Author Notes

Don Feder was a Boston Herald editorial writer and syndicated columnist from June 1983 to June 2002. His writings have appeared in USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, American Enterprise, Readers Digest, Front Page Magazine, Insight and Human Events. The author of two books—“A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America” (1993) and “Who’s Afraid of the Religious Right?” (1996).

Feder is the 1998 recipient of the International Communications Award of the Republic of China on Taiwan and the winner of the first-place prize in the Amy Foundation Writing Awards for 1993. The Amy Foundation recognizes writers who project Biblical truths in the secular media. Feder has addressed the annual conventions or meetings of the Rabbinical Council of America, Concerned Women for America, Toward Tradition, the Christian Coalition, Nation Right to Life Committee, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the College Republicans, Empower America, the Council for National Policy, the Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, the Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit, the World Affairs Councils of Boston and Portland, Maine, World Congress of Families II in Geneva in 1999, The World Congress of Families III in Mexico City in March 2004 and World Congress of Families IV in Warsaw in May 2007 and World Congress of Families V in Amersterdam in August of 2009.

He has a media/political consulting firm—Don Feder Associates—is a frequent contributor to various publications, and has a website –


  1. Shabbat – The traditional Jewish Sabbath, beginning at sundown on Friday evening, ending at nightfall on Saturday evening. “The Nature of Shabbat,” Judaism 101, .htm
  2. Memorial candles used to commemorate the departed, lighted on the anniversary of the death of a family member (according to the Hebrew calendar) “Yahrzeit Candle,” Judaica Guide, http://www.judaica-
  3. All biblical citations are to “The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text,” The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1958.


      4. Noahide Code –The seven laws given to Noah and his descendants after the flood. “The Noahide laws are comprised of seven universal laws biblically binding upon all humanity. They include prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, forbidden sexual relationships, including adultery and incest, murder, theft, cruelty to animals and the failure to implement orderly processes of justice.” asp?Level=352&Parent=85



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