Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The mitzvah of Adoption, Denied Orphans in Russia, and The Baal Shem Tov

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A Chabad family in Nepal recently made a great public Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) by ” target=”_blank”>we must all do our part.

What recently happened in Russia was shameful, with wicked legislators denying the more than 700,000 waiting orphans from potential adoption to the United States due to petty political considerations.

Adoption today, especially on an inter-country basis, is undergoing tremendous change. Jewish law has always defined an orphan as one who has lost one parent and thus they recite the kaddish yatom, the orphan’s memorial prayer, (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 29:19). In the industrialized world, we define an orphan as a child without either of his or her parents. However, especially due to the AIDS epidemic, millions of children in Africa and other areas have lost at least one parent and have been plunged into deep poverty. As a result, ” target=”_blank”>1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoptions. Only eighty nations have ratified this Convention, which is designed to safeguard the interests of the children and ensure transparency for both the children and prospective adoptive parents from different countries.

Unfortunately, due to decreased from 45,000 in 2004 to 25,000 in 2011. After scandals involving the selling of children, the United States suspended adoptions from Vietnam and Guatemala (although Vietnam ratified the Hague Convention in 2012, so adoptions from there may shortly resume). In Haiti, where ” target=”_blank”>In 2009, Sergey Magnitsky, a whistleblower and anti-corruption lawyer, was imprisoned, and then died in a pre-trial detention facility in Russia. In reaction, the ” target=”_blank”>Dima Yakovlev law, after a 2-year-old Russian child who died after being locked in a hot car by his parents in America for 9 hours. In statements to the foreign press, Russian President Vladimir Putin ” target=”_blank”>criticizing Russia for ill-treatment of prisoners while torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In a January interview with CNN, Pri” target=”_blank”>19 adopted children have died in America, but they neglect to mention that more than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans. Unfortunately, while the U.S. State Department estimated that about ” target=”_blank”>an average IQ 20 points lower than those raised in foster homes, and fewer than a quarter have a high school diploma. Of those who “age out” of foster care, nearly 60 percent of males are convicted of a crime, fewer than half were employed, and half were substance abusers. Clearly, adoption offers benefits to the orphan, the adopted parents, and society as a whole.

The Chofetz Chaim, in Ahavat Chesed, tells a tale that illustrates the power of adoption.

A childless couple came for help to the Baal Shem Tov. They accompanied him to a distant vil¬lage, where he asked each child’s name. Nearly all the boys were called Moshe, and nearly all the girls were Devorah Leah. The Baal Shem Tov explained why with this story:
A village couple—Moshe and Devorah Leah—were childless. In passing by the beit midrash (study house) one day, Moshe heard a passage: when one teaches a child Torah, it is as if he gave birth to the child. Moshe proposed an idea to his wife. There was no reliable Torah education for the village children; rebbes would teach whatever they wanted, leading to confusion and more harm than good. Therefore, Moshe proposed that they set up a proper system for Torah study.  They found the best melamdim (teachers) and paid them well, kept them supplied, and offered this to every village child.
Since every child was “their” child, the couple provided other needs. For some families, they helped with household expenses, weddings, and anything else a child required. Before long, the town recognized the beautiful generation emerging thanks to this couple. In the children's love of Torah, refinement, and intelligence, they outshone the chil¬dren of their region.
As Moshe and his wife grew older, they wrote a will leaving money to their relatives, setting up a home for the poor and donating the rest of their estate to maintain the children's education. When they died, the town’s great affection and high esteem for Moshe and Devorah Leah manifested in a special way. Almost every child born in those years was named after these “honorary grandpar¬ents,” who with endless love and concern brought the town's children into a life of Torah and mitzvot.
“Now, let me ask you,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “Was this couple childless, or did they have more children than anyone else?”

Let us take this message to heart and remember the millions of needy children in the world whose lives we can make better through adoption.


Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the Founder and President of ” target=”_blank”>Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century.” Newsweek named Rav Shmuly

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