In his recent book, The Pater, Elliot Jager reflects on his relationship with his father, who abandoned him in childhood, and on his own experience as an adult unable to have children. David Wolpe writes in his review:
Judaism, with its first commandment to “be fruitful and multiply,” its anxiety about numbers and continuity, and its central prayer, the sh’ma, commanding us to “teach these words to our children” . . . doesn’t merely imply progeny. It is obsessed with it. . . .
Jager ultimately abandons his religious orthodoxy as a sort of “reprimand to God.” If the Jewish tradition is about children, and God refuses to cooperate, how can one maintain reverence? . . .
Jewish tradition, however, [also] has its consolations—even if they don’t always manage to soothe. . . . While Judaism instructs that teaching someone is equivalent to giving birth to him, Jager notes that many people say it is having children, more than anything else, that gives their own lives meaning.
In the end, perhaps, [this] book is the author’s stand-in creation. . . . Jager may not have a child, but he has enabled those who do have children to understand better the trials of the childless.
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