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Adopt Jewish or non-Jewish children, yichud & hugging


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Av 30, 5777
1) What are the mainstream Orthodox Jewish views on Adoption?? I have read that some communities discourage this. I have read that some Rabbis require that the adopting parents observe the Laws of Yichud. Example: an adoptive father would avoid being alone with, or avoid having any physical contact with an adopted daughter, etc. Is this the reason why adoption is discouraged? 2) If you adopt does the child have to be Jewish? Or can you do an international adoption of a child of a different background, such as from Asia or Latin America? And if you do adopt a child from overseas, will it affect his or her options for marriage, even if that child is raised Jewish? 3) I imagine that infertility carries a huge stigma in Orthodox Judaism. Are there rabbis that encourage divorce if this becomes an issue? I’m referring to those communities where adoption is discouraged.
1. Mainstream poskim definitely encourage adoption, and the sources extol it as very praiseworthy (e.g. like those who raised Moshe and Esther), even atoning for serious past shortcomings. As opposed to some charedi authorities, many first-rate poskim (e.g. R. Moshe Feinstein, the Tzitz Eliezer, R. Chaim David HaLevy) are lenient regarding hugging, kissing and yichud with adopted children from a young age, seeing it as a necessary part of the loving parent-child relationship. Nevertheless, this is more problematic when the siblings get older, for physical contact can often cause, especially among young adults, even unintentional sexual arousal which can easily lead to problems. If you are a single mother, it easier to just adopt girls. 2. The child doesn’t have to be Jewish, although it’s a greater obligation to first help a fellow Jew as “charity begins at home”. Also, a foreign-looking child may face additional unnecessary social challenges, which is unfair to place before him if there is another option (although in Israel, there are so many different colored Jews, it’s usually not an issue). If Jewish, one should be careful that the child wasn’t put up for adoption because he resulted from incestual rape, which may deem him a mamzer, leaving him with a difficult halachic status. A non-Jewish child can easily undergo conversion, and just has the slight inconvenience, if it is a girl, not to marry a Kohen. 3. The Puah Fertility Institute has informed me that today, thank God, over 90% of couples once considered infertile, can now conceive. Even in that uncommon case, the couple should consult with their halachic authority, who even if they personally usually don’t encourage adoption, will very often permit it, in such extenuating cases (for even they admit that it’s not actually forbidden). I have never heard of a divorce on these grounds in the modern world.
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