“May G-d, the L-rd of your fathers, add a thousandfold more like you and bless you, as He spoke to you.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:11)
In this week’s Torah portion, Moshe (Moses) blesses the Children of Israel. Rashi explains that the people were unhappy with the blessing because G-d promised them in Bereishit/Genesis 13:16 that they would be “like the dust of the earth that is too numerous to count.”
What additional benefit would the Jewish people derive from Moshe’s blessing if they had already received G-d’s blessing of near infinite increase?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand cites on torah.org the explanation of the Chasam Sofer: Moshe was testing the people. He wanted to know why they wanted to have children. Was it in order to ease the household work burden and provide companionship and security to the parents in old age? Or did the people understand that children are a priceless gift containing a spark of the Divine and a piece of the World to Come? If the people had wanted children for the first reason, then they would have been happy with Moshe’s blessing for a thousandfold. But the people wanted countless children.
The differing attitudes toward children are apparent in Bereishit 33:5 when Yaakov (Jacob) reunites with his estranged brother Eisav (Esau). Before Yaakov left, he reached an agreement with Eisav that Eisav would take this world and Yaakov would take the World to Come. When Eisav saw all of Yaakov’s many children, he thought Yaakov had gone back on his bargain. Eisav thought that children are for this world, not for the World to Come.
Rabbi Frand elaborates: “The opportunity to raise a child, to develop a Divine soul to the point where it can enter the World to Come is a privilege of the highest spiritual worth. Yaakov wants children for their own sake, but Eisav views them as an asset to this world.”
“The purpose of children is not for enjoying this world or for making our lives easier. Each child represents a spiritual mission, a spark of the Divine entrusted to our care and guidance, an opportunity to fulfill Hashem’s desire to have this soul brought to the World to Come.”