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פרו ורבו (Being fruitful and multiplying) is generally understood to be the Mitzvah of having children, or attempting to have children.

Are there any sources to indicate if פרו ורבו is considered a מצוה בין אדם לחבירו (An interpersonal Mitzvah, between man and his friend) or a מצוה בין אדם למקום (Between Man and God)?

(I am understanding that if it is an interpersonal Mitzvah, the subject of the Mitzvah would be the children, not the spouse. Not to be confused with the Mitzvah of Onah.)

A נפקא מינה would be for example if someone was able to have children, but chose not too. If פרו ורבו is a מצוה בין אדם למקום one would be able to atone for this sin by doing Teshuva. However, if it is a מצוה בין אדם לחבירו then one would first need to seek forgiveness from the one they wronged before receiving atonement. In this case that would be the unborn child(ren) and therefore it would be impossible to achieve a proper atonement.

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    I don't understand why you would need to receive forgiveness from those you failed to beget. What about those that are able to have children, and did? They still could have had more...what about all those potential children? – robev Jul 25 at 17:18
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    The נפקא מינה is incorrect because one does not always have to ask mechilah for failing to fulfill a מצוה בין אדם לחבירו. For example you do not need to ask forgiveness from a poor person for choosing not to give him charity or choosing not to host him in your home. – Jay Jul 25 at 18:16
  • @Jay Generally we don't ask mechila of poor people for not giving them money because we assume that if we didn't give them we had a legitimate reason not to (i.e. needing the money for other things, wanting to give to other poor people instead) But if a person had absolutely no reason not to give to a specific poor person, yet didn't give, how do you know they wouldn't have to ask mechila? – Silver Jul 25 at 20:38
  • No. It is individual following the Halacha – kouty Jul 25 at 21:39
  • No, the reason is that forgiveness is only required for harming / causing loss to someone. It does not need to be proven that someone who doesn't give charity need not ask forgiveness from all the poor people he could have helped. The unborn soul has not been harmed, so there would be no need for forgiveness. – Jay Jul 25 at 22:30
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Let's stick with Sefer HaChinuch 1, explaining the goal of this Mitzvah:

משרשי מצוה זו, כדי שיהיה העולם מישב , שהשם ברוך הוא חפץ בישובו, כדכתיב: (ישעיהו מה יח) לא תהו בראה לשבת יצרה. (גיטין מא, ב במשנה)

The the reason behind this commandment that the world should be settled because God wants the world to be settled, as it says (Isaiah 45:18), "I did not create it for naught, but [rather] formed it for habitation." (Gittin 41b)

So clearly G-d wants us to populate the world and therefore it's בין אדם למקום.

  • Hmm, interesting, but still not fully convinced for at least two reasons: 1) It is not clear to me if the word "ישוב" implies just that there should be people on earth or that there should be a society. If it is the latter, then this might be a proof that it is really a interpersonal mitzvah in origin. 2) Just because the reason for a Mitzvah is not necessarily interpersonal, doesn't mean the mitzvah is not בין אדם לחבירו. Even if we would look at all mitzvos as gezeiros haMelech we would still admit that some would be considered בין אדם לחבירו – Silver Jul 26 at 16:09
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As @AlBerko answer, this mitzva is Bein Adam Lamakom.

Practically, this mitzva have to be balanced with Bein adam l'Chaviro aspects that are present.

From your spouse point of view: There are many examples in poskim regarding to when and how preventing pregnancy is allowed. This is a delicate subject and one should consult his Rabbi.

From your children point of view? well, here it's getting complicated..

If one can't provide a reasonable chance for survival, this mitvza is void until better conditions met

תענית יא א

אסור לאדם לשמש מטתו בשני רעבון

Taanit 11a
Man may not have martial relations with his wife when there is hunger.

ערובין יג,ב

תנו רבנן: שתי שנים ומחצה נחלקו בית שמאי ובית הלל. הללו אומרים: נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא, והללו אומרים: נוח לו לאדם שנברא יותר משלא נברא. נמנו וגמרו: נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא, עכשיו שנברא - יפשפש במעשיו".

Our sages said two and a half years Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel disagreed, Those say: it's better for the human that he was created, then not be created, and those say: it's better for the human that he was not created, then be created. They count (the opinions ) and decided - it's better for the human that he was not created, then be created. Now that he's exists, he should look after his deeds

On the other hand:

כתובות יא א

אמר רב הונא גר קטן מטבילין אותו על דעת בית דין מאי קמ"ל דזכות הוא לו וזכין לאדם שלא בפניו

Ktuvot 11a

Rav Huna says, young convert is bathed (for conversion), with the authority of Beis Din. What we were taught? That being converted is a gain, and one can be gained without being present.

So existing as jew is a gain, and your children should thank you for it.

These two sources gives a lot to think about.

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The commandment is between Mankind and G-d. This is clear from Bereshit 1:28 which says:

וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָם֮ אֱלֹהִים֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָהֶ֜ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ וּרְד֞וּ בִּדְגַ֤ת הַיָּם֙ וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

G-d blessed them and G-d said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”

The obligation is on both men and women, as stated by Rabbi Yochanan ben Baroka to the Mishna in Yevamot 65b, but women receive an exemption (See Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 1:13) in the sense of an obligation to pursue it because it is life threatening to them. They fulfill it voluntarily. A good discussion of this idea can be found here.

It is about creating new life and perpetuating it, just as G-d has done. This is in keeping with the general principle found in Mishlei 3:6 of

in all your ways, know Him.

בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃

This is associated to G-ds creation of the Heavens and the Earth which are connected by a distance of 500 years. It explains in Sefer Raziel HaMalach ([see here, first column, from the words beginning: ואל שדי נראה אלי בלוז כו’) ]that, so to, a person is obligated to produce at least one male (which has 248 limbs) and one female offspring (which has 252 limbs) as stated in Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 1:5. The total being 500 limbs, paralleling the 500 years distance that joins the Heavens and the Earth.

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