And He brought him outside and Look now towards heaven, and count the stars; if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall thy seed be. (Genesis 15:5)
Because I shall bless you, and greatly multiply your seed as the stars in the Heavens and as the sand on the shores of the sea . . . (Genesis 22:17)
Every single culture throughout the world welcomes a grandchild with utmost joy. In my own community of Orthodox Jews, grandchildren are not only a blessing, but something of a status symbol, embraced not only for the joy they bring but as a fulfillment of G-d’s promise to Abraham. It’s where quantity and quality are on equal footing, because every grandparent knows that his grandchild could never be anything less than perfect, so deep is the grandparent’s unconditional love. Ergo, the more, the merrier.
I never really expected to reap the blessing of grandchildren in such a formidable way. When my oldest son got married, his wife’s huge numbers of cousins, aunts and uncles, siblings, nieces and nephews required bleachers to fit them all into a family picture. This was not the case with our side. Much of my already-small family had married “out” and did not practice Judaism at all. On my husband’s side, all his relatives besides his brothers, parents and grandmother had perished at the hands of the Nazis. Between his side and mine, there were only a paltry dozen of us posing for the photographer, an almost laughable number when compared to the multitudes that were in my daughter-in-law’s family.
But my mother-in-law, a Holocaust survivor, saw it differently. “Who would have believed it? she said, overcome with emotion. “We lost everyone and came to the US with nothing and no one. And now will you look at this? Five grandchildren, now getting ready to establish families of their own. G-d is good!”
My four children married young and happily, and every year over the next many years brought us the gift of another grandchild. And now, in my fifties, there are sixteen!