web analytics
December 26, 2014 / 4 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Solving ‘Orthodox Infertility’


A proposal for changing the laws of taharat hamishpachah (family purity) was recently raised in the Israeli newspaper HaTzofeh, based on the observation that adherence to these laws may be responsible for many couples experiencing difficulty conceiving. Healthcare professionals have named this phenomenon “Orthodox Infertility.”

For some women, the time they wait before immersing in a mikvah each month likely prevents them from being able to conceive. It is halacha that is causing this infertility and, absent these laws, the couple would be able to have a child. Understandably, this problem can cause significant anguish to those who suffer from it – anguish that may make us wish we could alter the rules and allow these suffering souls, for whom we must have much sympathy, to conceive children.

This, however, is not possible.

All agree that the value of alleviating suffering is significant within halacha, but the question remains when and how to appropriately apply that factor. In this specific case, there can be no question that this valid consideration can-not override the time-honored law. But while we are not ca-pable of changing the halacha, there are other options for these couples.

The issue is more complex than can be fully presented here. The Gemara quotes Rabbi Zeira who recounts that Jewish women accepted upon themselves to be extra strict in the number of days they wait before going to the mikvah. The Rambam explains that women accepted this stringency – commonly known as chumra deRabbi Zeira – to avoid confusion in distinguishing between expected and unexpected events and risk transgressing an extremely serious Torah prohibition.

The Gemara presents this practice as an example of halachah p’sukah, an undisputed rule. The Ramban comments, “It is never permitted to be lenient about this matter.”

To the chumra deRabbi Zeira another stringency was  added – one based on the Gemara and further developed in the Middle Ages – that resulted in women waiting even longer before going to a mikvah. This ruling is codified in the Shulchan Aruch and practiced universally among observant Jews.

For most women, our present stringencies work out conveniently, as the timing of immersion in the mikvah is ideal for having children. For certain couples, however, the timing does not work and they have great difficulty conceiving. The poskim of the past few decades have addressed which of the aforementioned stringent customs might be waived in order to facilitate earlier immersion for these couples.

Extenuating circumstances – such as when the Torah obligation of peru ur’vu (the obligation to have children) is combined with the emotional anguish of childless couples – do create the potential for leniency in halachic rulings. But leniencies need to be appropriately made, and the competing values need to be weighed by those most expert in these matters.

As Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, points out in the context of other family laws, these types of issues are of consider-able complexity and should not be ruled upon by ordinary rabbis but only by the leading halachic experts.

Waiving the chumra deRabbi Zeira would solve a significant percentage of the infertility problems experienced in our community. Women could then go to the mikvah earlier and those with “Orthodox Infertility” problems would be able to have children. This is what has been recently pro-posed in Israel.

However, virtually all halachic authorities have forbidden this solution. For example, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, and Rav Ovadia Yosef all cite the Ramban’s aforementioned comment as proof that we may never waive the chumra deRabbi Zeira, even when it interferes with conception.

One might ask why the mitzvah of peru ur’vu does not override the rabbinic requirement for the chumra deRabbi Zeira. Rav Moshe Feinstein responds that there is no general halachic principle that permits violation of a rabbinic prohibition in order to fulfill a Torah obligation. In fact, the Gemara teaches that we may not carry a milah knife on Shabbat in an area where the rabbis forbade carrying, the biblical mitzvah of circumcision notwithstanding.

Rav Ovadia Yosef adds that a woman is not obligated in the mitzvah of peru ur’vu and that there are other halachic and medical options that allow the husband to fulfill peru ur’vu without violating this prohibition. Therefore, a woman may not ignore this rule in order to enable her husband to fulfill his obligation.

About the Author: Rabbi Chaim Jachter is a dayan with the Beth Din of Elizabeth and chairman of the Agunah Prevention and Resolution Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Solving ‘Orthodox Infertility’”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Al Haeche kosher restaurant in Paris had bullet holes through the front window. Dec. 24, 2014.
Parisian Kosher Restaurant Second Anti-Semitic Gun Attack This Week
Latest Indepth Stories
Bill Cosby

It shakes our sense of justice when allegations against a famed role model are covered up or ignored

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Feiglin: Only true liberty will allow us to genuinely connect to our Jewish identity.

Knesset Logo

The silver lining with early elections is the chance to change the current dysfunctional government.

Cohen-122614

The Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland informed the host he could not say “Israel or Jewish state”

It’s fascinating how sources attain the status “traditional,” or its equivalent level of kashrus.

The West needs to ensure Russia understands that aggression comes at a significant cost.

What benefit is a learning experience that leaves kids confused,disillusioned&harms self confidence?

Girlfriend and double cop-killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley apparently was influenced by Islamic extremism.

We see pictures of mosques, monuments for terrorists, illegal schools, and hundreds of apartments being built on Jewish land without repercussions. We are losing Jewish property, so it is up to us to protect it.

Thus, despite the increasingly serious problems for the mayor arising out of the current anti-police protests, Mr. de Blasio apparently will be cut no slack by those who seem to be aiming for a significant role in running the city from the streets and who will do whatever they can to prevent their momentum from ebbing.

Also left unsaid was the fact that the menorah and its oil were in the Beit HaMikdash, which of course was located on Har HaBayit – the Temple Mount that present-day Muslims claim as their own.

Despite strong pressure to throw the book at the accused, Mr. Thompson allowed him to plead guilty to assault.

A revolution is taking place between good and evil; light and darkness. Make the light activism!

Obama’s comments calling Israeli settlements “unhelpful”are harsher than prior US administrations’

More Articles from Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Have you ever wondered why the incidence of iggun, women or men unable to remarry due to the refusal of a spouse to give or receive a get (Jewish divorce document) is dramatically lower in some Orthodox communities than in others?

A proposal for changing the laws of taharat hamishpachah (family purity) was recently raised in the Israeli newspaper HaTzofeh, based on the observation that adherence to these laws may be responsible for many couples experiencing difficulty conceiving. Healthcare professionals have named this phenomenon “Orthodox Infertility.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/solving-orthodox-infertility/2006/12/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: