Of course, no book is without shortcomings. The audience for this work is, as stated, newlyweds or those planning for an upcoming marriage. Nevertheless, the authors include a substantial discussion of sexuality during pregnancy and postpartum. On balance, some mention of the fact that not all couples will conceive naturally, or quickly, and some not at all should have been included. There is a section dealing with sex when one partner has a medical illness, but no mention at all of infertility, a much more common affliction that confronts young couples. The treatment of niddah and tahara is good but not comprehensive. Their discussion would have been richer had it dealt these subjects as they pertain to the many women who have long, irregular or no cycles at all and for whom the described interruptions in sexual relations do not apply. Finally, the book does not include a discussion of the problem that cycle irregularities commonly pose to many young women prior to their marriage. Often brought for evaluation by their anxious mothers, the unspoken concern is their eligibility for a future shidduch – their “marriageability,” as it were – as much as it is about the underlying medical disorder. Issues pertaining to prior gynecological exams, future need for medical treatment to conceive and – on occasion – the secrecy and deception that may have been advised in order to “secure” the shidduch can all weigh heavily on a young woman planning for her chuppah. (It should be noted that there is no male equivalent of this problem, as there is no outward sign of potential reproductive problems in otherwise healthy boys.) One gets the sense that this book is the authors’ first step into the churning waters and that they will give us more if their effort is welcomed widely in the Orthodox community.
The community indeed owes Rosenfeld and Ribner a debt of gratitude for taking this bold first step in giving young couples access to proper information about their intimate lives together and for doing it in a way that, readers will agree, sanctifies the Name of Heaven. Rabbis, doctors and others who provide counsel for young couples on such matters would be wise to read and recommend this book.
Richard Grazi, MD is the Founder and Medical Director of Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine and the author of Overcoming Infertility: A Guide for Jewish Couples (Toby Press, 2005).