Superb and Important Article on Contraception in Orthodox Judaism

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A friend of mine and his chavrusa, two Torah scholars, were published in Hakirah two summers ago. That article discussed the various positions and authorities in Jewish Law regarding ascending the Temple Mount. Their next project was an article on contraception in orthodox Judaism. This article has not yet been published. It is being made available on this blog to benefit the public.

A little while back (I can’t remember when) I mentioned that would be writing a blog post about this subject. I had intended to do a little summary of this article and add my own two cents. Now you get the full article and maybe only 1 cent from me.

Here’s my one cent. Contraception is a huge issue in the orthodox Jewish community. In general, its use is managed by the rabbis. Couples are discouraged from using birth control in general.

In some more liberal communities within the yeshivish community, newly married couples are being granted a few months of contraception use. This is because there has been a spate of quick divorces in the community so they are encouraged to use birth control just to make sure they aren’t stuck with a baby on the way and a crumbling marriage.

Once the couple is comfortably married, they are expected to have a large family. Birth control is usually permitted for at least a year after a baby is born. That’s it. More than that requires asking the rabbi. The rabbis usually give a few months. Then the couple asks again and they get a few weeks. They ask again, the rabbi tries to convince them it is time to have another baby. At this point the couple has four options. 1) Listen to the rabbi. 2) Ignore the rabbi and risk lose respect for rabbinic guidance. 3) Explain to the rabbi why it is impossible to have another baby because of financial pressures (he will say Hashem will help), or because there is too much stress from motherhood (he will say to get domestic help), or because of the mother’s emotional or physical health (that might do the trick) and hopefully the rabbi will grant a longer reprieve. 4) Lie about the things mentioned in 3.

I hear things. People tell me things. I get emails. I get phone calls. It seems the most popular option these days are #1 and #4. Some people just listen. They have large families and even if some don’t really want large families, they do it and just chalk it up to the price of being a Frum Yid. But many others end up lying or stretching the truth just so the rabbi will let them use birth control.

Sometimes the rabbis even want to talk to the wives and they try to show them that having children is so important and some have even said that it is more important than their relationships with their husbands.

I have heard these things from men and women, first hand. Some are disappointed, most feel discouraged, and all are upset.

Clearly, there is a problem here.

To what extent should couples be able to make their own decision about contraception? To what extent should rabbis be pulling the strings here? What do the sources say about birth control? Is it really a rabbi’s decision? Is there another way?

Enter this excellent article by Rabbis Mayer and Messner.

I love this article. It goes through the sources very thoroughly and ultimately favors personal decision making and autonomy over blind adherence to authority. In a macro sense, this is how I feel orthodox Judaism works best. Educate yourself on a subject, and make an informed decision that falls within the parameters of halacha on your own. That is the basic premise of the article.

I won’t ruin the article by snatching the punchline. Read the article for yourself. It is worth your time and should be understandable to most people with a basic Torah education.

As a an additional benefit, the writers of the article will be checking in to answer questions and respond to your comments. So please, by all means, maximize this opportunity.

Please. Download. Print. Read. Share: Contraception in Orthodox Judaism

  • Anonymous

    Lie about the things mentioned in 3.

    I don’t think people lie lie about it, instead they convince themselves that 3 is true and then approach the rabbi with it.

    • That’s “stretching the truth”. Some of them flat out lie.

  • milhouse trabajo

    Nice to see what looks to be a well sourced-article (will read on shabbos) on this almost taboo subject that is becoming a real problem (read “crisis”).
    No offense to your holy friends, but do you think this will have an impact on anyone other than the mod-ortho crowd? Even with the Chofetz Chaim resume, need some more to influence the black-hatters, and they are generally the ones who choose 1 instead of 4.

    • The sources are black hat sources. Both are black hat-ish rabbis too.

    • You’d be surprised at the ability of people to quietly make decisions for themselves if someone can make a good case to them. I guarantee you there are a lot of yeshivish people are dying to make this decision for themselves. By analogy, why do you suppose Rabbi Shmuel Miller attacked Rabbi Michael Broyde over his article on hair covering in tradition? The black hatters have a hamon am too.

      • To clarify what I mean, I don’t mean that in the yeshivish community there are many women who might stop covering their hair, but there are certainly many who would be perfectly glad to adopt a more liberal attitude, leave more uncovered than is currently acceptable (i.e., nothing, except wisps at most) and exposing them to halachic sources which are liberal definitely does threaten the harmony of the society’s view of it. Same thing with birth control and an article like this. There are definitely yeshivish couples who are going to be moreh heter from this article. I guarantee it.

        • Anonymous

          i can tell you that from my arguments with my fully-brainwashed (Daas Torah lemming) black-hatted friends, of which i was once a member, about the R’ Broyde-R’Miller debate, they clearly were not influenced at all by the barely jewish probably conservative R’ Broyde (who apparently chose to live in yenemsvelt), and would not allow their wives to show any more hair than before (though they have really expensive sheitels and don’t want to anyway).
          while plenty of “new-charedim” and yeshiva guys who read these types of blogs but still walk the charedi walk (because it’s easy) will consider these points, true ultra-religious black-hatters will not even read this as it is assumed to be a not a true daas torah perspective.

          • The yeshivish community is a big tent and includes many “new
            chareidim,” if that’s what we’re calling it.

            The women with the really expensive sheitels may or may not want to show
            more hair, but some of them want to wear a style that involves combing
            their hair back so it looks like a natural hairline sometimes, or not to
            wear a snood or hat that makes their head look like it is stuffed into a
            sock, or some alternative if they are hot and don’t want each hair on
            their head covered. There are plenty of people like that. Rabbi Miller
            could attack teshuvos by Conservative rabbis all day if he wanted to,
            but why would he? No, he attacked a widely available article in
            Tradition, written by an Orthodox rabbi and dayan, and brimming with
            sources. Such an article, not an RA teshuva, really can change the way
            people act, and I bet it has, and same thing with contraception which is
            way more important to people. I could be wrong, but I bet the reason
            why
            R. Miller knew about it is because some woman troubled her husband or
            father, and quoted Broyde’s article.

  • Is being a “Frum Yid” an excuse to leave one’s own reasoning abilities and decision-making options at the front door? Is this a culture where couples don’t have the sovereignty of making their own family planning decisions in the privacy of their own home and/or their own doctors offices? As a Bala Tshuva (from California and living in Israel) going into my 7th year of Orthodox observance it’s frightening to see a culture where people aren’t allowed to think for themselves or make their own decisions about the most intimate and important part of their lives. Why would a couple even go to a rabbi in the first place for “permission” to use birth control – just go to a pharmacy instead. Or wouldn’t that even occur to them? Is this a culture that also need permission to decide between cloth or plastic diapers, or whether to make noodle or potato kugel for Shabbos? Obviously we have a mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply. But there’s a limit and just as a farmer plans his fields, what he should plant and when, rotates his crops, etc. so should a couple plan what they want to grow and when. Just my opinion.

  • OJ

    I don’t like commenting, even on good articles. But this one required me to ask a couple of questions:
    1) Isn’t there a medrash in the beginning of Rus that decries the fact that people did not go to the leader but rather made decisions on their own?
    2) How can you possibly expect people who are not well learned to make decisions for themselves on this topic?

    • 1) Perhaps. Is that dispositive? I don’t think so. 2) I expect them to educate themselves and THEN make a decision. I thought that was clear.

      • OJ

        Would you ask them to make a decision on hilchos bishul bashabos by going through the sources on their own?
        Much of the reasons Rabbis (such as yourself) exist is because people who haven’t gone through the sources but need or want an answer immediately can go ask.

        • The short answer is yes. As a rabbi I want to empower people to make their own decisions. The long answer will have to wait until you read the article. You’re missing too much information right now.

          • OJ

            I read the article. You bring out the point that people lie about reasons to get to a specific answer and you recommend the article written by two “black hatters.” Wonderful!
            I personally would not feel comfortable making a decision like that based on likely faulty understanding.
            I go to a doctor to get information on how I’m doing and what I should do to keep up my health. Why should my Rabbi be any different than another professional?

            • No. You read the blog post. Read the 44 page article at te bottom of the post.

              • OJ

                I actually originally didn’t notice the link. The article is great and I would be willing to ask a sheilah on the topic from them, but I wouldn’t pasken from it. The reason is simple: I haven’t seen the sources inside, until I do how can I make a truly educated psak? From a (very good) article on the topic? Anyway my questions had been from your blog-post not on the topic of contraceptives.
                Thanks for posting the article, though. It truly was a great read

                • So look at the sources inside…

            • OJ

              It’s not a criticism of their article but of my understanding without going through the sources in depth myself. Their article is very elucidating

            • ahg

              See the comment of Yair_Daar

        • OJ

          And going through a single article that brings down sources is hardly making a rational decision.

          • How’s about you read the article? Hmm?

    • ahg

      1. Not everyone thinks of medsrash as being instructive to real life.
      2. Really? A choleh eating on Yom Kippur is an issur that’s in need of heter. It’s a rare event, and 1% or less of the community may be deemed sufficiently at risk to qualify for. But, the heterim for birth control are so regularly given that it has undermined the credibility of the notion that it’s actually assur in need of a heter. It’s essentially like a synagogue applying for a permit to hold a raffle. These permits are nearly always granted, it’s just an excuse for the municipality to collect money and show control. Once you recognize that, from that point on, the decision of how and when to procreate for your fulfillment of the mitzvah can reasonably be made by the individual. The individuals who think for themselves have concluded that modern chemical birth control is muttar, that’s in need of issur to keep the rabbis in control…

      • znt


        1. Not everyone thinks of medsrash as being instructive to real life.”

        Is that so? Isn’t the spilling of seed by Onan only a midrash?

  • I don’t get it. What’s the point of going to a Rav if you are going to fudge the reasons. It’s not like you need a written certificate from him.

    • Let’s say the husband lies so the wife will hear the magic words from the rabbi. There are other scenarios as well.

  • Ilana

    Thank you so much for posting this.

  • Shragi

    I am still part of the black hat world and after having this discussion with my wife numerous times over the past seven years of marriage, after going to rabbis for permission and now that my wife is due with our fourth child BE”H; I’ve finally said to my wife that I’m not going to another rabbi for permission. If she insists that we go to a rabbi, I’m telling the rabbi that I’m not interested in having more children.
    I said I will not be forced by a rabbi to have children when I don’t want to.
    It was very hard for her to hear that (gasp blasphemy!) and truth be told, I’ve never been so adament about anything before but a month later I think we’ve both never been happier.
    Thank you very much for bringing up this topic which is a crisis in my community.

    • Anonymous

      If you’ve BOTH been happier, it says something, doesn’t it? It is said there are three parties to every birth: husband, wife, and Hashem. Somehow, once the perpetuation of His people is assured, I don’t think the third party wants the unhappiness of the other two.

  • ahg

    Is it fair to say that when you refer to Orthodox Jews here, you are referring to those that might be described as “right wing?”

    Most Orthodox folks I know, and that would be those living in my MO community, seem to stop at 3-4 kids. It may be well above the American average, but the fact that it’s not 8-10 is a strong indicator that they are all using birth control. I really can’t say for sure what they are doing, it’s not really something that’s talked about, but, I really don’t think they are checking in the Rav quarterly before renewing their prescription.

    Then again, I’ve always rejected the idea that the Rabbi knows what’s best for you and turning over control of your life.

    I have one boy and one girl right now. What did my Rav say to me after my second (my daughter) was born? He said (paraphrased) “you’ve fulfilled the mitzvah of Peru U’rvu, but you don’t think you have to stop, you guys make beautiful children.” There was no indication that if we’re thinking of holding off (before possibly continuing or not) we should come see him. It seems to have been understood between him and me that it was a personal decision, albeit with some friendly encouragement to continue.

    In conclusion, I think may Orthodox are making informed decisions on their own already.

  • Where do these two learn currently?

    • Anonymous

      Of course you would ask that. They learn in the gay bar in San Francisco, and during Bein Hazmanim they work as male escorts to help cover the bills.

    • They learn wherever they want.

  • Prag

    Very complete analysis, and interesting read. Thank you for
    posting.

    However do I get it wrong understanding that basically if someone has 1
    girl and boy it’s more or less ok to call it quits according to the article,
    but say if someone has 9 daughters they is no halachic (barring medical issues)
    availability to have recourse to co contraception?

    ntraception?

    • Henoch

      I think that you are asking an excellent and important question. The navigation of how to resolve this issue requires us to break your question into 3 parts; the mitzvah of pru urvu, contraception, and other considerations.
      1- Pru urvu is a mitzvah that requires us to strive to have one son and one daughter. Not everyone merits the fulfillment of every mitzvah, but must give it his best shot. There are many instances in life where we try our best to do what is right, but we don’t always succeed.
      2- Contraception : Just because a person tried to fulfill pru urvu but didn’t succeed doesn’t mean that he is guilty of ‘shichvas zera livatala’. These are 2 separate issues.
      3- There may be situations that setting your sights on the fulfillment of one mitzvah may lead to compromising many other obligations of the Torah. At the end of the article we list many life situations which must be considered before putting yourself into a precarious situation.

      • Prag

        Interesting breakdown and analysis.

  • Worth Reading

    I came home one night after being married for 3 weeks to find that my wife had started birth control that day, without discussing it with me, based on “Daas Toirah” as per the shalom bayis loophole noted above. Since then I am married a total of 2 and 1/2 years (@ least by July 4th it will be), and am very happily married. My house is an open house to my single friends, and they and all my single relatives, want to find someone “like my wife”. I take that as outside confirmation of the rock solidness of our relationship. Just yesterday me and my wife had a fight, and as I typically do when a fight gets serious enough, I printed out a document for her to sign, making sure that she owns my 120g portfolio tax free if I die, (my way of upping the commitment during a fighting period, periods being fights that last > a week).
    Anyways, I am 24, she is 25, she is in school for her 3rd degree, and works full time, and I work the odd job but mostly study for acceptence to Columbia (it takes a lot of studying, as being a Lakewood “illuy” I was learning full time starting 7th grade, so when I started I was not preparing for the SAT’s, I was learning fractions).
    I see a lot of potential in me, and tons of potential in my wife. I know that having a pregnancy before 30 would be extremely hazardous to both of our professional developments.
    I have stood my ground against extreme pressure (parents, friends, RABBONIM, Gedolim you name it), and more a less a year after a came out with my decision (you know telling the world they can stop davening for me, & letting them draw they’re own conclusion), there has been a marked turnaround. The people around me, started viewing me as though-out instead of freiy ,& I feel like I am truly respected for my decision.
    As you can see, I am not at all secretive about it, because I feel if people gossip about my story, (and they do, it’s juicy,how can you blame them?), then a lot of people can hear about an alternative. And that’s a good thing.
    -Hu’ainoy Roitzeh, B’illum Shemoi, Umuchrach Lechain!
    P.S. The details are all real, if you figure out my name, feel free to schmooze about me in the coffee room. The internet being as lasting as it is PLEASE do not right my name, (@ 30, I’ll have kids to get into school, lol!).

  • Anonymous

    A Rabbi cannot possibly understand or figure out the effect that having a child will have on a couple’s general mental health. Stress, lack of sleep, added time constraints etc…etc…are factors that only the couple themselves can appraise. Unfortunately, such basic concerns are not generally acknowledged In religious decisions as they should be.

    Additionally, these added factors have changed over time as life in general has gotten more stressful. Therefore, precedent can’t really be used either.

    • Henoch

      See footnote 45 in the article about this issue contrasting the worldview of women and families of today and of 60 years ago. The pendulum way yet swing back to a feeling that more than a certain number of children is more than can be managed while juggling everything else,

      • Anonymous

        I read the note ( not the article yet) and I assume you aren’t using that as proof. Besides the fact a it is anectodal, the general consensus cannot be applied to an individual. Statistics or not, if a couple feels like another child will add too much stress, no rabbi in the world can or has the right to contradict.

        • Henoch

          I think you misunderstood me and the footnote. Let me explain. I and the Rav actually completely agree with you. He told me that having children is mitzvah and should be continued unless it runs into problems such as those you describe. He said that in the 1940’s and 1950’s couple were maxed out after 2 or 3 children. Starting the 70’s the family size grew as Jewish families succeded with 4-6 children and then even more than that. Recently he observed that the family size may start to shrink as complications and stress are forcing people to rethink the issue of family size. He actually told me that he viewed his job as being an advocate for a healthy and non stressed family, and was merely observing that in his lifetime the point of danger to a family was reached at different points.

          • Anonymous

            Okay. Got it. Thanks.

  • Jon

    R’ Fink, With respect to making some of these decisions on your own versus relying on a rav, I think there’s an inherint tension regarding judment when the issues are grey (such as emotional wellbeing or financial impact). On the one hand, only you actually know how you will react. On the other hand, if you are 21 yrs old and have never been married with children before, it seems almost presumptive of you to guess how your mind, body, finances will react to having a child. A rav may be helpful here, not just as a posaik, but as a manhig. That factor seems lost in the “over-halachaization” of this topic…

    • Anonymous

      @611b38e19f856b2b8ebf0e73b38ad8cd:disqus On the other hand, if you are 21 yrs old and have never been married with children before, it seems almost presumptive of you to guess how your mind, body, finances will react to having a child. A rav may be helpful here, not just as a posaik, but as a manhig.

      I think it’s also presumptive (even more so) to assume that a Rabbi would be more helpful. Much better would be a parent, an older friend, a psychologist, or a “life coach” (ha!). Few Rabbanim are well-trained in these areas, so their opinion is not necessarily worth very much. And sometimes, depending on their worldview, their opinions can be very harmful with bad effects that last lifetimes.

      I’m particularly laughing at the suggestion of getting financial advice from a rav, especially the kind that is completely supported by the community even to the extent of having his kids school tuition paid by the community. Hey, when you don’t pay tuition, you can afford to have as many kids as you want (assuming you can handle them emotionally). And, advice from someone who has zero experience working out in the real world (outside the yeshiva, shul, and communal organizations) to actually earn money rather than just shift it around within the community is also nearly worthless.

      People should ask questions of people based on their experience and knowledge. So you ask the Rabbi about halacha – is the chicken kosher? Am I still niddah? How do I heat on shabbos? How do setup a partnership in an halachic manner? That kind of stuff. And you try to find Rabbanim with expertise in the subject matter, not just random Rabbanim.

      • Jon

        Agreed that not all rabbis are created equal. But why would one ever go to a rabbi that’s not trained/seasoned/wise in the areas for which you seek guidance?
        If you assume the halachik issues are yes/no (ie once I find my heter or understand the sources to be matir my chosen behavior) then you are right, but I would argue that this issue is not that clear cut and is a matter of balancing competing values, some of which are halachik, some are religious (haskafik) and some are just good ole human values. Even after studying sources, etc it can be pretty difficult to decide on one’s own (without the context that is second nature to any expert) how solve that equation. It would seem absurd to blindly follow that rabbi (although, we both know that happens all too often), but to ignore his experience (in how others have balanced similar values/considerations) and decide these things on one’s own would seem pretty arrogant.
        Regarding the financial advice…I would not (and did not) suggest going to a rabbi for advice about finances. However, a good rabbi will have dealt with congregants who have gone through similar experiences as you and give you insight into how they dealt with those issues. Whether the rabbi will be helpful, one never knows…but to assume that a 21 year old will have the necessary perspective on their own, without looking for guidance just seems unrealistic. Sure, ask parents, etc – just realize that parents have biases (just like rabbis).

  • tesyaa

    In addition to the couple and the rabbi, there are other parties who are affected in a non-financial way by the decision of whether to have more kids: the as-yet unconceived child and the existing children of the couple.

    The impact on the older children can often be determined with a fair degree of accuracy, so it would be wrong not to take their well-being into account. (Note that the impact can be either positive or negative, but hardly ever neutral).

    • Anonymous

      Many other parties are or may be affected in both financial and non-financial ways.

  • anony

    in my experience, your portrayal of what happens with the Rabbi isn’t accurate.

    • I am very pleased to hear that. You’ll notice I said the word “generally” quite a few times and added the word “some” several times as well.

  • D

    While I agree that we shouldn’t blindly follow whatever a rabbi tells us, there are a few problems with doing it your way. One concern I have, is that if you were to learn halacha on your own, in many (if not most) cases you would have to be stricter than if you asked a good rabbi. To avoid such a problem, you’d have to be more learned than the vast majority of rabbanim today and you’d have to have learned from/with one of the smaller number of rabbanim that know enough to be more lenient. My opinion is, that it would be better to learn on your own enough so you can tell if your rabbi knows his stuff and if not, find a new one!

  • COJ

    Thank you for such an informative article. As a father of a girl and a boy, I’d like to ask a hypothetical (at least for me) question:
    What should a Rav say to a couple wanting to use contraception if they have 3 girls and no boys? 5 girls and no boys? 10 girls and no boys? (you get the idea…). Same applies for 2 or more boys (but at least they can use Yerushalmi as an excuse…)

    • Henoch

      I’m not sure what a Rav would or should say. There are people who get this mitzvah right away, others that it takes many years, and others that need to takes breaks and then will be able to have 1 of each gender after attempting again. There are also those who will attempt, but not ever acheive this mitzvah despite trying. That doesn’t mean that a family should jeopardize the stability of their home to do something that is beyond what they are able to do. As an example, Jews living in Russia didn’t walk to Italy before each Sukkos to get an esrog despite the fact that they knew that they wouldn’t get that mitzvah that year.

  • Henoch

    A chasidish friend informed me that some young chasidish poskim have been recommending a creative solution to this problem. They advise the wives that they aren’t obligated in the mitzvah of having children, therefore they have no restrictions……unlike the men who are obligated.

    • I assume you mean that the wives then make their own unilateral decision to use birth control?

      • Henoch

        more or less. wink wink

        • James Dean

          I know a very Chasidish Posek in Monsey that is counseling couples to get on birth control after a number of children. He told me that Sholom Bayis improves considerably afterwards.

  • FactsofLife

    The Chofetz Chaim z”l said that people are holding back the advent of Moshiach. How are they doing this? They are refusing to have children that they should have had and it says d’ain ben Dovid boh ad sheyichle kol haneshamos shebiguf.

    The ideal of Judaism is to have as many children as you can. This does not mean that there should not be considerations of strain on the family of a physical or emotional nature. However, considerations of an easy retirement, more freedom to engage in pleasantries doesn’t cut it. One may not be violating any prohibitions by engaging in unnecessary contraception but they are certainly not fulfilling the ideals of the Torah. There are tragic consequences for the Jewish people and for the individual.

    That is why those seeking a heiter should speak to a competent Posek.

    • Henoch

      1-Not sure where the Chofetz Chaim said as you quoted, but it is actually a gemara in Yevamos 62a.
      2-I think we both agree that strains on the family and physical and emotional considerations should weigh heavily on decisions related to family size.
      3-I also agree that an ‘easy retirement’ and freedom to ‘engage in pleasantries’ are poor reasons to limit family size for many people, although these too may be needed for certain individuals to excell in other areas of Jewish spiritual growth.
      4-When people don’t fulfill the ideals in the Torah it may be proper to call it tragic, but what may seem like a tragedy to you may in fact be a blessing for others.
      5-A posek who considers strains on the family and emotional stability to be strong reasons to consider contraception, would be someone who can help sort out the issues, and can help you arrive at a proper decision. I wish that all poskim are in this category, but there may be many who aren’t.

      • FactsofLife

        The gemora just says that Moshiach won’t come until all the children that should be born are born. The Chofetz Chaim adds that one who doesn’t have the number of children that he should is holding back Moshiach

        “4-When people don’t fulfill the ideals in the Torah it may be proper to call it tragic, but what may seem like a tragedy to you may in fact be a blessing for others.”

        We are in this world temporarily and our goal is to gain as much as we can for the world to come while trying to maintain happiness in this world. If people make a trade off for temporary pleasure which denies them the true pleasure of the children they should have and which denies klal Yisroel of those children, that’s a tragedy.

        “5-A posek who considers strains on the family and emotional stability to be strong reasons to consider contraception, would be someone who can help sort out the issues, and can help you arrive at a proper decision. I wish that all poskim are in this category, but there may be many who aren’t.”

        So then what? Roll your own?

        If one had a cancer and wasn’t happy with a particular doctor, would they then roll their own? The stakes are too high for that and it’s likely that the doctor with his training can make a better choice.

        I don’t understand why we don’t on a general basis afford qualified Rabbonim the respect of their training and self perfection even if some are not worthy of it.

        • Anonymous

          @73164c3f700b3fcab1ff4561fe2029ab:disqus The gemora just says that Moshiach won’t come until all the children that should be born are born.

          And children whose parents will not be able to appropriately care for them should not be born. Fits very well into this concept.

          • FactsofLife

            The actual translation is that Moshiach won’t come until all the souls in the soul storage area have come into the world. There is no statement about suitability.

            • Anonymous

              @73164c3f700b3fcab1ff4561fe2029ab:disqus HKB”H is omnipotent and omniscient, there is no way that God would create and store souls that cannot be properly cared for. Only an evil entity (call it the Satan, if you will) would do such a thing!

              • FactsofLife

                I don’t understand why you say that they are not properly cared for but in any case here is the direct quote followed by Rashi

                אין בן דוד בא עד שיכלו כל הנשמות שבגוף שנאמר +ישעיהו נ”ז+ כי רוח מלפני
                יעטוף ונשמות אני עשיתי

                רש”י

                גוף – פרגוד שחוצץ בין שכינה למלאכים ושם רוחות ונשמות
                נתונות שנבראו מששת ימי בראשית העתידות להנתן בגופים העתידים להבראות.

                • Anonymous

                  @73164c3f700b3fcab1ff4561fe2029ab:disqus You didn’t understand what I said. I said that HKB”H arranges it such that there are no “excess” souls. Omnipotence and omniscience allows for that.

                  • FactsofLife

                    The Chofetz Chaim obviously disagrees with you. Why would he have to make some statement about delaying Moshiach if everything were hunky dory?

                    Hashem allows for free will and even though there is no doubt that there is no damage to the waiting souls, the people who refuse children for the wrong reasons are doing the wrong thing.

                    • Anonymous

                      @73164c3f700b3fcab1ff4561fe2029ab:disqus the people who refuse children for the wrong reasons

                      There is no such thing (i.e. there are no “wrong” reasons). Those who don’t want a child will not be as good a parent as those who want a child. And I fully support anyone who doesn’t want a child to NOT bring an unwanted child into this world. And my best guess is that HKB”H supports that as well.

                    • FactsofLife

                      Let’s say that someone doesn’t want to do the mitzva of tzedaka. Would we say he is really not giving wholeheartedly and his tzedaka is worthless?

                      According to what your saying, people could free themselves from the obligations to do mitzvos because they didn’t feel right about them. If one doesn’t feel right about it, then they should study and improve themselves so they do feel right.

                      As for those children that would be in for an unhappy life, even though Hashem does everything for the good in the way that we understand, sometimes it is good for a neshama to come into an unfavorable situation either due to gilgulim or to serve Hashem in a unique way by overcoming difficulty.

                      If a person doesn’t want children because it gets in the way of their pleasures and it reaches the point that they would be a horrible parent because of that, they could find permission not to have children. However, there is no question that they will be punished for being such materialistic pleasure seekers.

                      If they have mental problems, let them seek help from mental health professionals. Otherwise, the normal thing is to desire children and to have them. If one has abnormal needs, they have to seek the root of them and treat them appropriately.

  • As a member of the MO community; I found this very interesting for the following: My impression could be wrong, but cannot imagine anyone in our neighborhood “seeking permission” from a Rav to stop having children. There is just not that kind of mindset of respect or deference to a Rav in the MO world, as far as I can see. The more frum might ask about the most-halachicaly acceptable forms of birth control, but not about the decision itself. (Once again, of course, no way for me to really know if my impression is right.)
    But it sounds to me like its part of a larger issue of difference, in terms of a different way of viewing halacha entirely, perhaps. It sounds as if, to the Right Wing, the Rav giving a heter actually changes how the halacha applies to you. So that there is value in the Rav’s pask even if you have to bend the truth to get it. I think the MO (or maybe its just me) would view halacha as an objective rule, and a Rav can only interpret for you how it applies, based on the facts. If you give him the wrong facts, the psak would not have any value whatsoever. But I am if others think I am characterizing the RIght Wing view correctly.

  • Shlomo

    Possibly it is because I am an “older” father, but still in the parasha, my attitude and experience are different from one who is done with family rearing years and from one starting out. When I got married, and started learning in kollel, both my wife and her friends as well as I and my friends thought that every month that someone didn’t become pregnant, maybe they had some sort of medical issue! We had intended to have close to a dozen kids. And my rabbi’s wife was disappointed at one of her sons’ bar mitzvah that her room mate from the last pregnancy had 2 children since, and she only had 1 (they had 9 at the time). I frankly don’t understand why someone who ostensibly was haredi would want to not have a large family! Yes, it is well established that the ikar mitzvah is, according to Beit Hillel, 1 boy and 1 girl, and according to Beit Shammai is 2 boys. More than that is hidur. That is what being an observant Jew is about, keeping hidur mitzvot! We say birkat hamazon after eating only a kazayit of bread, instead of only after satiation. Most families light a number of Shabbat candles according to the amount of people in the family, when 1 would suffice for the mitzvah. Virtually nobody lights one Hannuka candle each nioght, which is all the mitzvah requires. And most people try to buy a hadar “peri eitz hadar”! So why should having a large family be different?

    If you go into marriage with this attitude, and if you are haredi, I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t, you probably would be on your fourth of five child before you realized that maybe you weren’t cut out for it. That did happen to us, as the older children showed problems with autism, and we felt that not having as many kids as we originally intended may have been a better avenue. For us, there was no question of asking a rabbi. After our last child, 5th by ceasearian, the dcotor and circumstances made it clear that more was no longer an option. Yet we both feel a slight naughty expectation when something is missed, that maybe there is more in store! But we both thank G_d for my wife’s health when it turns out to be a false alarm!

  • Anonymous Grammar Checker

    I enjoyed the article. As a math person, I figured it would be a good idea to mention that there is a typo on page 42 (since the article has not been published yet) “that time limitations increase geometrically”, they probably meant that “time limitations increase exponentially”.
    Much hatzlacha.

  • what are the halachic ramifacations of JQ1?

  • Yechezkel Hirshman

    It looks like all of the comments on this post were made 9 months back in the immediate aftermath of the posting. I am sorry to “reopen the wounds” (and make trouble) 9 months late but I only saw this post now.

    I think the analysis by Rabbis Mayer and Messner is superb but nevertheless, I think it is a bit incomplete.

    Rabbis M and M focus on two Halachic issues with contraception: zera l’vatala and delay of pru u’rvu. Thus they conclude that since more modern methods of contraception may eliminate both of these concerns, it merely boils down to a matter of hashkafa.

    I think otherwise. Modern methods of contraception (pill and IUD) while circumventing these two halachic issues, open up two new ones that were not present in the case of the moch (diaphram) or condom (simple barrier methods).

    These two issues (though they may be viewed as one broad issue) are: the prohibition to alter or tamper with one’s body (such as tattoos or “hachovel b’atzmo”) and, more starkly, the prohibition of making sterile any creature – and certainly a human and oneself (“b’artzecha lo taasu”).

    For the latter issue, the question would be: is a reversible sterilization as is caused by these two methods – or, certainly, by the pill – also prohibited as much as a permanent one? Not to mention that these methods carry slight but tangible risks of becoming irreversible (R”L).

    It is no surprise that the rishonim or early achronim do not deal with these issues because they only apply to modern techniques. It is a bit surprising, however, that modern poskim do not focus on them.

    Regardless, although I am not a posek, I do feel that today’s modern methods of contraception do indeed entail serious Halachic concerns.

  • Dean Martin

    Thank you for posting this article. I actually took the time to look up several sources, especially the one from R Moshe Feinstein regarding forms of permitted contraception in extreme health situations. This article and R Moshe’s teshuva empowers us to ask informed questions of Rabbis who they themselves may be unfamiliar with the source materials. In cases of significant physical danger as determined by the medical community, I don’t believe that every detail needs to be shared with a Rabbi in order to make an informed decision. The rabbi think he understands the Halacha, but may not fully appreciate the dangers associated with the various alternative forms of contraception. This article serves as a great source to discuss with reasonable rabbis and a better source for making personal decisions if we believe that the rabbis available to us are not open minded enough to be persuaded even by a clear determination by the giant of 20th century psak.