Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Relations During War

Based on the Gemara in Ta'anis (11a), the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 240:12; 574:4) rules that a couple may not have marital relations during a famine. The Rema (240:12) adds that this includes other times of trouble. A notable exception to this is couples without any children.

R. Avraham of Botchatch (Eishel Avraham, 240) discussed the situation in his town, in which young men were kidnapped and forcefully drafted into the army. Does this time of trouble mean that couples are not allowed to have marital relations? He advances a number of leniencies, such as:
1. If the solution is prepared (i.e. money to pay off the kidnappers), then the trouble is considered to have passed.
2. A trouble that lasts many years is too much for people to handle refraining from relations.
3. This rule only applies to the specific locality in which there is trouble. People in other places need not refrain.

The Taz, in his Divrei David on Parashas Miketz (quoted by the Sha'arei Teshuvah) also says that people whose inclinations might overcome them and cause them to commit worse sins, should not refrain from relations. Additionally, if one's intention is to have relations in order to have children, rather than personal pleasure, then one may also not refrain.

Does this apply to times of war? From the simple wording of the Rema, it seems that it should. The Minchas Elazar, in his Nimmukei Orach Chaim (574:2), discusses whether there was an obligation to refrain from relations during World War 1. He concludes that one did not have to because, as above, the war lasted for many years. Additionally, because of these wars that last a generation, if Jews refrained from having children then this might, God forbid, lead to the end of the Jewish people.

What about when there is a war in Israel? While those of us who do not live in Israel might have the Eishel Avraham's leniency that it is not in our locale, this might not apply to a trouble in Israel, which really affects Jews all over the world. On the other hand, Israel has been in a state of war since its inception (cf. R. Hershel Schachter, Be-Ikvei Ha-Tzon, p. 206 in the name of R. Ya'akov Kamenetsky). Therefore, it would seem that relations would be permissible because the trouble has lasted for so long. But I'm certainly not in a position to rule on this matter.

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