Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Orthodox Infertility

A few weeks ago, HaTzofeh published an interview with gynecologist Dr. Daniel Rosenak in which he called for a major change in the practice of the laws of niddah. He raised the possibility of no longer considering a niddah to a be possible zavah, which requires seven "clean" days after five days rather than just seven days (link). This would allow women who ovulate before they go to the mikveh to have children naturally. The article is full of objectionable ideas and misinterpreted concepts, but that is beside the point. The following week, the newspaper published a response by R. Benny and Noa Lau in which they object to the proposal on both halakhic and medical grounds (link). And subsequent to that, the paper also published an article by R. Yoel Katan objecting to the suggestion (link) and then earlier this week Haaretz reported on this debate (link).

R. Chaim Jachter, in his Gray Matter volume 2, has an entire chapter on the subject. He notes that, "Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (as reported by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav Rosef Adler), Rav Ovadia Yosef (Taharat Habayit 1:1:6), and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 2:70:1:3) all cite the Ramban's aforementioned comments as proof that we may never waive the requirement for seven clean days, even when it interferes with conception" (p. 98). R. Jachter then lists a number of other halakhic and medical options that can solve many of the "Orthodox Infertility" problems.

What I don't get with the proposal is that if there are some women who are suffering from infertility because of the long time before going to the mikveh then -- at most -- rule permissively for them (not that I am advocating such a ruling). But why propose abolishing the practice for everybody? Don't get me wrong. I'm a red-blooded male and would like to shorten the time just as much as any other guy. But that's not quite the instinct we want to utilize when making halakhic decisions.

As a sidenote, those who claim that halakhah is determined by a male power structure will have a hard time explaining why this rule, which essentially cuts in half the time available each month for marital relations, is not done away with by male fiat. One would think that if this dubious theory were correct, the male will would find an halakhic way.

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