According to normal Orthodox Rabbanim, is birth control permitted? I am IY”H getting engaged soon and want to have kids, but not right away and not so close together. Is it permitted?

Answer:

Mazal tov for your engagement!

Most authorities permit birth control under certain circumstances, but certainly not as a blanket heiter. See Minchas Yitzchak 3:26, Levush Mordechai Even Ha’ezer 1:28, Tzitz Eliezer (9:51, medical matters 2), among others.

In particular, birth control before fufilling the mitzvah of p’ru ur’vu is not usually authorized, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances.

If the only reason is for general comfort, and the more so before fulfilling p’ru ur’vu, no Orthodox Rabbi will permit the use of birth control. As the Rambam writes (Ishus 15:1), there is a concrete obligation to try to have children, and use of birth control will not be authorized.

You may have fear as to your education, work, money and so on, and therefore prefer to postpone childbirth until later.

From experience, however, this approach does not pay off. There are always reasons to postpone; life is always “easier” without children. Yet, the joy of children brings an entire world to a person’s life, and with a positive attitude, many, many young couples have succeeded in juggling other occupations with bringing children to the world.

Best wishes and much success.

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7 Responses to “Posponing Childbirth”

  1. I think this answer presents an overly monolithic view of a complex issue. See the following article from R. Moshe Kahn of YU:
    http://www.yctorah.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,1398/

    His shiur on the subject can be found here:
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/714440/Rabbi__Moshe_Kahn/Contraception:_A_Different_Perspective

    Rav Yitzchak Avi Roness, in the journal, ‘Ohr Hamizrach’, also discusses the halachic basis for postpoining Pru U’revu. See part 1 of his article here:
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/735565/_Editor_Ohr_Hamizrach/Ohr_Hamizrach_Volume_50_Issues_1-2

    Rav Yehudah Henkin also allows young couples to postpone procreation for the first six months of their marriage in case of need:
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20023&st=&pgnum=53&hilite=

    Although these positions may be outside the Israeli charedi consensus, it is unfair to withold them from an innocent questioner.

    • Thank you for providing these additional sources, which I was not aware of, and some of which, as you note, are beyond the “consensus” that we generally follow. Note that the position of Rav Henkin is far removed from that of Rabbi Kahn.
      There is room to debate the task of a rabbi, and in particular the task of a rabbi answering on an Internet forum. Is his task merely to present different opinions, even those he does not agree with, and allow the questioner to decide between them — or should he quote specifically those opinions he considers as being part of the “consensus,” and base his answer on their rulings.
      Of course, I think all will agree that an Orthodox rabbi does not need to be well versed in Conservative rulings, and does not need to take them into account in his responses. As an Orthodox rabbi, his answers will be based solely on Orthodox sources — just as a conventional doctor does not have to bring up the alternative medicine options that might be available.
      I think that in the same sense, a Charedi rabbi is not obligated to take into account opinions of authorities he does not consider part of his own halachic world. For instance, I don’t think it will be fair to label a Chardei rabbi “unfair” for not quoting, say, the opinions of Dr. Rosenak with regards to shivah neki’im. This is not part of his world of halachah, and he cannot be taken to task for ignoring it (even when the consequences for the person or couple in question will not be simple).
      In our answers, we try to take into consideration a broad range of the halachic spectrum, and at times we certainly go beyond the Israeli-Charedi consensus. However, it is true that not all halachic authorities from the world of Orthodoxy are included. I am happy additional sources to be provided, but don’t think that the approach is “unfair.”

  2. Thank you for your answer, which I respect, even though we are obviously not in total agreement. I should also apologize for my use of the word ‘unfair’ – to the extent that the answers provided are in tune with your mission, and I believe this answer was, then my claim was out of place, and I should never have said it.

    I presume that the sentence, “However, it is true that all halachic authorities from the world of Orthodoxy are included”, should have a ‘not’ added before the word ‘that’ or am I misinterpreting your answer?

    My original comment in part was a reaction to your comment that “no Orthodox Rabbi will permit the use of birth control”. Whilst ‘general comfort’ is a broad term, I am not convinced that R. Kahn’s position, as espoused on the Orthodox Yeshiva University website, is too far from this. As such, it seems that whilst you are fully entitled to pasken based on your halachic ‘world’, sweeping comments about the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy open you to more scrutiny.

    I should note that R. Henkin’s psakim on this issue are based on his grandfather’s rulings, who was certainly well within the charedi consensus of the time, although they may no longer be so, as Rav YH Henkin notes here: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=1QAZVzTJz2MC&pg=PA177&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Secondly, I have seen Rav Henkin’s rulings on this topic quoted by the charedi sefer ‘Birkas Banim’ (I forget the exact mareh makom), although the author quotes Rav Zilberstein as saying that the rulings (in the name of Rav Henkin’s grandfather) require ‘clarification’ from a moreh hora’ah.

  3. Sorry, I meant to ask if that the wort ‘not’ should be included after that word ‘that’, not before it.

    • Yet, the word “not” should be there, and I’ve added it to avoid misunderstanding.
      Thank you for your clarification, which I appreciate.
      In view of Rabbi Kahn’s position, it is possible that my statement whereby “no Orthodox Rabbi will permit the use of birth control for general convenience” was not accurate. However, as you note, the level of “discomfort” that would sanction, according to Rabbi Kahn, the use of contraceptives (for a couple without children), is not clear.
      Shut Benei Banim (R. Henkin) is a teshuvos sefer that I value and make use of, appreciating his candid and sometimes refreshing halachic approach to various issues that are of importance to people today. In the past I have incorporated his opinions in answers I’ve given (some are published privately due to their nature).
      As noted before, there is a considerable par between the opinion mentioned by Rabbi Henkin and the ruling given by Rabbi Kahn; other than Rabbi Kahn I am yet to see an authority ancient or contemporary permitting birth control, for a childless couple, without grave reason.

  4. Thanks you for your response. There are others in the dati leumi world in Israel who will allow this, and a 6-month delay (or more) is commonly permitted by many rabbanim that I am familiar with in Chutz La’aretz (mostly non-Charedi, but not all), even without grave reason. I do not know which, if any, authority they are basing themselves on. Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg has a leniently-inclined ruling on contraception before in ‘Binyan Ariel’. Although the specific case discusses extremely extenuating circumstances, it may be that there are others who feel that his reasoning could be extended to other cases.

    Another important point to clarify is that there is a difference between ‘childless’ and ‘not yet fulfilled pru urevu’. Someone may have 12 daughters already (regarding someone with only sons, see the first teshuva of the Avnei Nezer in Even Ha’Ezer), and has still not fulfilled ‘pru urevu’. Even after having one child there are more poskim who will allow a ‘break’ than for those with none at all, as noted by Rav Hershel Schachter in his famous article on the topic (Rav Nachum Rabinovitch also has a teshuva on this in Siach Nachum).

    • The point about the possible difference between a childless couple and a couple with ten girls is well made. There is room to distinguish between somebody who has started to fulfill the mitzvah, and between somebody who wishes to put off the beginning of the fulfillment. Because this was not relevant to the specific question, I didn’t bring up the distinction.

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