I am engaged to an orthodox man with three children and I have a son from a previous relationship. We have been discussing birth control options, and I have suggested that a vasectomy is the way to go. However, we’ve been told that Jewish law (halakhah) forbids this procedure. We don’t want any more children, and I don’t want to continue with the pill. Are there any Rabbis that do not forbid such a procedure for a man?


created at: 2012-04-24Mazal Tov on your engagement!  May God bless you and your future husband and your soon-to-be-joined families with health and happiness! Jewish law appreciates the essentiality of a robust and hearty intimate marital life for the building and sustenance of a healthy, loving marriage. While Judaism sees the aspiration to conceive children as one of the primary goals for getting marriage, there may be situations, such as your own, where companionship and partnership-in-life motivate getting married rather than having more children. In such situations, using contraception for the long-term (rather than for a more limited period as part of family and life planning) may be appropriate, and a couple should indeed discuss with their health care providers the options for birth control that exist for them.

After weighing the health benefits and concerns of such options, a Torah observant Jew will want to make sure that the options under consideration conform to halakhah (Jewish law). Jewish law does not permit a vasectomy as a permissible birth control intervention as it is an act of sterilization which is proscribed by the Torah (see Leviticus 22:24 which the rabbis of the Talmud understand as proscribing the sterilization of both animals and people). You may want to visit the Women’s Health and Halakhah website of Nishmat (An Institution of Advanced Torah Study for Women) which reviews halakhic (Jewish legal) approaches to different forms of birth control.

Most importantly, though, I encourage you to find a rabbi with whom you feel comfortable discussing such sensitive topics who can guide you in all halakhically acceptable options for your particular situation which you can then use in your personal decision making.

Mazal tov again.


created at: 2012-01-22

Rabbi Benjamin Samuels is the rabbi at Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Newton Center. He is also a Genesis Scholar at CJP.


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