The Rabbinic Law Of Unintended Consequences

Rabbis are – and always were – human beings. They have no special powers and had none. Some are honest, some self-serving, some are criminals and some are saints – as it always has been. Haaretz documents this in a profound way. 25% of all infertility cases may be caused by halakhic infertility, in other words, infertility caused by rabbis. What’s this? Harry Maryles explains:

Briefly stated, according to biblical law a woman is permitted to immerse herslf after only seven days from the onset of her menstrual cycle (Dam Niddah). But in cases of a flow of non menstrual blood (Dam Ziva) that is contiguous for three consecutive days she is biblically mandated to wait seven days after the flow of blood stops. Because of the complexities in our day of determining which type of blood flow a woman is actually experincing and the severity of transgressing Hilchos Niddah, Chazal [the rabbis of the Mishna and Talmud] mandated that all blood flows be treated as Ziva blood requiring seven “clean” days, to be observed after the Niddah blood flow stops. This tacks on at least five extra days that a husband and wife must wait before having sexaul relations beyond what the Torah madates. And the vast majority of blood flows in women is Dam Niddah, not, Dam Ziva.

What happens in a great number of infertitlity cases is that ovulation, the fetility period, takes place during these “extra” days and by the time of immersion, the fertility peiod has passed. Quoting Dr. Rosenak from the article:

“Through my work as a gynecologist, especially in the ultra-Orthodox and national religious communities, it transpires that more than one quarter of the infertility cases result from what is called ‘halakhic infertility.’ That means that tens of thousands of women go to the mikveh when their period of ovulation is past.”

Dr. Rosenak’s article was published in HaTzofe, a large National Religious journal. He argues for a reconsideration of the laws of niddah. As might be expected, a leading rabbi immediately objected, arguing that perscribed hormones would deal with this problem. Dr. Rosenak responds forcefully:

Rosenak related to this in his follow-up article last week, writing that shifting the solution from the sphere of halakha to the sphere of medicine is "an interesting argument." "Halakhic infertility is not a medical problem … It is a purely halakhic problem, and its solution has to be halakhic, not medical." Criticizing the Laus’ contention that "it is hard to assume that hormones will seriously harm the woman’s body," Rosenak calls it "an irresponsible statement that requires scientific proof" and "grave."

"These are matters of life and death!" he wrote. "I tremble every time I am forced to prescribe hormones for a woman who has no genuine medical problem. Perhaps the woman sitting opposite me has an undiscovered genetic predisposition to breast cancer? Perhaps, heaven forbid, she could have a stroke?"

This is today’s Orthodoxy. Rabbinic laws, even those based on questionable custom and whose outcome is not what was intended by the original drafters, even if it endangers life (metziztza b’peh) or otherwise damages Jews, must stand because, if not, the entire frail halakhic system wil come crashing down on the swollen heads of the men who run it.

So what should be done? I don’t know. Increasingly, my personal option is to move away from Orthodoxy. Perhaps this should be your choice, as well.

[Hat Tips: Dr. R-F; Chakira.]

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under Modern Orthodoxy, Religion

8 responses to “The Rabbinic Law Of Unintended Consequences

  1. shmuckarya

    Shmarya,

    You are nowhere near orthodoxy to begin with.

    Your arrogance is amazing. All of a sudden, you’re an expert on infertility. You’re also an expert on Hilchos Nidda.

    What is interesting to me, as someone who has professional expertise in some of the secular fields to which many of your rants relate and also certainly has more familiarity with halacha than you do, is how your arguments about these topics reveal how ignorant you are about both the secular/technical and the halachic aspects of a subject. Apparently, you never received a proper education in any field. Unlike the uncultured hareidi students, who at leat have a solid education in /something/!

    Anyway, there are knowlegable rabbis who are dedicated to infertility issues, and they are always successful at eliminating the sinister “halachic infertility” as a factor. So, for the truly orthodox couples dealing with infertility, the timing of the ovulation with respect to halachic prohibitions is not the problem.

  2. I don’t know. Publication in HaTzofe means somnething, as does that physicians vast expertise in dealing with this issue in the Orthodox world.

    No one argues the main issue, that there is “halakhic infertility,” or that rabbis first impulse is to have physicians treat this with hormones, even though that treatment has risk.

    Can halakhic infertility be “pakined away” on an individual basis? Is it currently dealt with in that way at times? Perhaps. But in the haredi and RW MO worlds, hormones are the answer of first resort, and that is both dangerous and foolish.

  3. Ma Rabbi

    The counting of the”seven clean days” is an essential aspect of Jewish family purity. The greatist poskim of this century both Rav Henkin and Rav Moshe have ruled that any attempt to do away with this requirement would undermine all of Judaism.

  4. Scam Alert

    we will not miss you, and a faygele doesnt need to concern itself with niddah anyway/

    this shmendrik is jealous of molested kids becayse they got attention, shmarya was just ignored all of his childhood.

  5. Neo-Conservaguy

    “The counting of the”seven clean days” is an essential aspect of Jewish family purity. The greatist poskim of this century both Rav Henkin and Rav Moshe have ruled that any attempt to do away with this requirement would undermine all of Judaism.”

    There’s nothing like a little rabbinic hyperbole to liven up the day. Let us not forget the harsh response given by the sages to one suggestion (by R. Yehuda, I believe) that the counting of mamzers include children conceived during nidah – they feared a rather large count indeed. Apparently, Judaism wasn’t undermined at that time by this concern either. I’m all for reducing the “extra” days added to the biblical requirements.

  6. What Shmarya posted about Halachic infertility makes intuitive sense. Here is why: menstral cycles vary greatly. Depending who you are, anything from three to six week cycles are all normal.

    Due to cramping which can leave some women doubled over, most girls and women learn to chart and monitor their periods. They also do this to get an idea of what is normal for their particular body. For a woman with a six week cycle, spotting at week three is breakthrough bleeding, not a normal period.

    For a woman with a three week cycle, bleeding after twenty-one days is her period, espeically if she has other symptoms that indicate she has a period.

    Halachic infertility just boils down to a numbers game. If a woman has a short cycle, she could very well be out of action for a good two weeks (Yes, a period can take a week to finish.), one week for the period and then seven more clean days. At that point she is at day 14 (Day 1 is the first day of a period.) If she ovulates a day or two early, she is out of luck as far as conception is concerned. This is entirely and completely possible.

    It makes me wonder if back in days gone by niddah did not serve some kind of contraceptive function helping couples space children farther apart. Women got maried at sixteen and kept having children in to their forties. With a child bearing career that long, spacing the kids a year or two farther apart would be a blessing.

    What gets me is why don’t the rabbis just let married women go to the mikvah as soon as they are done menstruating. Most of us know what our periods are like and know when we are through. Understanding our bodies is the key to living with a body that “betrays us” every month, or rather every three to six weeks.

  7. Usual name withheld

    Fertility drugs are toxic
    I had to give my wife a shot in the ‘rear’ plus she was taking a drug that one wonders whether it will lead to cancer later in life. So taking drugs JUST to regulate the cycle when there is no MEDICAL need to do so is nuts

  8. Usual name withheld

    Fertility drugs are toxic
    I had to give my wife a shot in the ‘rear’ plus she was taking a drug that one wonders whether it will lead to cancer later in life. So taking drugs JUST to regulate the cycle when there is no MEDICAL need to do so is nuts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s