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.]