Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Shivah house

13 December, 2006

Question:

This is a Hashkfah question. I realize halachically per se there is no problem.

Unfortunately my aunt was niftar. My uncle and cousins are sitting shiva by my parents' house. We live in a basement apartment in my parents' house, so we feel my uncle's pain maybe more than if we lived away from where he is sitting. Plus it is my aunt and there is a cloud hanging over the family.

My wife went to the mikvah last night and I felt no issue over mikvah night but I feel strange being involved in the pleasure of intimacy while the family suffers this loss.

I realize there is no halacha issue but from a hashkafah point of view would you say it is something to try to limit until the shiva is over. Or would you say it is not something to be overly concerned with. And certainly a very important part of the equation is my wife's needs and how that factors in. How would you advise us to act?

Thank You


Answer:

You are correct that there is no halachic constraint on your having relations in this situation.  On the other hand, there is a halachic obligation on the husband to have relations with his wife.  For a man who lives at home whose work is not physical labor, once a week is usually considered the minimum unless the wife agrees to less.  This once a week would be covered by the shivah.

We do not think this is a hashkafic issue.  Rather, we think it is a personal, emotional concern.  It can be legitimate, for any number of reasons, to postpone relations.  Not feeling emotionally prepared is one such reason.  Of course, we have to balance our emotional needs with those of our spouses.  We can also choose how to participate in others' suffering.  Since sexual relations do not only provide pleasure, but can also provide emotional sustenance, you might find it comforting to resume relations, building strength to help your family in other ways. 

We think that the ideal is to be open with our spouses about an inner conflict that affects them and to come to an agreeable resolution together.

HaMakom Yinahem.


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