Are rabbis putting too much pressure on young couples?
30 June, 2016
I am a Rebetsen and Kallo teacher who has always encouraged girls to ask shailos and was always meticulous myself in observance of Taharas Hamishpocho and asking shailos about contraception.
However, reading the shailos asked here about contraception by young women suffering emotional illnesses following the birth of their children and – with experience of young women coming to me about the pressure they feel under when given a heter let's say for a year and told to come back then – I do question (this sounds heretical I know) why a Rov really is in a position to be able to give a ruling to a young woman. It puts girls under such a strain knowing they have to come back – they want to feel free and unburdened. For many girls having babies is traumatic and the trauma goes on for months.
I am seriously beginning to question why Rabbonim feel they must exert this kind of pressure on sincere young couples.
Why not explain to them what is halachically acceptable to use, give them the general parameters of the bases for the halacha, as explained in your article – and leave the couple to work it out themselves?
We agree with you that it can be stressful for a couple to be given a heter for a relatively short period of time and told to return afterwards and ask again. However, the mitzvah of pru u'rvu and the seriousness of the use of contraception should not be taken lightly, and it is for this reason that rabbis often require a couple to be in touch regularly.
There are many rabbis who will indeed give a couple general guidelines regarding the halachot of contraception (in what situations it may be used, what types are allowed/preferred) and let the couple decide when and how to apply these guidelines.
However, not all rabbis operate in this manner (particularly in charedi or chasidic circles). Many give a specific ruling and tell the couple to return in six months/a year, etc. If a woman is feeling very overwhelmed by a ruling she receives, she can and should express these feelings to the rabbi at the time. She can explain that it is very stressful for her to have to ask again in six months, and request a longer heter. It is for this reason that the woman should be encouraged to talk to the rabbi and not have her husband ask. The husband might not always be able to fully relay the extent of his wife's physical or emotional condition.
In general, if a woman feels she absolutely cannot manage another pregnancy (and gives that impression to her rabbi), she will usually receive a heter to use contraception. However, in some cases the rabbi will still deny a heter. We feel that only rabbis with thorough knowledge, experience and compassion should be giving strict rulings on this topic. Women should also be taught that if a woman receives a ruling she feels she cannot accept, she should either return to her rabbi explaining her difficulty with the ruling, or turn to another rabbi for guidance (she must explain the initial ruling she received). A woman is allowed to ask around for recommendations of rabbis who are compassionate and understanding on this topic.
Rabbis are here to guide us and help us properly observe halacha. If a couple feel that their rabbi is exerting undue pressure on them, it may be appropriate for them to look for another rabbi.
Please feel free to get back to us with any further questions.
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