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

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Et tzarah – marital intimacy in wartime

6 November, 2023


Could you please tell me more about the inyan of Eis Tzara? I find I am constantly thinking about the matzav and would feel inappropriate or guilty focusing on other things such as intimacy.


The halachic discussion of et tzarah (a time of distress) centers on famine (Ta’anit 11a; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayyim 240:12). Rema there extends it to other types of communal distress. Still, this is not considered a full-fledged prohibition and later authorities limit his statement and relate to it as a pious practice and not basic halacha. One key reason is that marital intimacy is itself a Torah level mitzvah, and when a difficult situation continues indefinitely, refraining from relations or other intimate touch that draws the couple together could have a detrimental effect on a marriage.

It is understandable to think about the current situation often. But it is important to be able to continue to engage in normal life as much as possible. This, after all, is what we are fighting to preserve. Engaging in marital relations can give us strength to redouble our practical efforts to help with the situation, whether through volunteering or prayer. Acts of chessed and prayer are usually more constructive ways to channel concerns about the situation.

If you find yourself unable to stop thinking about the situation, then you might find it helpful to seek short-term therapy.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance — and may we hear b’sorot tovot soon!

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