For Some, Halacha Makes Conceiving Tough

Abiding by Jewish Law Prevents Some From Getting Pregnant

Doctor’s Orders: Dr. Richard Grazi says he has scores of testimonials from Orthodox women who suffered from ‘halachic infertility.’
Shulamit Seidler-Feller
Doctor’s Orders: Dr. Richard Grazi says he has scores of testimonials from Orthodox women who suffered from ‘halachic infertility.’

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published June 18, 2012, issue of June 22, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

According to Rosen, over the past 20 years the secular and religious worlds alike have undergone a transformational shift with regard to infertility. Most doctors in the New York area are now sensitive to the laws of Jewish ritual purity. Grazi has been practicing in the frum world for 25 years. He quickly learned not to advise women to visit the mikveh early. “That is just a nonstarter,” he said. “I know where my patients and my rabbis are coming from.”

At the same time, childlessness is now openly acknowledged in Orthodox communities. Headquartered in a rose-colored office in Boro Park, Brany’s A.T.I.M.E. services some 8,000 couples struggling to get pregnant in the United States, England and Israel. Another fertility support group, Bonei Olam, is located less than a mile away. Rosen said that a key talking point in lifting the infertility taboo was to remind her clients and their families that Sarah, the Hebrew bible’s most important matriarch, was infertile for much of her life.

A.T.I.M.E. also trains rabbis in the latest reproductive technologies so that they can make informed recommendations to infertile couples about which treatments square with Halacha.

Grazi said that he typically addresses halachic infertility by directing a patient to wear an adhesive patch that delivers estradiol, the natural female sex hormone, just as she begins menstruating. This patch is meant to delay her ovulation until after she goes to the mikveh. If the patch is working but the woman is still having trouble getting pregnant, then Grazi will add one of several medications to stimulate egg development — a potent one-two punch for toppling halachic infertility.

But in the instances that the patch doesn’t delay a woman’s ovulation, Grazi will take more drastic measures, prescribing a medication called Lupron, which mutes the body’s egg development and ovulation. Then, Grazi will place a woman on a regimen of injectable natural hormones, managing her cycle so that her fertility peaks when she is allowed to have sex with her husband.

For halachically infertile couples with an aversion to using hormones, there are other options. One simple fix is to artificially inseminate the woman with her husband’s sperm before she goes to the mikveh. Since the woman is not allowed to have sex with her husband at the time that she is ovulating, insemination will bring his sperm in contact with her egg without the couple actually touching. Rabbis, however, disagree as to whether this is allowed under halachic law. Some Modern Orthodox rabbis are more lenient in their approach to insemination. But other rabbis, particularly those in ultra-Orthodox communities believe that insemination during niddah can cause spiritual harm to the child.

Obtaining a sperm sample also complicates the matter. The Torah admonishes men not to “spill” their “seed” through masturbation, and many rabbis are reluctant to waive this ruling for fertility treatments. To get around this, some Orthodox men don a special medical grade polyurethane condom when they have sex, in order to secure a sample. Because the use of prophylactics is otherwise strictly prohibited, some couples poke a small hole in the condom as a symbolic gesture that the sperm is not actually going to waste.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.