Stern Rabbi Responds


Hannah Dreyfus’ report on my recent lecture at Stern College for Women
(“Birth Control, Jewish Law Collide At Stern,” Feb. 18) misrepresented
the thrust of my arguments, conflating a strictly halachic question about the
permissibility of birth control by married couples into unrelated ideological
debates surrounding feminism and sexual empowerment.
In my talk, I argued that halacha permits couples that feel unprepared to
assume the responsibilities of parenthood — for psychological, financial, 
or other reasons —to temporarily delay the mitzvah of procreation. Contrary
to common practice in the Orthodox community, couples do not require a heter, 
or dispensation, from a rabbi to use birth control.

This position, which I advanced solely through the use of halachic sources
over the course of 70 minutes, relates first and foremost to the health and
stability of the family unit, and therefore affects both men and women as
couples. Contemporary discussions about the broader role of women in society
have no bearing on this issue one way or the other.

And contrary to the article’s headline, birth control and Jewish law did
not collide at Stern College that day. On the contrary, my purpose was to
demonstrate precisely the opposite. 

Instructor of Talmud Stern College for Women
and GPATS (Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies)