July 20, 2024
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Maintaining the Homefront in Times of War: Questions for PUAH’s Rabbinic Counselors

(Courtesy of Puah) For over three decades, PUAH has been the trusted source of guidance and support for Jewish couples, who know they can turn to us for their most delicate, intimate questions. Since the outbreak of the war, with thousands of men out on the battlefront, PUAH’s rabbinic staff has been working overtime fielding questions of the most complex and sensitive nature – questions that are as heartbreaking and heroic as the times we are living in.

Here is a sample of the questions that PUAH’s rabbinic counselors have been dealing with, including responses from Rabbi Elan Segelman:

My husband has just received an unexpected leave to come home for a brief visit – and it falls out on my seventh clean day. Am I allowed to go to the mikvah during the day instead of waiting for nightfall?

A: The Shulchan Aruch rules that a woman may not go to the mikvah during the seventh clean day for fear that she and her husband will have marital relations after she comes back, when she is still halachically considered a niddah, rather than waiting for nightfall when her seventh clean day is completed. To prevent such a serious problem, a woman may not go to the mikvah during the seventh day.

The Shulchan Aruch then discusses whether a woman may go to the mikvah during the daytime of the following (eighth) day, if she was unable to go the previous night. It rules that this, too, is forbidden, since an onlooker may misunderstand and think she is going to the mikvah on day seven, and mistakenly conclude that this is permissible. However, the Shulchan Aruch adds that under certain extreme circumstances, she may go during the daytime of the eighth day.

This heter was used during Covid, when many mikvahs were closed at night due to mandatory curfews. Similarly, now in certain locales in Eretz Yisrael, many of the mikvahs are open during the day to accommodate women who are unable or afraid to leave their homes at night for various security reasons.

May one retrieve male genetic material from a fallen soldier, so that he will be able to have biological children posthumously?

A: This is a question that has been debated for many years now in Israel. Years ago, there was a case where the parents of a fallen soldier (who was married but didn’t yet have children) wanted to retrieve his genetic material so that they could have a biological grandchild. Putting the halachic issues aside, what made this legally complicated was that the deceased soldier’s wife was (understandably) not interested in becoming pregnant and raising a child on her own, nor did she want another woman to carry her husband’s child. The case came before the Supreme Court, which had to rule on the question of who had the rights to this deceased soldier’s biological material – his parents or his wife? Shockingly, the Supreme Court ruled at first that it belonged to the parents. But after an appeal, this ruling was overturned and the rights were given to the wife.

From a halachic standpoint, there are poskim who permit retrieval of genetic material from a deceased soldier, but even those poskim recommend against doing so, because the scenario of a widowed woman becoming pregnant poses its own serious halachic complications and is therefore best to be avoided. But of course, each family must discuss this serious and difficult question with their halachic authority who is familiar with all of the important considerations.

May a soldier freeze his genetic material before going out to war, so that in the event that he becomes wounded in a way that compromises his reproductive capabilities, he will still be able to have children?

This is also a very sensitive topic, hinging on the question of whether an unmarried male may retrieve his genetic material to freeze for future use. On a simple level, it’s problematic, because he currently has no mitzvah of pru u’rvu, having children. However, one could apply the sevara (logic) that knowing he has secured his future ability to have a child will enable the soldier to fight with more courage on the battlefield and defend Klal Yisrael from our enemies. This is similar to the logic some poskim use to allow an unmarried cancer patient to freeze his sperm before starting treatment (since cancer treatment can impair one’s future reproductive ability.) Often, the very act of freezing his reproductive material infuses the cancer patient with immediate hope and strength to overcome his illness. Making the statement that he has a future to look forward to, that he will survive and one day become a father, gives the patient the strength to fight now.

One can perhaps make the same case here; however, as we’re talking about serious prohibitions, it’s not so simple.

As you can see, the current questions from PUAH’s desk are both complicated and emotional. They require a sophisticated and professional perspective to address the medical, halachic and psychological elements of every case. But perhaps what is most noteworthy for the PUAH rabbis is not the details of the question, but rather the unwavering dedication and devotion that Am Yisroel has to the Torah and halacha, even during the darkest of times. Time and time again, the Jewish people are faced with unspeakable challenges, and it’s simply remarkable to see our people bounce back even stronger than before with unparalleled passion and connection to Hashem. Moshiach now!

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