Mazornet, Inc. is proud to
present its newest guide to Judaism.
"Infertility - A Jewish Perspective"
Rivka C. Berman
Yael Rosenberg, Editor
An attempt is made to present the perspective of the major streams of Judaism in an
effort to deem this guide practical and its resources helpful to all Jews.
One of the first steps of fertility therapy is determining its
cause, and one of the simplest, least invasive, first tests is semen
analysis. Since biblical times, Judaism has regarded the wasting of
sperm, hashchatat zerah, as a serious offense. Onan,
Judah’s son was punished with an early death because of his
preference for coitus interruptus. Commentators differ on why he
spilled his sperm.
Masturbation and coitus interruptus are generally considered seed
wasting and are prohibited under Orthodox and Conservative Jewish
Law. This seems to preclude sperm testing which is the first step of
infertility treatment. Yet, because ejaculation for sperm testing or
for purposes of artificial insemination by the husband, are a means
for procreation, modern day halachists have devised
permissible ways for sperm collection.
Some more liberal Orthodox and Conservative Halachists allow
for masturbation if the doctor deems it to be the best way to get
the most accurate results. They base it on Halachic
precedents allowing one to follow a doctor’s advice even if it
contradicts Torah values. Some notable examples include: Consumption
of non-kosher drugs, and food intake on Yom Kippur if medically
advised However, most traditional Orthodox Rabbis, including the
well regarded Orthodox authority – Rabbi Waldenberg strictly limit
ejaculation, requiring the woman to undergo a full battery of
testing before any of the semen collection strategies could be used.
Once semen testing is deemed necessary, Orthodox Rabbis set rules on
which mode of sperm collection is preferable. The ideal method would
be to collect semen from the woman’s vagina after intercourse, as
the sperm is then emitted during natural intercourse. Coitus
Interruptus would be next in line, followed by ejaculation into a
condom during intercourse. If none of the above is possible then
masturbation can be used but mechanical is preferable to manual.
The more liberal Jewish movements such as the Reconstructionist and
Reform Judaism take a more lenient approach to masturbation. The
Reconstructionist movement purports that masturbation is harmless,
natural and healthy while the Reform faction asserts that though
masturbation should be discouraged it is not sinful or harmful.
Conservative and Reform Rabbis differ in opinion from the
Orthodox point of view. Read more about the different
therapies and the Jewish Perspective of the major streams of