Jewish Regard for Infertility Therapies
The “God will provide” attitude is not a Jewish approach to
medicine and healing. The rabbis of the Talmud advocated for
medical intervention. Their support is based on certain passages in
the Torah that describe the aftermath of an injury. If one person
hurts another, with fists or stones in Bible speak, then
compensation for lost work must be paid and “he shall cause him
to be thoroughly healed.” (Exodus 21:19)
Rabbis in the Talmud Bava Kama 85a expound on this passage
in the Torah and conclude that this is the basis for permitting
doctors to heal. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki ), the
preeminent medieval commentator, explains that doctors need this
text-based permission otherwise it may seem as though the doctors
practicing medicine, are trying to circumvent divine decrees.
Interestingly, the Rambam (Maimonides), who was a physician
himself, finds a different source for permitting medical procedures.
He defines sickness as lost health and links a doctor’s obligation
to heal to the command to return something of value to its owner
Given the Jewish regard for children, infertility has been
historically considered a disease worthy of a cure.
Great Rabbinic discussion and extensive research involving Talmudic
Scholars in conjunction with Jewish scientists and medical experts
have ensued and continue in the quest to ascertain the halachic
permissibility of new reproductive technologies. Currently there
is no uniform rabbinic agreement as to what is and is not permitted.
Much depends on the rabbi, the couple, and the therapy.
When the sperm and ovum are from the parents there is widespread
support for the fertility procedures, even among the most legalistic
rabbis. While some Orthodox authorities worry about the potential
wasting of sperm, a prohibition in the Torah, many prescribe
techniques for getting around this obstacle. Reform rabbis see the
sperm as being used for the expressed purpose of the mitzvah of
procreation and therefore not wasted.
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