Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Orthodox rabbi permits having children out of wedlock

Some time ago, I read an article which left me perplexed, hurt, and disappointed. It was written in response to a question sent to a famous Israeli "modern" Orthodox rabbi. This week my husband brought it up again, and I felt I can't pass by without saying a word. Once more, I felt cheated - I can find no other word. Why? Read on and see for yourselves. I'll give you an abbreviated translation from Hebrew, and my comments later on.

Question: "I'm a bright, good-looking, educated 36-year-old woman who has been trying to get married for 15 years, with no success so far. At first, I made some mistakes and rejected men, and later on no one wanted me.

I want to have a child! I keep dreaming about it, and I want to have a child! I beg you, tell me how I can find a way
(*underlying concept: without violating the Jewish Law) to have a baby while I'm not married."

In reply, the rabbi gave some tribute to the holiness of the Jewish family, to how everyone should make their best effort to get married, to how children are best suited to growing in a family with both mother and father present, and so on. And later? Later, his "modern" and "enlightened" side got the best of him. I won't quote all of his reply, but the bottom line was, he "couldn't see a direct prohibition from the Torah for a woman to have children out of wedlock". And thus, as we acknowledge a childless woman's grief, and her biological clock is ticking, and she wants a child so badly, there might be an option... what, you might be asking yourself in disbelief, to have a child while she is unmarried? Yes, that's right.

"This permission should be limited to women approximately of age 37 and older, who unwillingly reached such an age while they are still unmarried, because this is an age when a woman's possibility to conceive is close to disappearing. Women who are younger than that should continue doing everything possible to get married and start a family. Of course, even if a woman has a baby while she is unmarried, she should still try to get married and have a family."

In the last part of his reply, he talked mostly about what practical method should be used, as sexual intercourse outside marriage is prohibited, and so the woman would have to resort to artificial insemination or IVF, and whether it's better to have an identified or anonymous "donor"... I'll spare the details, as they are less significant.

Notice I didn't say the rabbi's name, but I'm sure my Israeli readers know who I'm talking about, as he is quite famous, and this specific article was published just about everywhere - to joyous reactions such as "Oh good! Finally, we have a modern, enlightened, understanding rabbi! Finally, someone who isn't stuck in the Middle Ages!"

Last time I wrote about rabbis giving despicable, immoral, life-ruining advice, I received emails and comments from Jewish readers accusing me of making Jews and Judaism look bad. I'm fully prepared for this to happen again - but I can't and won't remain silent, while a man who dares to be a spiritual leader shatters the most precious columns of Jewish family, society, and moral standards. I cannot remain silent, while those who are truly faithful helplessly look at how a so-called "Orthodox" rabbi makes the unthinkable seem acceptable.

Of course, technically artificial insemination isn't sex, so it isn't included in the prohibition of sexual intercourse; however, Torah is crystal clear on what a family is supposed to look like: a husband and wife becoming "one flesh", and children born from their union of married love. Now, we all know life is diverse and there might be many different situations, such as a childless couple or a widow with children. However, this is not the initial choice; not the ideal described in God's word; not what we should aim for, or willingly put ourselves into.

Furthermore, what about the child?! Yes, some parents are divorced; sometimes fathers disappear completely from children's lives; sometimes, tragically, a parent dies - and we all know it has a lingering impact on a child's life. Our generation has been deeply hurt by its fatherlessness. Yes, there were orphans in all ages, and the Almighty provided for them, as He is the One who "puts the solitary in families". But when I think how few children actually have a close, respectful, trusting relationship with their fathers, it sends shivers down my spine. Fathers have been cut off from children's lives. Do we have the right to choose this for a child - not to accept the inevitable, but to actually choose it - to the extent that the child can never know his father's identity?

The "limit" of 37 years or older is beyond ridiculous. Any reasonable person understands it's an arbitrary line. If it's alright to have a child out of wedlock at 37, why not at 36, 35, 34? As it becomes more acceptable, 30-year-old women who yearn for a baby will go ahead and do an artificial insemination, reasoning that "their fertility is declining". The statement about women who "unwillingly reached such an age while they are still unmarried" is even more unbelievable. It's supposed to mean a woman can only resort to artificial insemination once she tried everything reasonably possible in order to get married - but what does it mean, and who can testify to that? The woman in question herself admits that she declined marriage offers. Next thing we know, a 35-year-old "Orthodox" woman will be full of righteousness about her artificial insemination because, "come on, you couldn't have expected me to marry that nerd, could you?"

No, of course not. No one can expect you to work hard to establish a family with a man who might not even be perfect. Feel free to wait for Prince Charming until you are 37, because you know how it goes: once loneliness becomes unbearable, you can always get an artificial insemination, and there's a rabbi who will back you up.

I don't want to sound harsh. I know wonderful, precious people who are older singles. I know excellent, praiseworthy married couples who are longing for a child, but their arms are still empty. Sometimes, God's plan doesn't look exactly like our plan - and wanting something, even wanting something very badly, doesn't justify trying to find a way to break His instruction.

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

I imagine that some of the same sort of rationalization was used at the time of Nehemiah (and other times)to justify the sin of intermarriage. One of the hardest stories of the OT to read is that of the putting away of wives and children. If they had obeyed in the first place it wouldn't have had to happen.

We have a 21 yo daughter that desires to be a wife and mother and is filling her time preparing for that. There would be plenty of prospects were we willing to compromise our beliefs. So far, there isn't any Prince Charming or otherwise on the horizon. We will wait on the Lord.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I actually don't know which rabbi or article you're referring to. (Guess I'm not up to date).
The fact is, it's not prohibited. Indeed, many orthodox rabbis (OK, modern orthodox) will even tell you intercourse before marriage is not prohibited, as long as laws of family purity are followed.

That's not to say it should be encouraged. I'm just saying that according to Jewish law, there's no prohibition for a single woman to be artificially inseminated.

I would not be so harsh on the woman. It is a jungle out there, in the Orthodox dating world. It is so very easy to find yourself alone. An Orthodox woman past the age of 24 has very little chance of finding a mate. They all got married at 20.

Maybe she made a mistake at 19. We all do. But she paid very dearly.

I really see both sides of the issue. Ideally, I think the best solution would be for her to adopt a child over the age of 2, who has little chance of finding a home. That's a win-win situation. She gets to be a mother, and the child will receive infinite love and care.
But I understand the urge to have your own baby.
Tammy

Mrs. Anna T said...

Tammy, I wanted to touch on the angle of adoption as well, but time simply didn't permit. I believe adoption should be made easier for older singles. This way, it isn't bringing another fatherless child into this world - it's providing an orphan with a loving mother. Of course it's better for a baby to be adopted by a couple, but it's still better to be adopted by a single Mom/Dad than to remain without family for years.

Anonymous said...

You have very strong views on things that do not affect you but mean everything to others.

Jacqueline said...

Hi Anna,

I always just assumed that you were bilingual (it certainly makes sense it your situation) but may I ask why you chose to publish your website in English? I feel very fortunate that you've chosen to do so (I'm not Israeli, nor do I know any Hebrew) but I just found it to be an interesting decision. Thanks so much!

Tracy said...

While I'm not Jewish, I certainly applaud you for standing up for what you believe to be right. As a Christian, I'm right there with you. Adoption? I wouldn't want to deny any child a loving home, even if it had only one parent.But to be artificially inseminated, I believe, is another matter altogether.

PS,
I just love seeing your little baby ticker every time I visit!

Naomi Rebecca said...

Anna,

I think a very important aspect of in-vitro fertilization is that multiple eggs are fertilized, but not all implanted into the woman.

Those living, fertilized embryos are then discarded. Life is destroyed.

For me, that, in principle, would violate G-d's law.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

I believe you are incorrect in saying this doesn't affect me. I'm one of those fatherless children who fully experienced all the pain and loss of the situation. And even if I weren't, I'd have to be blind to think that a Jewish community where out-of-wedlock pregnancies are encouraged won't affect ME or my family in any way. We don't live in a bubble, and this is a social/religious issue that concerns us all.

Courtney said...

I agree with you whole heartedly. My view mostly is if you're going to be something, then be it. Not just half of it. If you are going to be a Baptist, then be a baptist, not just someone who says they are, but practices something else on the side. This rabbi chose to be orthodox, so I am of the opinion that he should either be what he says he is, or stop calling himself what he is not.

Anonymous said...

Naomi...in vitro is permitted by most rabbis, including the most orthodox.
There are many stipulations to make it 'kosher', including the interesting fact that the donor should not be Jewish if he is not the woman's husband. However, in principle, Jewish law allows in vitro and it is very commonly practiced even in very Orthodox circles.
(By the way, it is also subsidized in Israel, for at least 2 children and possibly 4).
Tammy

Anonymous said...

Naomi Rebecca, just a quick note. From your profile/blog, I gather that you are a Christian (a “messianic Jew”). While some Christians believe IVF is morally wrong because they regard the pre-implantation embryo as a human life, Jews generally do not. The Talmud teaches that the embryo does not have a soul until it is 40 days old. Thus, both IVF and very early abortion are permissible in Judaism. In fact, Jewish thinking has occasionally found that when IVF is the only way for a Jewish couple to fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, it is almost obligatory on the couple to pursue IVF.

The morally iffy parts of IVF from a Jewish perspective are the method of collection of the sperm (due to the prohibition against spilling one’s seed, but most rabbis rule that the purpose is procreative and thus acceptable) and the identity of the man who produces the sperm (most suggest that donor insemination is iffy because it may constitute adultery if the woman is married, and also that the donor must be Jewish in order to prevent the baby from being a mamzer). But in terms of IVF with a wife’s eggs and a husband’s sperm? Absolutely permissible in true Judaism.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon, just a quick note:

You wrote, "if the woman is married... the donor must be Jewish in order to prevent the baby from being a mamzer"

I think you must have meant that the donor must NOT be Jewish.

A baby born from a married Jewish woman and a Jew who is not her husband, is a mamzer.

Anonymous said...

Anna, same anon. You are, of course, correct. Can't believe I didn't catch that when I proofread my comment. Thanks so much.

Thia said...

You mentioned that last time you put such a post up, you got comments back that you were making Judaism look bad. As if you shouldn't critique the leaders. As if they were unapproachable. I applaud you. You are using your mind and thinking, not just blindly following. I think blindly following or refusing to admit faults in religious leaders is something that gives religions a bad name. Using your mind is not contrary to Christianity or Judaism! Thank you for maintaining this integrity!

Rachele said...

Dear Anna,

I read this and felt intense unity to the struggles occurring in the Jewish faith. I am Catholic and though the Catholic church would never permit IVF or artificial insemination there are many Catholics doing it any way. We believe that in marriage sex is supposed to be unitive and procreative or have the elements of both love and responsibility for one another and children that may come from the union. One can never occur with out the other.

Also, to the reader that suggested that you or anyone else would be unaffected by this. Sin affects all of us, it spreads like disease. So too, do good deeds and love spread.

Peace,
Rachele

Lily said...

What we of all faiths need to remember is that our leaders, despite being ordained, are ultimately human and as such make human errors. Pray for your leaders and teach your children well, and to be respectful of the authority of their rabbis, even if the rabbi is wrong on an issue. One of the hardest things we have to face is the fact that our leaders (even priests and rabbis) can be wrong on some things. This doesn't obligate us to disregard everything he says, or even to discharge him as a leader, it just means that on a certain issue he is wrong. But being wrong about one thing does not make him wrong about everything, it only means that you must be discerning and pray for him.

All that being said, I think he succumbed to his feelings, he felt badly for the woman and wanted to help her feel better. That is an admirable trait, but it is not the way to lead, and it is not a good precedent to set, looking for loopholes. His superiors should make him recant, but if they do not, then all the people can do is pray and teach your children well. It is a great example of how we must all try to do better, and even the greatest among us are not God, therefore they make mistakes...result of original sin.

Tia said...

I was just leaping to comment about adoption as a possibility, when I read the comments and realised that you have covered it.

I do understand that longing for a child, a child of "my own". I'm single, I am a mother through fostering and adoption. It isn't the same as giving birth - how can it be? But it isn't second best either, just different.

In an ideal world, all children would be born as yours will be, to two parents who love the child and are able to care for him or her well. But we don't live in an ideal world. And a single mother is very definitely better for a child than no parents at all. Sadly too, for some very damaged children, a single mother can be a safer option than a married couple.

I'd love to be able to experience pregnancy and birth and become a mother that way, I would really really love to be able to do that. But much as I'd like to be able to convince myself that it would be permissible I can't help feeling it's tweaking the law slightly.

Tia

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Anna T,

I was shocked to learn that intercourse outside of marriage was not wrong in Jewish law...totally taken back... wow..
Being a Christian I believe that purity is so important. And sex was only for marriage. As far as being a mom... Yes single women can be a blessing to children that need a family, here in the United States there is such a need for foster parents, single and married. By choosing an "older" usually referred to as "unadoptable" child, you are truly doing a great work... I have three boys that I have raised as a single lady... the first two were 13 months and 4 years, and my youngest came at 11 months. I just feel that God blessed me beyound measure...

Naomi Rebecca said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, Anon, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to think further on this important matter.

As student Scripturalists [קָרָאִים], we weigh up traditions and commentary against Scriptures from any source--but as you correctly assumed, ultimately Talmudic commentary on Torah is not binding for us. As far as I am aware, the Torah does not specifically say the soul is present at conception or comes into the developing child later; but I will continue to research this.

When I read the Torah, I see Adonai as the author of life. Most people would say, and I would imagine embryologists agree, that the process of development --or life-- begins at fertilization. Personally, I believe, in principle, it is this life at conception that we are to respect.

And I also think an argument could be made for Adonai being the One who opens and closes the womb as well as G-d's natural design of conception being the best. For example, I just happened to see this timely article today, talking about the increased risks of birth defects in IVF babies. http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/11/18/fertility.treatment.defects/

When I did a bit of research into it today, I found out that besides Orthodox Judaism and Islam, early Catholic writings from St. Thomas Aquinas "echoing Aristotle, asserts that the male fetus has form and receives from God a rational soul at forty days, the female fetus at ninety days." So this teaching of souls coming onto the scene much later after conception is not just exclusive to Judaism.

It seems thoughts and writings regarding abortions, whatever the rationale, have been around for milenia. This has definitely been food for thought and I've emailed my Rabbi to ask his thoughts on the matter as well.

Shalom,
Naomi

lorelei4mc said...

I was 36 before I married so I know better than most what it's like to see 40 on the horizon and figure you'll be there on your own. But even so, that doesn't entitle us to use (create?) another human life simply to serve our own desires.

While I understand that unexpected situations do arise that result in solo parenthood, it's rather unconscionable to imagine intentionally setting myself or a baby up for that kind of struggle.

I'm surprised that the rabbi didn't suggest the option of fostering or adopting an older child. I'd think that rescuing an existing [unwanted] child, -- possibly one with problems -- would practically put you in the express lane to Heaven, so to speak.

I have two friends, both never-married *men,* compelled to be dads, who've found intense fulfillment in adopting and fostering. The kids arrived between the ages of 8 and 12. My friends skipped diapers and went straight to rollerblades, and in the process are giving hope and a brighter future to four boys who were otherwise throwaways. I can't think of a better way to do God's work than that.

Amanda said...

This is really interesting Anna. I am learning so much from your blog...

Can I ask a question? Can you, or anyone, explain to me about the embryo not having a soul until the 40th day? Is that the 40th day of development inside the womb? How do they come to that understanding? Is it in the Torah?

Not contending these beliefs, just very curious as I have personal experiences with loss of pregnancy. I would love to know more about what you believe.

Thank you,
Amanda
(Aust.)

Sherry said...

This is very timely. Just last week my 23yo son had lunch with a friend from a conservative Christian university. She is still there working on her Masters in education. She informed him that her plans were to have a child by the time she is 30. If she's not married by then, she will have IVF. She showed no awareness of this being controversial in any way. He thought he knew her, but apparently not. Perhaps her attitude explains why she's been engaged three times. She called the last one off herself, & has kept the rings from each engagement. I think she's running a racket.

Anonymous said...

As a single, 36 year old woman, who is facing similar challenges to the woman in the article you reference, I would like to speak from my perspective. It is a challenge to wait patiently for the Lord and discover his plan for our lives. I have always had a desire to be a wife and a mother, but as of yet that has not been God’s plan for me. I pray constantly for God to bring that special person into my life or give me a peace and contentment with the life the He has given me. While I have met and dated a few men, I do not believe that it was God’s will for me to marry any of them.

I would caution your readers that there are no easy answers to this situation. I have cried many tears over this issue and I continue to pray on a daily basis that God will remove this desire from my heart, but yet it remains. For myself, I do not think having a child out-of-wedlock will be my path, but it does remain an option in my mind and heart.

Ace said...

Hi Anna,

While I am not an Orthodox Jew, I am a believer of the Torah and a servant of The Most High God and I am pretty sure that HE left a prohabition in the Bible that we are not to add to it.

Sounds like this "rabbi" thinks he is here to work GOD'S word into what the people want instead of molding the people to fit GOD's word.

I am very glad you have the courage to speak up on this and respect you even more for it.

Many Blessings :)
Ace

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna

(My husband prefers that I sign in as "anonymous"...I am anonymous cb).) Is there a Jewish prohibition against single women (or men) adopting and raising children? I know there are millions of homeless, abandoned and/or abused children looking for loving homes. I would think that any woman (or man) unable to find a life partner but longing to raise a child would be looking for a child to adopt. I am not of your faith but I don't see why your rabbi didn't advise this woman to adopt one of the lonely, longing children. cb

Tracy's corner said...

You are 100% right!!

Mrs. Anna T said...

So many questions! Well, just allow me to clarify some points:

* Right now, I don't remember the exact source that states a baby gains his or her soul 40 days after conception - if one of my Jewish readers remembers, your help will be appreciated, or I'll just ask my husband later. Anyway, it IS what we believe - and thus it would mean very early abortions aren't considered the same as abortions after 40 days.

HOWEVER!! It doesn't mean early abortions are permitted on a whim or anything like that. Let's just say, you won't see Orthodox Jewish women standing in line for the morning after pill, even if it's not strictly prohibited...

* Sexual intercourse outside marriage IS prohibited. Even touching between unmarried couples is prohibited. Yes, there have been some attempts to say that "it's OK as long as we 'purify' ourselves the way married couples do", but there's also a rabbinical prohibition for single women to 'purify' themselves, so it would naturally prohibit sexual intercourse.

* To those asking why the rabbi didn't think of offering the option of adoption, it baffles me as well. Adoption, like it was said earlier in the thread, would be a win-win situation both for the lonely woman and the lonely child. I don't know of a prohibition of adoption for singles - and even if there could be *some* caution about it, there's no doubt it's infinitely better than conceiving out of wedlock.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Oh, and to Jacqueline who asked why I chose to publish in English: it all started with me writing for LAF, which was naturally in English. Then I just found myself typing out article after article, until I had so many of them I knew they can't all be published... and I decided to start a blog. Also, English allows getting over the language barrier with practically anyone. :o)

ladyakofa said...

You know Anna T,

This is not new and the said Rabbi is probably not the only leader to propose such a thing to an unmarried lady. In my culture an unmarried woman getting into her 40s is pressured to marry or have a child out of wedlock. It's a sad trend but it happens a lot, although don't support this view.

Mrs. Amy @ Clothesline Alley said...

While I feel for women who find themselves in this heartbreaking place in life, I also feel for the children who would be born without opportunity to have a father in their lives. There are many woeful outcomes that are more likely to happen to children in single mother led households and this reality of risk should not be brushed aside just because an adult "wants" something. It's unfortunate the way our culture has left so many women single as their childbearing years wind down, but I do not believe this justifies overlooking the legitimate needs of a precious child due to the desires of an adult.

I also believe single motherhood to be quite unfair to the mother herself, as such a lifestyle places a tremendous workload on a mother, far more than she might realize until she is there. Although I am not a "single mom" in the real sense of the word, having my husband deployed and being the sole caretaker of our daughter while he is away is a LOT more work than I ever thought it would be. This is not to say, of course, that I mind doing the work or do not want to do this, because that's not so, but such a lifestyle is very difficult. And if you reason in I do not even work outside the home, it's unimaginable to me how even more difficult this reality would be for a mother who is the breadwinner as well!

As several other commentators have mentioned, there are *many* children in need of adoption, fostering, or mentoring and this is a far better option than IVF, IMHO, and a route we would take ourselves should we not be able to have any more biological children.

Anonymous said...

In the Talmud somewhere (sorry, not really sure where, but I’m sure you can use Google to find it if you’re interested), it is stated that the fetus takes 40 days to assume its basic form and before that it is “mere water.” The fetus is not really considered to be “alive” until labor begins; it is considered to be a part of the mother’s body, like an arm or a thigh. For instance, if a pregnant woman is scheduled for execution, it is all right to go ahead and execute her instead of waiting for the baby to be born and then executing her. But if her labor has already begun, then the executioner must allow her to give birth before he executes her.

I am pretty sure that the 40 days starts with fertilization and not the last menstruation (could be wrong), so that would be the rough equivalent of 54 days, or 7 weeks 5 days, LMP. In addition to being a guideline used to allow abortions (reluctantly, and usually only in life/health/mental health/rape cases) in some Jewish circles, it also helps to determine when a woman has a miscarriage whether she is considered niddah or yoledet, which affects when she can cohabit with her husband again. As a note about abortion, most Orthodox Jews aren’t pro-abortion in any sense of the word. Abortions for “social reasons,” which make up the majority of abortions in the United States, are definitely wrong. “Social reasons” include economic reasons, not being married, not wanting anyone to know you had premarital sex, having a baby being “inconvenient,” and the like. Abortion for fetal defects is also frowned upon, because these babies are still in the image of the Creator. Most Ortho-acceptable reasons for abortion are along the lines of the mother’s life being in danger, or the mother’s pregnancy putting her at risk for suicide, or something like that. Casual abortions like we see in the U.S. would usually not be acceptable to the Orthodox.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon, I think 40 days from fertilization is the estimate. For Orthodox Jewish women, the whole counting from last menstruation is kind of pointless - it's much easier to calculate from last date of mikveh immersion, which would closely coincide with fertilization for a woman with an average cycle.

Naomi Rebecca said...

Well, we know from science class that the fertilized embryo is far more than "mere water."

Mrs. Anna T said...

Naomi Rebecca, I think the sages who wrote the Talmud based on traditions of the Oral Torah knew that as well. It's merely a form of speech.

Anonymous said...

Anna, it makes sense to count from the date of fertilization (the best way, if you know it, especially if your cycles are irregular) or the date of last mikvah immersion if you don’t. Good to know, but I hope I’ll never have a need for this information.

Also Naomi, yes, we know that the embryo at 7 or 8 weeks gestation is much more than just “mere water,” but I am quite sure that the idea was to convey that the embryo at this point is not completely developed and should not be accorded the same legal status as a later fetus or a born child, not that the embryo at this point is literally only water. It was a figure of speech, an explanation of reasoning, and not a statement of fact.

Think about it this way: The Psalmist tells us that HaShem knits us together in the womb…surely you don’t expect to find Adonai himself in there with a set of needles, working away? The Scriptures here describe a truth (that the Creator is involved in the process of embryonic/fetal development) by using a figure of speech that is not technically the literal truth (that He is knitting). Both Scripture and the Talmud use analogies and roundabout ways of reasoning out and explaining the how and why of things. That does not invalidate the conclusions of either. If you fault the Talmud for the claim that the early embryo is “mere water,” you have to fault the Tanakh as well, I would think…because it is “guilty” of the same thing.

Anonymous said...

What a topic to think about...am sure that it may wake me some odd morning at 2AM. While there is anguish and deep emotional attachments to consider the issue rationally, my personal feeling is that children should be allowed the best chance they can have to grow well.

If a woman is artificially inseminated to raise a child on her own, I think this would not be the best environment for a happy, balanced child. But, if the child is an orphan, then the single parent that can raise that child to be the best it can be provides certainly a better situation than a 'group-rearing' situation.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of questions for you:

1. I remember what you went through to get 'recognized' as Jewish. What about children adopted by Orthodox couples? Are they automatically considered Jewish? What if their genetic backgrounds are unknown?

2. Can you explain the insemination with sperm from a non-Jew thing? That is very confusing..

Rachele said...

To those that were wondering about the child not having a soul until day 40 or 90 after fertilization. Some saints in the Catholic Church have written about this topic based on the scientific beliefs of the day. The Catholic Church's standpoint in light of modern science is that life begins at the moment of conception. It should also be noted that although there was some debate over when life actually began in ages past, abortions were never ever permissible in the Catholic Church.

Analytical Adam said...

All I can say is I really feel that this tactic of legit criticism being anti Judaism are people who support feminist idelogy and I commend you for speaking out against this as I have said even some of myh experiences have gone against feminist propoganda and I have had people both Rabbi's and families be very mean to me and I think it is because they really equate Judasim with feminism. Furthermore, by NOT speaking out againt it people will THEN THINK that relgious Judaism supports raisng children without fathers.

I just purchased this book from the conservative book club written by Kathleen Parker titled Save the Males Why men matter and why women should care. I don't agree 100% with everything but I would say a good 80-90% and it is written very well and it discusses a number of topics and Kathleen is very perceptive on some of these gender issues.

Anyway the United States leads all devloped countries in Fatherless homes. Europe has more out of wedlock births however they are to cohabitating couples. She points out the horrible consequences of fatherless homes including the fact that in the African American world the majority of children are now grow up without a father and in the 1950's 78% grew up with both parents and 80% were born to a married father and mother in the 1890's 40 years after the civil war. Welfare which actually it was an advandage to unmarried to get welfare and no fault divorce are the primary culprits for this fatherless culture and Kathleen talks about all the problems in addition to the fact that the children become the substitute parent that isn't there and this is not healthy and in certain area's men are needed.

There are more likely to get into crime boys are and have discipline problem and use drugs. While girl hit puberty earlier and have problems relating to men and tend to be promiscuuous at younger ages. She also points out among daughters in certain respects a father has more impact then a mother does in temrs of being able to trust others and doing well in school.

Although I do have to honestly say I really don't see in general that religious Judaism recognizes that fathers are just as important as mothers are although sometimes in different ways. The torah itself we should honor and respect both parents equally. How is a child like this going to be able to respect his father.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Oh, and to the few people who commented saying I have no right to even voice my opinion, because I'm happily married and pregnant... I understand the pain of individuals, but one does not to have to go through the pain of childlessness in order to know that an increased number of fatherless children is bad for all - mothers, children, society. If we could only have an opinion about things we personally went through, men would never be entitled to voice their opinion about abortion, for instance.

Bethany Hudson said...

Anna, I'm curious what you would think of in vitro adoption? This is when a woman who wants to have children by in vitro adopts frozen embryos from a couple who has already undergone in vitro but doesn't want the rest of the fertilized eggs. So, this would be like adopting (it's another person's biological child) but the woman would have the benefit of carrying and bearing that baby, so she would know the joy of pregnancy and childbirth. Plus, the frozen embryos would be given the chance to become children, rather than being disposed of or donated to science. Just curious what your take would be on that.
~Bethany

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

Non-Jewish chilren adopted by Jews will need a conversion.

If a married Jewish woman has a child of a Jewish man who is not her husband, and it is known for a fact the child born to her is not from her husband, that child would be a "mamzer" - something that implies grave social consequences, for example that child could marry no one else but another "mamzer", and it would be so for their children as well. But if the "donor" isn't Jewish, the child would not be a "mamzer".

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bethany,

"Adoption" of IVF embryos would pose some dilemmas for Jewish couples. For example, if the donors are also Jewish, it cannot happen anonymously - the child must know the identity of his/her biological parents, to prevent marriages between siblings.

Other questions that arise are, would such a child need conversion, if the donors aren't Jewish? Furthermore, *would it* in fact be considered much different from artificial insemination? Because from the Jewish point of view, an IVF embryo doesn't have the same status as a full-fledged baby.

Anyway, it's an interesting question, and a complicated one. I don't really feel qualified to answer it...

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

I don't know WHAT to say in response to this. I'd always looked at Orthodox Judaism as one of those eternal stalwarts; I'd always viewed it in a similar way to fundamentalist Christianity. The rest of the world may define deviancy down; the rest of the world may relax its standards; but, there were certain things that, come hell or high water, would not change, and Orthodox Judaism was one of those things. This is a SAD day for all of us!

I'd say more, but then it might not be becoming of a gentleman. While some of your readers might be inclined to disagree with that assertion, I won't offend their sensibilities. Ergo, I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. I hope that rabbi SQUIRMS when he has to face God, The Father the Almighty for this; I hope he gets punished too. Shame on him!

MarkyMark

Anonymous said...

It seems that anyone making a decision to have a child needs to consider whether he or she can meet that child's needs. This goes for married couples as well as single people.

A child's basic needs are: food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, stability, discipline, love, respect, and a sense of being valued. It just so happens that it is probably easier to provide these things as a couple. That is why the statistics favor two-parent families.

But I don't think that being single precludes one's ability to meet the child's needs. It has to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Many married couples are LESS able than many single people to meet these needs. Sometimes one parent or the other is a jerk who leaves the child with lasting emotional scars. (My husband and I both would have loved to have been fatherless, and I don't think we are unusual in having a parent who did more harm than good.) Sometimes a married couple's circumstances make their lives so stressful that it is impossible to provide the stability a child needs. In contrast, many single parents have circumstances in which they can meet a child's needs.

-- Pendragon

Anonymous said...

I would also posit that nuclear families are probably not the ideal for raising children anyway. The ideal really is the tribal extended family with lots of aunties and uncles and cousins always around in the same household. So the fact that one family arrangement is not the "perfect" ideal way shouldn't be a bar to having children. Very few children are raised on "ideal" circumstances. That's why I think the question should focus on basic needs (which I outlined in the last comment -- food, clothes, shelter, medical care, education, stability, discipline, love, respect, and a sense of being valued). If you can provide those - go for it.

--Pendragon

Anonymous said...

just a little curious why Judaism teaches life begins after 40 days. what is it about the 40th day as opposed to the 39th that makes the baby alive. King David said in Psalms 139:15:
My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
God knew us when we were conceived, we were alive when we were "made in secret" abortion at anytime in a pregnancy is killing a live person that God knows.

Analytical Adam said...

I read some of the comments and it really bothers me and angers me that Rabbi's would actually perfer a NON-JEWISH DONOR. As I have said the Rabbi's going forward (not retroactive) shold close this loophole and having Jewish children only being Jewish if BOTH parents are Jewish because otherwise in the real world women do take advandage of this just as these so called "Rabbi's" are here.(I have seen it myself. It has led to horrible abuses of Jewish men) and look how the Rabbi's themselves really don't care if the father is Jewish even though Deteuronomy (7:1-3) warns to not intermarry with certain nations both your SONS AND DAUGHTERS. SO the Rabbi's only care about intermarriage when it hurts a woman but not when it hurts a man. It is not right and it was the Rabbi's when Jews went into exile extending intermarriage to all nonjews because of concern about being led to idolotry and losing our identity but sadly back then they did this they only made the law regarding men but not women but that should be changed going forward instead of using this BAD RABBINC LAW. It really does lead to viewing fathers as unneccesay (so why should a women even look for a decent man if a father doesn't matter) among other abuses it has led to in the real world and I have seen some of it being in the trenches.

Also reading some of the comments I see some women are fully in Orthodox circles and yet are completely brainwashed by feminism. A girl over 24 it is going to be impossible to be married. That is absolutely false. I see no concern for Jewish men what-so-ever and showing any compassion to them.

Mrs. Anna, it was interesting you brough up abortion because this book I just finished reading save the males by Kathleen Parker she mentions that people don't even care how abortion effects men especially if they were the father of the fetus being aborted. It really is a good book although I don't think feminism was hijacked but other then that it is very insightful.

Another very disturbing part of Orthodox life RELATED TO THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE because too many women are wating too long to get married in the first place and spend their 20's focusing on career is many women don't know the reality of fertility and age. Women are more fertile in their 20's then 30's and G-d meant it that women need a man in some area's to be able to have children at a young age. I also have the book the Politically Incorrect Guide to Women Sex and Feminism and in it it talks about how feminist forced down signs to tell women about age and fertility. Why were these signs put up in the first place. Many doctor's were upset about having to tell countless older women that their chances of having a child was very small and science can't do much for age. Yet these women were never told and were upset on hearing on this. Many so called "Orthodox" women are clueless about fertility and age and the Rabbi's like the women being single and going to them for questions and they don't tell them the reality of this. The Rebetzin's in some cases aren't involved at all sad to say and as I have read some Rebetzin's that have children don't want other women to get married too fast so they likely don't have a great marriage if they feel that way.

I have been told I can't talk about this because I am not married. So what! The reason I am not married is because of the fact that some women don't want to get married and financially some women have felt I don't make enough money and also I have had some serious issues with Rabbi's and some aspects of Orthodox Judaism that from my own experiences that show that Orthodoxy the way it is today has some real problems that hurt people.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Mark,

I feel very similarly to you. I feel as though we have gone bankrupt - because I used to have a whole lot of respect for this particular rabbi.

Thankfully, his verdict is very contradictory and isn't accepted by most rabbis.

Anon,

I'm afraid you misunderstood. Judaism doesn't teach LIFE begins at 40 days. LIFE begins at conception, and this is something our sages have always known. What happens at 40 days after conception is that a baby acquires his or her soul.

Krysia said...

From a secular ethic POV, I think it would be permissible for a single woman to have a child if she had an adequate support system to help her. But I accept that the religious perspective is different and I'm quite surprised at what this rabbi said.

And a quick correction: Rachele, the Catholic Church actually takes an approach quite similar to the Jewish one presented in comments here, barring the 40 day thing. Abortion (de facto, if not in name) is permissible in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, on the priciple of double effect. See here or here.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that you aren't really posting the thoughts of someone that does not agree with your stand such as myself.

I truly feel that as a young, married woman who is pregnant and clearly has not a) suffered having to find the right man and b) not struggled to conceive you are talking about things that you don't really know anything about.

While I do respect your opinion, and gladly agree that you have the right to it, I have to gently disagree that a single woman having a child is a bad thing. Certainly we cannot know Gods plans for us but the heartbreak of never having a child of your own is something that I don't believe God would have us endure. Otherwise, why have the knowledge to create such wonderful things like IVF?

Someone having a child via IVF is not breaking any covenants, marring her chastity or modesty etc. She simply wants a child to love... and there is nothing wrong with that in my eyes.

Anyway, those are my thoughts... but you probably won't post them. *sigh*

Kristy Howard said...

This is a complicated issue and I don't want to make it more complicated by probing further, but how is LIFE different from having a SOUL?? As Christians, we believe that Life begins at conception and that from that time forward a child/embryo's soul will live eternally. I don't see how one can possibly seperate life from soul... the soul is what makes a person truly alive and in the image of God. An abortion at 20 days following conception is no different from an abortion at 40 days following conception... in either instance, a living soul will go on living though the tiny child has been killed. ~Kristy

Mrs. Anna T said...

Kristy,

As you said, it's a very complicated question, and a great mystery. What is it that happens on 40-th day? I don't *really* know, but this is a secret our sages carried from the beginning of times.

How can life exist without a soul? We believe, for instance, that in our sleep our souls leave our bodies, and return when we wake. Thus, physical and spiritual existences are apart for a few hours.

For all practical purposes, however, this doesn't make much difference if we talk about the issue of abortions. Life is sacred - I daresay most rabbis will not permit abortion even before 40 days, unless mother's life/health is in serious risk. But if the mother's life is risked by pregnancy (may none of us ever face such a heart-wrenching situation), abortion will be permitted after 40 days as well.

Anonymous said...

Ok I have a small problem, being the single mother of two children and Jewish...The first child was born as a result of a rape, and the second father was engaged to me but left after finding out I was pregnant....How do you view that?

Mrs. Anna T said...

To the last anon,

The situation you describe is completely different from what I discussed here. There are different situations in life. My father, too, left when he found out that my mother was pregnant. If that happens, all support must be extended to the mother and child. What I'm speaking against is supporting pregnancy out of wedlock, when there is *initially* no father in the picture. Being fatherless happens, unfortunately, to children - but it's not something we should support as a conscious choice done on purpose.

Anonymous said...

hi ana i read your column trying to find an answer for my self in my own situation. and i think the woman you are refering should have some simpathy from your perspective as a woman and as a mother. any way my situation is this i am catholic with a jewish orthodox boyfriend who used to call me his wife (we used to live together), however i got pregnant with his baby and he does not want to be a part of eather my life or the babys' he already said he doesn't want to be there for us. but mean wile he calls him self orthodox? come on that is the biges lie i have ever heard in my life and while i do respect what you are saying about marriage and children i think that you should think more deeply and widely about the matter of the woman and the enlightened rabbi you were talking about in your article my boyfrend wanted me to have an abortion i was totally agaist it because i'm catholic. i guess we both made bad choices with each other, but i'll bet you that no woman jewish, catholic, cristhian or what ever religion they are ever grow up thinking or wanting to be a single mom.

Kat said...

I will say that, when I was younger, I did plan to adopt a little girl if marriage did not materialize. I think adoption is by far a better option for a woman to make than to bear a biological child with no known father.