Women in Judaism

Study Sheet #10

Mitzvah #1 -- Pru U'rvu (procreation)


Network Comments

* Lauren Shaps (Ottawa, Ontario) asks: "Is it possible that we see from the fact that Moshe separated from his wife after having 2 sons that the vumn of pru u'rvu is simply 2 children of either sex, boys or girls? This would be more in line with the ruen of whatrc as well. 'v made 2 people and to fulfil the vumn of ucru urp one should have 2 children."

RBH - Applying Lauren's comment, in that the gemara does see Moshe as having 2 boys rather than 2 children, does this imply that our sexual definition - boy or girl - is actually stronger than our generic definition - child? Are we human beings that happen to be male or female or is the definition of male or female much more integral to our self definition?

* Renee Shore (Toronto, Ontario) comments: "Whether or not a child is considered a part of the Jewish people is contingent on who the mother is yet it is not the woman who is commanded to procreate and it is not the woman who makes herself distinctly Jewish through mila."

* Sheila Tanenbaum (New Rochelle, New York) expresses concern over the possibility of genetic manipulation in order to fulfil this mitzvah. If it was possible, would people perform some DNA manipulation to affect a change of sex thereby fulfilling this mitzvah? Dr. Tanenbaum would voice a strong negative response to such manipulation and basing herself on a lecture she heard from Rabbi Moshe Tendler on the subject of genetic manipulation, also feels that Rabbi Tendler would share such a position.

RBH - The question of genetic manipulation to fulfil a mitzvah is a most interesting one, raising many moral issues. While Dr. Tanenbaum phrased her question with the word "would" reflecting a strong ethical stand against such action, there, no doubt, will be those who would phrase this question with the word "should", raising perhaps even more moral issues. It is interesting to note that Rabbi Moshe Tendler in RCA Record 37:3 reports the following on the subject of Oocyte Donation - Ethical Analysis: A Halakhic Perspective: "Infertility is viewed as illness (Genesis 30:1), imposing an obligation to those who can to alleviate or cure this abnormal state. These curative efforts may be novel or "unnatural". The Biblical commandment "be fruitful and multiply and master my world" (Genesis 1:28) permits or even obligates 'unnatural' technology." The distinction in the subject of this statement is, of course, recognized. On the substantive matter of Rabbi Tendler's statement, we may wonder if and/or how the distinction in obligation between men and women may affect the permission or obligation of 'unnatural' technology. For further investigation of the issue of medical treatment for the purpose of mitzvah observance, see Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:90 on the subject of using intravenous feeding to allow a person to fast on Yom Kippur - Rav Moshe stating that this action was not only not necessary but that it was assur to do so.

We may also wonder if such gene manipulation would, in any event, halachically affect the gender definition. The halachic definition of male or female may be determined at the point of conception and any DNA manipulation subsequent to that point may not change that definition, having the same halachic effect as sex change operations. The point of birth, though, may be the crucial time indicator. The interesting aggadata of Dina's change of sex in the womb of her mother Leah, may now have some halachic application. See T.B. Berachot 60a. See, though, on the question of the use of aggadata in halachic matters, Chiddushei HaRashba al HaShas, Megilla 15a.

* Sheila Tanenbaum (New Rochelle, New York) also writes: "I understand logically what you are doing in terms of starting at the beginning and following step-by-step but emotionally I am having a great deal of trouble with the anti-feminist bias which can be read into this.

For instance, the discussion of kivshu'ha leaves out possibilities such as the Bobbitts."

* Nitzana Yovelle (Toronto, Ontario) expresses a specific concern that the laws of pru u'rvu may be "unfair to unfertile women" as they may result in a bias negative treatment of such women.

* Rabbi Michael and Chashi Skobac (Toronto, Ontario) direct us to Divrei Dovid (The Taz on Chumash), Bereishit 1:28. The Taz is bothered by the application of the word kivshu'ha to women, specifically, in reference to the yotzanit, that the man is to "conquer" the woman and not let her be a gadabout. How does this understanding connect to the verse which is clearly referring to the conquest of the land? He explains that obviously the object of the verse is the land; the passuk is stating that human beings are to populate this world. The missing vav in kivshu'ha, however, is to indicate that this expanded settlement and conquering of the land will be different for men and women, that the latter's settlement of the land will also be in a subdued manner i.e refrained from the public population of the world like a man. The Taz also is bothered by the other explanation of the "conquest" of woman, that a man can force relations. The Taz simply cannot accept a drasha based on a prohibitive act. He therefore explains that the reference here is to the fact that a man will vocally push for sexuality until the woman agrees while a woman, because of the concept that she will not frankly request relations, will not do this (see Faxsheet #8, "V'hu Yimshal Bach").

Next step


Opening source: Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 21:26

Additional study targets


Opening source: Chachmat Shlomo, Even HaEzer 1:1

Ta'amei Ha'Mitzvot: The Philosophical Reasons for this Distinction

Opening source: Meshech Hachmah, Parshat Noach

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