The Er and Onan Society

Here is a comment that appeared on the orthonomics. blog (note that the is not the view the blogger herself was promoting):
"my concern is that rather than encouraging couples to ask for a heter to use birth control, Rabbonim should be making that initial delay the DEFAULT, with couples needing a heter in order to have kids right away."
This view is perverse from a halachic point of view, a feminist point of view, and even a sociological point of view. Get back to basics people, starting with Bereishis, stopping at Shmos with the midrashim on bizchus nashim tzidkaniyus nigalu avoseinu. I am not entering into the question of when and how contraception would be permissible here. That is a halachic discussion that requires first an understanding of the requirements on both a minimal and optimal level. What is beyond astounding, though, is that people completely pervert what psak is about when they make declarations such as the one above.

As for the title, I am not referring to method but to the philosophy of the person named Onan, as well as his brother Er, which seems to be right in line with what the commentator proposes. It may make sense, but it was not what Hashem wanted, as He made abundantly clear. We are not likely to see people struck down in this generation which is far removed from such direct intervention. But that does not mean the lesson of the story no longer applies.


Anonymous said…
What is of concern is that this is an idea that seems to be pushed forth more and more of late. Why is that? Is it the economy, the shortened courtship/dating time that is in vogue, that people are getting married younger? I feel like I am hearing this more and more. It is at the heart of a Jewish marriage to have and want kids; where is this coming from? I am also concerned that the more such ideas are put forth and discussed the more accepted they will become.
Orthonomics said…
This is MOST CERTAINLY not the opinion of the blogger! The blogger (that's me) finds this philosophy extremely troubling.

I haven't responded yet to that comment because I am considering making it a post of its own. This is a position I've heard expressed outside of cyberspace too and I think it is a dangerous one because the philosphy (not the method as you state) is one that places the building block of society, family, into the realm of the private. Clearly the Torah, right from the outset, does not view family matters as personal matters but as societal issues. And sexuality, children, marriage, etc are certainly issues of societal concern as many societies have discovered/are discovering. That doesn't mean we should intrude into the lives of our neighbors, of course, but if these views are growing in popularity (and I've heard such views expressed outside of cyberspace), I think we have some cracks in our foundation that we need to start sealing.
Chaim B. said…
As I commented earlier there on the same post, would anyone say "Doctors should start doing X as the default treatment" or "Lawyers should use argument Y as their default"? No, because seichel dictates that a doctor or lawyer is a professional and one does not dictate default treatment or practice to professionals based on the knowledge gleaned from one web article. Even if the suggested "default" made good economic sense, we would still need to consider whether it made good medical sense.
The difference is that a Rabbi is not accorded the same professional respect as a doctor or lawyer, his advice and psak is considered flexible to whatever suits his or your pleasure, and the whole thing is just a game or ritual to be played out but not really taken seriously.
miriamp said…
That comment bothered me too!

I think the commenter is being a bit presumptuous to decide straight out that every couple needs what she did. Every case is different and needs to be judged on a case by case basis -- and since the purpose of marriage is to have children, I don't see any problem with having the default be that you get married and start trying to conceive right away.

Couples should know that there are definitely situations that warrant contraception so that they will know if and when to ask, but that's as far as it needs to go.

Even if you buy the "every couple needs time to get to know each other without the distraction of a baby" idea, well, pregnancy is 9 months, and not everyone gets pregnant right away anyhow -- use that time to get to know each other.
Orthonomics said…
The default position of marriage has always joined marriage and begetting children.

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