Hannah Dreyfus’ report on my recent lecture at Stern College for Women
(“Birth Control, Jewish Law Collide At Stern,” Feb. 18) misrepresented
the thrust of my arguments, conflating a strictly halachic question about the
permissibility of birth control by married couples into unrelated ideological
debates surrounding feminism and sexual empowerment.
In my talk, I argued that halacha permits couples that feel unprepared to assume the responsibilities of parenthood — for psychological, financial, or other reasons —to temporarily delay the mitzvah of procreation. Contrary to common practice in the Orthodox community, couples do not require a heter, or dispensation, from a rabbi to use birth control.
This position, which I advanced solely through the use of halachic sources over the course of 70 minutes, relates first and foremost to the health and stability of the family unit, and therefore affects both men and women as couples. Contemporary discussions about the broader role of women in society have no bearing on this issue one way or the other.
And contrary to the article’s headline, birth control and Jewish law did not collide at Stern College that day. On the contrary, my purpose was to demonstrate precisely the opposite.
LP Instructor of Talmud Stern College for Women and GPATS (Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies)