“Is Birth Control Kosher for Orthodox Jews?” Ep.2, Season 2

Why do Orthodox Jews have so many kids? Is birth control ever allowed? Watch this video to find out.

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  • Avatar photo KE says on October 4, 2010

    Thank you for addressing this Allison! I get so many questions from my (non-Jewish) friends about this when they find out I’m an Orthodox Jew. The average in our circles is about 3 or 4 so people wonder how they can be so well spaced, planned, and few when other families have so many. We’re not the Duggars! Jews believe children are blessings from Gd but that doesn’t mean we’re forced to go bankrupt (emotionally, financially, and spiritually) to fulfill the mitzvah!

  • Avatar photo Karen says on October 5, 2010

    Super cute (is that your daughters’ media debut?) 🙂 As a proud midwest Jew and a mall-lover, that mall looked a bit east coast to me! 🙂 As always, thanks for you good work and information!

    • Avatar photo Allison says on October 5, 2010

      You’re welcome, KE.

      Karen, it is their media debut, though I’ve only allowed for them to dip a toe in the water due to their young age. There are both however in training to be JITC 2 and JITC 3 when they reach adulthood!

      Regarding the mall – the inspiration for St. Louis was a friend who just moved out there, but you’re right, alas, I’m still filming on the East Coast even if I pretend to be somewhere else!

  • Avatar photo Only child says on October 6, 2010

    While I applaud your efforts to explain our ways, as an only child from an orthodox family, I was offended with the assertion that you need 2 children to fulfill pru u’revu. My parents have been asked so many times why they ONLY have one child and they respond with, “we got the best right way.” They figure if people as so tactless, they can give it right back.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on October 6, 2010

      Only Child, I’m sure it was difficult having people be so tactless with your situation, and I imagine that you would have loved growing up with siblings – especially in a community where nearly everyone has them. People unfortunately say dumb things without realizing the pain their words cause.

      I’m sorry that you took offense by my “assertion” that one fulfills the Torah’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply by having two children (one boy and one girl), but it wasn’t a baseless assertion. It’s the *law* that’s brought down in the Talmud regarding this mitzvah.

      If a couple tries to have kids and have either none, one, or multiples of one gender (until they feel they need to stop having kids), none of them have fulfilled the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying.

      No one should judge them for not having fulfilled this mitzvah since they did their best to. We’re not all capable of fulfilling every mitzvah we set out to do. However, that doesn’t change the law.

      • Avatar photo Beth Jacobs says on November 17, 2017

        Just pointing out that if your child has a child of the opposite gender (i.e. your son has a girl) you fulfill the mitzvah.

    • Avatar photo StephensWoman says on September 21, 2014

      Hello OnlyChild!

      I was wondering if you felt that it was proper of your parents to be tactless back to the other members of your community that were shaming them for only having one child?


  • Avatar photo Elle says on October 9, 2010

    a great video as always!

    …but as to the other commenter mentioning the Duggars: I don’t really understand what is wrong with the Duggars. They don’t seem financially, emotionally nor spiritually broke to me… If that is how many children have come to them and they are happy with it why should anyone have anything bad to say about it? I’m happy for them! I’m sure having that many children is challenging, but i bet it comes with many blessings that the rest of us will never see in our lives.

    anyhow that was a bit of a tangent and kinda off subject… heh But yeah, great video! 🙂

  • Avatar photo Amanda says on October 13, 2010

    Thanks- great video! I just had a guest over who questioned the ultra orthodox birthing machine- will pass on :).

  • Avatar photo Malky says on October 14, 2010

    awww! the end of this video got me so emotional!

  • Avatar photo Batya says on October 17, 2010

    Fantastic post!!

    • Avatar photo Allison says on October 19, 2010


  • Avatar photo Mommyof 5 says on October 25, 2010

    As a Noahide family of 7 I appreciated this video as it is always hard to explain to others why we have 5 children(sometimes I have to explain it to myself as well, lol). This had such a positive message to it, I had to pass it on. Thanks again!

  • Avatar photo Yardena says on October 26, 2010

    I appreciate your educated, straightforward, and positive answer. I especiallly like the part with the potato chip bag because it was a brilliant symbol of how much effort we invest — and how much inconvenience we put up with — when going after materialistic goals, such as food cravings, money, appearance, etc. Yet we balk when it comes to children. (And yes, I’ve been on birth control, too. Avoiding a breakdown is good parenting!)

    One very important point, which I can see you know, but forgot to include: The benefit we get from each child is in the way we need stretch ourselves in order to deal with each particular child’s difficult aspects. Children don’t always hug us and say they love us. Sometimes they reject us. (Or we interpret their behavior as rejection, due to our own failings — which maybe we didn’t even know were there! And now that we do know, let’s get to work…) Or sometimes the hug and adoring look is accompanied by, “Mommy, when I’m this close to you, I can see that it’s time to bleach your mustache again.” (This happened to a friend of mine recently.)

    I have two children with personalities I couldn’t relate to at first, but after lots of work, I really relate to them well, and that spread to relating to other people with similiar personalities to those two children — personalities I initially found difficult to like. Basically, my children have expanded my heart, and I am able to like people that I wasn’t able to like before. Many other mothers have told me the same.

    In the effort to be a good parent, you are forced you to do a lot of inner work you wouldn’t otherwise do. I think that child-rearing can make you a stronger, more compassionate, more open-minded person, if you let it. And I think that’s the real reward.

    Thanks for your blog; I think it does a real service.

  • Avatar photo American Sabrah says on March 6, 2011

    Are financial reasons legitimate enough to use birth control? I have been married for almost a year and but I still feel I need more time to adjust to married life before starting a family. Plus I don’t have the expenses to support a child at the moment. What do you think?

  • Avatar photo American Sabrah says on March 6, 2011

    Are financial reasons legitimate enough to use birth control? I have been married for almost a year and but I still feel I need more time to adjust to married life before starting a family.I would also like to focus on my career more. Plus I don’t have the expenses to support a child at the moment. What do you think?

  • Avatar photo Davis says on March 19, 2012

    So, what happens if a Jewish woman can’t have children? A painful reality for many women…and men. I watched this video with my daughter who had to have a hysterectomy this year in her 20s.
    We love your blog.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on March 21, 2012

      Hi Davis. I’m so sorry your daughter had to have a hysterectomy and is unable to have children. IVF is allowed within certain parameters of Jewish law (I’m not sure if she was able to save any eggs). But if the couple can’t have any children due to physical inabilities, they’re not obligated in the commandment.

  • Avatar photo frank says on July 23, 2012

    I think the ultimate question is who is the ultimate decision maker in taking the birth control, the couple, or the couple’s rabbi.

    I will argue that the decision should be made my the couple, not as sheep seeking a pope like authoritative figure in deciding the best outcome for the future of the family. in fact, this mentality takes away from the couples individuality and can create problems beyound the scope of this message.

    the couple should seek to learn the different torah aspects as well medical/phsycological/financial aspects of having a child and at what time, especially with different sources and rabbis, and finally make the decision.

    • Avatar photo Allison says on July 23, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Frank. The truth is that in all matters of Jewish law, the ideal thing is to look at the source decide what to do yourself, based on them. HOWEVER. And this is a big HOWEVER. You have to be qualified to do that. Being a qualified posek takes years and years of learning and since most people do not have the qualifications to rule on Jewish law themselves, they appoint a rabbi that they trust and who they see eye to eye with to do it for them. I think Jewish law should take a couple’s needs into consideration and not land people with more children than they can handle. I’ve always gone to rabbis in discussing these matters and have found that the rabbis I’ve gone to have been sensitive to my (and my husband’s) emotional state. I’m sure there are rabbis who are less likely to give a couple more time if they feel like they need a longer break or need to stop having children, but there are also rabbis who weigh things out differently and people have the option to find a rabbi who sees the world as they do.

  • Avatar photo Julie says on March 16, 2013

    I’m sorry, but I believe that I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with this attitude that just because you can, you should. In this day and age of overpopulation and all the serious issues it is responsible for, I don’t think that the argument that one has the patience, the resources, or the desire for an endless stream of children continues to be valid. I realize that it’s easy to point fingers to the third world, to similar approaches in other, substantially larger religious groups and to the welfare moms who have kid after kid for reasons that escape me, as the serious game changers, but to hide behind the idea that the Jews play such an insubstantial role in a serious world problem is simply a case of passing the buck. In this day and age, everybody must look beyond their own desires to the effects that their choices and lifestyles have on the world as a whole.

  • Avatar photo Christine says on March 22, 2013

    What are the allowances for adoption? Does Jewish law say much about it? Thanks!!

    • Avatar photo Beth Jacobs says on March 4, 2018

      Plenty of Orthodox families have adopted kids (I actually know one personally!). Jewish law doesn’t consider adopted children to be the same as biological children (i.e. if the child’s biological mom wasn’t Jewish, conversion would be necessary – the child doesn’t become Jewish through adoption), but the entire concept of parenthood in Judaism is different – someone who teaches a person Torah or raises orphaned children is considered “as if they gave birth to them” (כאלו ילדו). A Jewish person should consult a Rabbi before adopting to work out all the details .

  • Avatar photo Ayala says on October 25, 2013

    Julie, you’re right. Overpopulation is a problem if you are raising children to be takers. But if you’re bringing children into this world so they can be givers, well, there is still plenty of giving and good for them to do. I wouldn’t worry about a surplus of munificence, benevolence, and altruism.

  • Avatar photo Debi Franklin says on November 3, 2014

    What I'd like to know is why you turn over so personal a decision (i.e., whether or not to use contraception) to the rabbi? He (or she) tells you whether or not you've fulfilled an obligation? He or she tells you whether or not you're stressed enough or have a long enough recovery time between pregnancies? This is a decision that you, as the barer and primary caregiver of the children, should make in discussion with your husband. There are things that a rabbi should not interfere in. This is one of them.

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on November 5, 2014

      Thanks for your comment, Debi. I *completely* get where you’re coming from. But there’s something important to keep in mind – it is MY decision which rabbi to go to. I have heard of very unreasonable rabbis who think you should keep having babies no matter what. The rabbis that I go to are very understanding of stress and things that make having more kids challenging.
      So because the choice of rabbis is up to the individual, there is a lot of autonomy left.

  • Avatar photo Sonia says on December 9, 2014

    So then, what I hear you saying is that if you feed this ‘chosen rabbi’ with the right shpiel he will as likely as not give you permission for something you have already decided to do anyway – only a longwinded way. A couple are the best people to make their own private decisions, only requiring a modicum of commonsense and Jewish protocol. A rabbi is neither a doctor or social worker, in most cases. Will this same rabbi be there to pick up the pieces should things go awry, either medically, emotionally or financially, because they trusted the rabbi’s spiritual-only expertise?

    • Avatar photo Allison Josephs says on December 9, 2014

      Thanks for your comment, Sonia. The rabbis that I go to are trained in a variety of areas including training from social workers. The main thing is to find a rabbi who understands you and the various issues that come into play with family planning. Not all rabbis are created equal, but when I go to someone who is knowledgeable in Jewish law AND is understanding of my (and my husband’s) emotional needs, then I can fulfill my obligation vis a vis Jewish law and not feel like I’m being asked to do something that is beyond what I can handle.

      Just for the record – no one here is telling you what to do. You should live your life as you see fit. But I don’t think you should begrudge other people for living their lives how they see fit.

  • Avatar photo Geoffrey R. says on December 27, 2016

    Thanks for this video. When visiting Israel recently, I became curious about Orthodox views on birth control. As a practicing Catholic, I am opposed to birth control (yes, I really am — don’t be fooled by the polls), but I have no wish to criticize your position. Allow me just to offer some additional thoughts.
    (1) My wife was one of nine kids, and when she was in Hospice her brothers and sisters all came to visit, providing tons of emotional and logistical support. When you’re going through something like that, having the big family really helps. (2) Many people have suggested that birth control says to your spouse, in effect, “I love you, but only to a certain point.” There may be some truth to this. It seems, though, that trying sincerely to follow the Law and working with your rabbi would minimize the bad psychological effects (if any) of birth control. (3) Pope Paul VI said, “If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles….” Since we all tend to regard our own desires as “well-grounded reasons”, no matter how frivolous, how could we ensure that we are acting with the proper seriousness? Hmm … how about, I dunno, talking with our pastors? Maybe we’re not so far from the Orthodox approach after all.

  • Avatar photo Why Do Orthodox Jews Have So Many Kids? - Jew in the City says on May 15, 2019

    […] thing is that when examining the bare biblical law, a Jewish couple is able to fulfill the obligation to procreate by having one boy and one girl. This is seen by Torah as the minimum for it ensures the continuity […]

  • Avatar photo Why I'm Not The Biggest Fan of "Shtisel" - Jew in the City says on June 12, 2019

    […] rabbis believe that birth control can have a place within […]


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