Intimacy for conception and intimacy for strengthening the family

The first commandment of the Torah, given to all humanity, is, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth...” (Genesis 1:28). In other words, there is a commandment of God to bring children into the world. As the minimum, this commandment is considered to be fulfilled when a person gives birth to at least one boy and one girl. The maximum is not specified. I hope the reader already knows the methods for fulfilling this commandment. (Even those who will think of the artificial insemination will agree that it is not comparable to the natural way in quantitative terms.) Not only people, but also animals know how to “be fruitful and multiply.” For them and others, it is associated with having delight, which acts as such a powerful stimulus that it becomes an end in itself for many. (Note that, according to the Written and Oral Torah, sexual delight is second place in the force of sensations only after the delight felt by a man upon receiving a prophecy. Idolatry was an attempt to artificially get such delight. More information can be found in the book “Torat ha-Sehel.”) So, for animals the sexual delight is the highest of the available pleasures, and the continuation of a species in nature would cease without it (see the Talmud story about withdrawal of Yetser ha-Min from the world (“Avodah Zarah” treatise)). No one registered yet that animals are driven by recognition of duty to bring a living soul into the world. As for the human, he is able to choose for himself very different models of behaviour in a given situation, and an ability to behave like an animal has always preserved him. The Torah, seeking to develop pure and lofty feelings in a person, however not only doesn't prohibit the intimacy, but, if it is carried out with the aim of conceiving a child, considers it fulfilling the will of God (mitzvah). According to the Torah, intimacy is not a sin, and getting delight from it also is not a sin.

On the other hand, Jewish law warns, “The sperm is the energy of the body and the light of the eyes. When too much is ejected, the body is destroyed and his life is lost. Any one who is addicted to having sex, old age comes upon him. His power fades, his eyes darken... Many other troubles apart from these come upon him. The wisest of the doctors said, One out of a thousand die out of all ill people, and that a thousand is from too much sex. Therefore a person should be careful.” (“Kitzur Shulchan Aruch,” 150:17).

Maybe only intimacy with the purpose conception is justified, but is intimacy of other reasons prohibited? No. An example of this is intimacy with the pregnant wife. “Our sages said that during the first three months intercourse is hard for the woman and hard for the fetus, that the middle is hard for the woman and good for the fetus, and that the last (3 months) is good for the woman and good for the fetus, for because of this the child comes out white and quickly” (“The Road to Purity,” Part 3, Ch. 16; “Kitzur Shulchan Aruch,” 150:9). This intimacy is no longer needed for conception, so what is it for? Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu (“The Road to Purity,” ibid.) answers: “Thus, although the wife is pregnant, the husband fulfills the commandment of sexual intimacy.” [This could be incorrect: I didn't find this book in English for free! — Daniel Alievsky] The Torah separates the regular marital intimacy as an independent commandment, not always tied to the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. “...Her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish” (Exodus 21:10). Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu makes this comment. “When a man wants to advance in godly behaviour, he must understand that in so doing he must not abandon the actual law of the Torah and Sages even one iota, both in regard to himself and in regard to his relationship with his wife. And so, those who refuse to fulfill the commandments of the consummation of the marriage, specified in the Torah, from their ‘godly considerations’, will be responsible for it” (“The Road to Purity,” Part 3, Ch. 19). [This could be incorrect: I didn't find this book in English for free! — Daniel Alievsky] And also, “If a husband feels that his wife is trying to please him and is dressing up to draw his attention to herself, he must enter into intimacy with her” (ibid.). [This could be incorrect: I didn't find this book in English for free! — Daniel Alievsky] The reverse situation is also considered in Jewish law. “If a man sees, that his own sexual desires prevail over him, and fears, that he will think about other women or that spilling his sperm in vain will occur, he can enter into intimacy with his wife.” In this case, the wife needs to go towards meeting her husband this time. An example of this is the story from the Talmud (Ketubot, 65a) about that the widow Abaey who came to Rava's court. Rava felt attracted to her and, to cope with himself, ran home (in the middle of the day) and asked his wife (a daughter of Rabbi Hisdy) to enter into intimacy with him.

Summing up:

  1. According to the Torah law, intimacy to conceive a child (which also strengthens the family) and intimacy for strengthening the family is recommended.
  2. The main reason for restrictions, recommended by the sages, in the permitted (or rather, commanded by God) intimacy is the loss of sperm by the man and the resulting in the loss of vitality.

The proposed solution is intimacy without the emission of sperm in the cases when the intimacy is carried out without the purpose of conceiving a child.

It is interesting that the word שכב (“[he] lay”) occurs in the Tanakh more than two hundred times. Of those two hundred time it is used in the sexual sense less than fifty, and only in four cases it is said, “lay with the emission of seed.” Here are these places. “The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even” (Leviticus 15:18). “Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her” (Leviticus 18:20). “And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free” (Leviticus 19:20). “And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner...” (Numbers 5:13). In other cases, when the Scripture uses the word “lay,” nothing is mentioned about the emission of seed. Some may object that here we must use the logical principle of “equal cut” from the Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael, and that in addition to the cases where it's stated that he lay with the emission of seed, also the cases when it's simply said “lay” (but the emission of seed is not mentioned), the emission of seed it also meant. For example, in the story of David and Bathsheva (2 Samuel 11:4) Scripture does not speak directly about the emission of seed, but then the text speaks about the pregnancy. I answer with a question. For what reason would this logical principle apply to only 50 cases not to all 200? As not all lying implies the emission of seed, so not every intimacy must necessarily imply the emission of seed. Perhaps another logical principle is more applicable here, “how much more.” Then the conclusion can sound like this. If intimacy without emission of seed is prohibited by the Torah, all the more it is prohibited with emission of seed. And the four cases mentioned above carry some additional information that requires more careful study.