Torah Tidbits

3 September 2014 / 8 Elul 5774
Issue 1053
Shabbat Parshat Va’etchanan - Nachamu
July 18, 2013

"From Machon Puah"

The Best Use of Fertility Treatment

The Best Use of Fertility Treatment

This week we will continue to discuss some of the halachic decisions rendered by the late posek Rabbi Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth zt"l, who is best known as the author of the seminal work “Sh’mirat Shabbat K’hilchatah” but who also gave important halachic decisions in many other areas as well.
Some years ago Rabbi Menachem Burstein, the Head of Machon Puah, forwarded a letter to Rabbi Neuwirth that he had received from one of his many students. The couple had seven healthy daughters and thanked Hashem for this great gift. However the couple wanted to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation according the opinion of Beit Hillel that required having children of both gender, as opposed to the opinion of Beit Shammai that the mitzva is to have children but not necessarily of both genders. The couple had prayed and tried low-tech methods to determine the gender and to ensure that they would have a boy but so far nothing had been successful.
The couple turned to the Puah Institute to receive permission to undergo an in-vitro fertilization combined with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis in order to select male embryos and use them for implantation while destroying the unwanted female embryos. The couple agreed that Rabbi Burstein forward their letter, after removing their names, to several important poskim to ask their opinions on this complex issue.
We have discussed this question in the past and seen that there are Rabbis who permit this in certain rare cases and specific circumstances, and each case needs to be answered individually. The answer, whether positive or negative, that one person received is not always appropriate to the next couple who may ask, since small details can make a significant change in the eventual answer.
Rabbi Neurwirth did not permit this procedure and expressed discomfort with the fact that Rabbis had to deal with issues that are beyond our control. He wrote that the purpose of fertility treatment is to assist couples who have fertility problems and not for such elective cases. He added that in the case of determining gender we are obliged to do all that we can within the normative realm of action, the rest is in the hands of God. A couple with all boys or all girls cannot be held culpable for this since this is out of our hands and the Torah wants us to make all regular and normal efforts to bear healthy children of both genders but not to turn to drastic methods. More next week.

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman

The Puah Institute is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Offices in Jerusalem, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Contact: (02) 651-5050 (Isr).

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