Author Archives: Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz

About Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz is rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem in Montreal, Canada.

Single Motherhood and Artificial Insemination

Reprinted with permission from
The Canadian Jewish News
(February 4, 1999).

Many single women in their late 30s and early 40s are concerned about whether they will be able to find the right person to marry while they can still have children of their own. It is under these conditions that a new question is coming to the forefront: Is it ethical for a single woman to become pregnant via artificial insemination?

[I have written this article] based in part on a thorough and passionate article by Dvora Ross in the recently published volume Jewish Legal Writings By Women.

Jewish Legal Concerns

One objection relates to anonymous donor sperm. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 9:51:4) notes that it is forbidden for a woman to remarry for three months subsequent to being divorced or widowed because we may not know who the father is (Shulhan Arukh EH 13:1), and a clear genealogy is extremely important (Yevamot 42b).

In addition, there is a concern that the child of an anonymous donor may someday meet and marry a brother or sister, unaware that they are siblings. Based on these rules, Rabbi Waldenberg forbids the use of anonymous donor sperm.
artificial insemination
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Iggrot Moshe EH 2:11) dismisses this comparison. He notes that the three-month waiting period between marriages is because the child may mistakenly think the second husband is the father, while in reality it is the first husband. However, in the case of a sperm donor, the child is aware that the father is anonymous. Rabbi Feinstein also says [that] the possibility a child of an anonymous sperm donor will unwittingly marry a sibling is statistically remote.

According to all opinions, this problem can be solved by using the sperm of a non-Jewish donor, or by obtaining the identity of the donor before the child marries.

Extra-Legal Concerns

Outside of the issue of an anonymous donor, there are no halakhic concerns. In fact, Rabbi Y.Y. Weinberg (Seridei Eish 3:5) says that it is permissible for a single woman to use donor sperm to become pregnant. However, others object to this on ethical grounds. One objection is that the mother and child may be targets of slander, because even a pious, chaste single woman will be accused of promiscuity when she becomes pregnant.

Laughing At Logic

Provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox congregations.The following article is reprinted with permission from the Orthodox Union.

Why do certain nations thrive, while others disappear? Pundits and historians will tell you about political, economic and military factors.

However, our Torah informs us that ethical factors are far more consequential. Powerful nations fall if they are immoral, while weak ones succeed if they maintain moral excellence.

Chosen or Condemned

The Hebrew word tzachak, meaning to laugh, is employed several times in Parashat Vayera, most notably in relation to the birth and naming of our patriarch Yitzchak [Isaac]. The term is also used when Lot tells his sons-in-law that their home city of Sodom is about to be destroyed. They do not believe him, for his words are “like a joke (kimitzacheik) in their eyes.”

To a social or political scientist, the possibility that a wealthy superpower like Sodom will disappear, or that an elderly couple will produce the future regional superpower seems ludicrous.

But this strange outcome is precisely what occurs. Abraham and Sarah have a child, through whom they become the ancestors of Klal Yisrael (the people of Israel). Meanwhile, the mighty city of Sodom is destroyed.

The double reference to laughter demonstrates that both events are improbable to the point of being funny.

Why were Abraham and Sarah chosen and Sodom condemned? What factor gave rise to one and led to the other’s destruction?

The Torah points to hospitality: Abraham invites nomads, who turn out to be angels, into his home and is told of his future as the father of the Jewish people. Lot, too, invites angels into his home and is saved from destruction. But the people of Sodom, who sought to abuse Lot’s guests, are destroyed. Even Lot’s wife, who was halfhearted in her hospitality, does not survive.

Hospitality & Justice

The citizens of Sodom not only act violently toward strangers; they express contempt for justice as well. “Are you, the stranger, going to judge us?” one of the Sodomites asks Lot.

Abraham, on the other hand, demonstrates his just behavior by arguing with God over His decision to destroy Sodom.

Hospitality and justice elevate Abraham and Sarah to the beginnings of a great nation, while intolerance and misanthropy destroy Sodom.

It is “not strength, not might, but God’s spirit,” in the words of the prophet Zachariah, that lifts and lowers nations. The moral and spiritual course chosen by a people, and nothing else, determines its future.

The Torah realizes that this sounds funny, but funny is also the name of the first Jewish child, Yitzchak.