Ask the Rabbis

Ask the Rabbis // Happiness

Should Jews strive to be happy? INDEPENDENT No. Jews should never strive to be happy. Happiness should not be something to strive for. It should be solidly entrenched deeply within us, born of a sense of mystery, a sense that defies reason and definition. We are here for the very purpose of not knowing why. And in the not knowing, we rejoice and laugh in the face of every imaginable fate. This is the audacity of Torah, which challenges us to dance on Simchat Torah with numbers etched into our arms, to dream tenaciously about Jerusalem in spite of 2,000 years of exile, to sing joyful melodies on Saturday even if we know a pogrom is pending on Sunday. We are a people that has been subjected to unimaginable tragedy, genocide, expulsion and conquest for longer periods and...

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Ask the Rabbis // Contraception

INDEPENDENT Judaism does not restrict a woman in regard to her choices concerning pregnancy. She has a choice to bear children or not to bear children (Talmud Bav’li, Yevamot 65b; Mahar’shal in Yam Shel Shlomo 1:8). The injunction to “Be fruitful and multiply,” the ancient rabbis ruled, does not apply to women, because the Torah does not ask someone to do something that might endanger his or her life and health. On the other hand, a man who has not yet brought children into the world (ideally at least one of each gender) may not use contraception unless the woman he is with faces some sort of danger to her life or health. Coitus interruptus in the course of lovemaking, however, is permitted if its intent is incidental and not deliberately intended to prevent pregnancy (Tosefot...

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