Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Email from a reader!

Your post makes me wonder how accurate the rest of your blog is. The groom is most definitely NOT Chassidic. No beard, and dressed like any other Yeshivish groom (The long black coat is only for the ceremony to cover the white Kittel). And "My cousin met with her husband in public places or in houses under parental supervision about once a week for a few hours for about 6 weeks." is the custom amongst the Yeshivish. Chassidim meet a lot less, and only in the parents house, NEVER in a public place. Also, "and of course she can't use birth control- at least not until she has had two boys and two girls." is similarly inacurate. It is one each. lastly, "and one day he will be buried in it." is a very wide spread myth, widlye prevelant even in orthodox circles. A kittel is supposed to LOOK like burial shrouds, but it isnt ACTUALY used as such. Feel free to post this, but please don't use my email address."

I guess accusing OTDers of lying is all the rage these days!

Let me start with this- I'm not close with my cousins. I used to see them about 3 times a year at family events, and since turning 22 and moving away from my parents (which was 8 years ago), I've seen them even less - the last time I saw them was at this wedding, which was 2 years ago.

Ok so here we go: This guy is not dressed like a chassidic guy. Ok. You may be right. I only know what I was told to me by my family (and remember that 2 years ago I was newly married to my non Jewish husband and I was hardly talking to my family at all - this is a post I wrote about that wedding at the time). What I was told by my family is that my cousin was marrying a chassidic guy. My impression was that he's not part of a specific chassidic group and may be more liberal for chassidim. It's also possible he follows more yeshivish customs but comes from chassidic ancestry of some kind - in my misnagid family, even if he currently followed yeshivish customs but had chassidic ancestors he would still be labeled "chassidic." Also the groom was 18 years old at the time, not all 18 year olds can grow a full beard.

My cousin's family is yeshivish, not chassidic, although two of my female cousins in that family have married people from a (more liberal) chassidic background. So the fact that they met for about 6 weeks in public places meant that my cousins were following the same customs their yeshivish family always follows. I don't know the details of their dates or anything but I do know they supposedly dated for about 6 weeks before getting engaged and got married a few months after that.

The thing about having 2 girls and 2 boys is how I remembered my cousin saying the rule to me, but I went back and checked a post I wrote about the conversation I had with that cousin about that rule and you are right, it was only 1 boy and 1 girl until they are allowed to use birth control. I must have gotten confused since the cousin who told me this had 2 boys and then 2 girls at regular intervals (and I wouldn't be surprised if she's pregnant again), so it seems she's not using birth control of any kind despite already having the 1 boy and 1 girl and kept having kids. I have also heard from many women that even though the 'official' rule is 1 boy and 1 girl, they have a very hard time getting a heter (permission) to use birth control from their rabbi unless they have very dire circumstances such as being on the brink of a mental breakdown, and even then the heter they get tends to be short term. So while you are technically correct about the actual halacha, in real life it plays out differently for many women. But your mileage may vary, and I know different communities have different standards.

As for people being buried in their kittel- that's my family's custom as far as I know? It might be a misconception on my part, but that's what I was always told by my dad...

As for the entirety of your email, you seem to be arguing that my cousins are a lot more liberal than many chassidic people. Which just goes to show my point- how insane these rules are.

Here's another recent email from a reader

"You Can Abandon G-D but He Will Not Abandon You"

That was the whole email. Thanks Mr. anonymous emailer! And to you I say, you can abandon the flying spaghetti monster but he won't abandon you either. Because things that don't exist by definition can't abandon anything.


  1. Because that would make so much more sense.

  2. yeah love how he's arguing that my cousins are way too moderate to be believable, ha! A real chossid wouldn't let you date an entire 6 weeks before getting married!

  3. I remember hearing something about the requirement being to have 2 boys and 2 girls from my (very frum) Chabad sister, though I don't know the source.

  4. hmm all I can say is that I come from a pretty mainstream yeshivish background (Lakewood) and my parents certainly didn't come on any dates with me! Also, I don't understand where any of you are coming from in terms of birth control. My wife started right after our first girl was born with full rabbinic approbation. Four out five of my friends did the same. The Rabbis I have spoken to about it said they either (i) tell people to do whatever they want (ii) allow for a minimum of one year following a kid.

  5. Birth control rulings vary widely.

    1 boy and 1 girl is generally considered the minimum necessary to fulfil the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying. However, that is not the only criteria for deciding if birth control should be used.

    Pikuach nefesh (saving a life) is always paramount. If there's a serious health concern, birth control is permissible and sometimes even mandatory. Many rabbis will consider emotional health as well as physical health. I get the impression from speaking to some women that if they really want birth control, they say that they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and they get permission.

    There's also an intriguing discussion in the Talmud of 3 women who use birth control. One of those is a nursing mother, since there was a fear that a new pregnancy could deprive the existing baby of its food. When you consider that traditional Judaism also teaches that children should not be weaned prior to age 2, if possible, you could have a gap of close to 3 years between children. Of course, nursing itself suppresses ovulation in many women.

  6. JRKmommy,

    The issue of birth control (when taken by women) is really not focused on the issue of procreation (as many believe). Tosfos makes it clear the issue is being mashkis zera. Rabbonim might choose to give advice based on the issue of having kids, but that is generally a metahalachik concern.

    The talmusic discussion you quote is actually a baraisa in nida, with the gemera (yebamos 12b, tosfos from above is here also) saying something quite different. There, it is clear that the gemara understands it to be impossible to get pregnant while nursing (for up to 11 years). One rav told me that this is the mechanism by which they are often matir birth control, even though few would ever say it out right because it is so clearly untrue.

    Just curious, where do you get the idea that "traiditional judaism" teaches to nurse to 2 years? Never heard that one...

  7. A mother of a child less than 2 years old is considered a nursing mother, even if she's not. That's the indication that the expectation was nursing for 2 years.

    I'm not sure that "Judaism encourages" is a fair statement, but rather, at the time of codifying the Talmud, that was the norm.

  8. > I get the impression from speaking to some women that if they really want birth control, they say that they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and they get permission.

    I’ve heard that too. Think about the implications!

    Ostensibly, they are asking a rav because birth control is a complex halachic issue, and an expert is needed to decide if it’s mutar. To make a valid decision, he obliviously would need all the facts. But these women are deliberately misleading him, rendering any decision he makes invalid. They’re acting as if the goal is merely to get the rav to say “yes.”


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