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It is widely known that wasting seed is one of the big sins a person can commit.

However, it seems that having relations when conception is not possible--such as during menopause or during pregnancy--is perfectly fine and is even sometimes recommended.

What exactly is the difference and why is the latter permitted?

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I know the answer but i cannot find my sources – Dovid Benizri Aug 21 '14 at 19:32
You can provide your answer and then add sources later if you find them. – Ani Yodea Aug 21 '14 at 19:32
Is it such a big sin? It's not generally considered one the Torah commandments, and there is no punishment associated with it, not even rebelling against a rabbinic decree. – alice fine Aug 21 '14 at 19:33
Are you talking about seed in vain alice fine? – Dovid Benizri Aug 21 '14 at 19:35
@alicefine, see the bottom of jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/sex.html#6 – Ani Yodea Aug 21 '14 at 19:38
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Wasted means for no Halachicly recognized purpose, not necessarily done for some reason other than the purpose of conception. Regular relations with ones wife is an obligation, and thus serves a purpose, as does having children.

There is also some discussion of the specific method having to be כדרך הארץ - the natural way of marital relations. This impacts some discussions around birth control as well, so it isn't enough that it just be for the purpose, the method by which that purpose is accomplished is also relevant.


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@AniYodeya - halachic purpose. – Yishai Aug 21 '14 at 19:52
@AniYodeya, Yishai, perhaps better limited as "Halachically valid purpose". – Seth J Aug 21 '14 at 20:52
@SethJ, that seemed a bit circular, so I went with Halachically recognized purpose (not that that is totally linear but ...) – Yishai Aug 21 '14 at 21:58
It's only circular bc the premise in the question is faulty. I was commenting, however, in follow-up to your comment exchange with @ani, not on your answer directly. – Seth J Aug 21 '14 at 22:30
It seems like the base assumption is that a man can have relations with his wife in any manner he chooses - including the "irregular way" - mechon-mamre.org/i/5121.htm#10 – Robert S. Barnes Aug 22 '14 at 12:32

Reb Moshe Feinstein in his tshuvos about i.v.f. separates the issue of niuf byad and hotzaas zera. And whereas hotzaas zera is allowed for a productive purpose such as having a child, niyuf biyad is never allowed. So cohabiting in a normal fashion, but collecting the sperm in order to impregnate his wife with it is allowed. Masturbating into a cup for the same purpose is not allowed.

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This is (kind of) a source for the distinction mentioned in the question, but not an explanation for that distinction. The latter is what the question sought. – msh210 Aug 22 '14 at 0:32
@msh210 Thats a bizarre comment. He asked for a distinction between two acts, I explained the twofold issue involved and why one act is problematic as apposed to the other. – user6591 Aug 22 '14 at 4:21
@user6591, please provide translations of your Hebrew terms in parentheses. – Ani Yodea Aug 22 '14 at 13:42
@user6591 "why one act is problematic as apposed [sic] to the other" Where did you explain that? – Double AA Oct 15 '14 at 6:41
@Double AA separates the issue of niuf byad and hotzaas zera. And whereas hotzaas zera is allowed for a productive purpose such as having a child, niyuf biyad is never allowed. – user6591 Oct 15 '14 at 11:16

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