I am aware of discussions in the Gemara and Rishonim of the permissibility of various methods of birth control.

What I am looking for is the earliest mention of the modern day practice in which a couple visits a Rav to ask permission to use birth control at all, whether as newlyweds or after already having had some children.

While I'm primarily interested in the earliest mention of the expectation that a couple consult with a Rav for their individual circumstance each time they want permission to use birth control, I'm also interested in sources discussing the permissibility of various timings of birth control in general. (I'm familiar with multiple modern day blanket rulings such as "it is permissible to space between children X amount" (where X varies by the Rav giving the psak) or permission to use birth control right after the wedding for 3 months versus not at all. I haven't yet been able to find equivalent discussions in less modern sources.)

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    – mbloch
    Mar 10, 2019 at 10:34
  • Found this question by chance; +1. Both facets of the post are precisely what I’ve been investigating for a while. My personal opinion, in (very) short: It originated, in part, for the reason R. Schachter quotes from R. Kamenetsky (below), or IOW people simply don’t/didn’t know what methods were/are permissible/prohibited; also in part from the -what I take to be- [earliesh] 20th century convention to ask rabbis for direction even in personal areas of one’s life/relationship.
    – Oliver
    Jul 15, 2019 at 17:53
  • Per the second inquiry: It too is fairly modern, promoted by the aforementioned reasons and avoidance of abusing the permissibility of birth control. Therefore, today, questioners are typically instructed to return after an -IMO- arbitrary allotted time prescribed by the respondent to have the permission re-evaluated.
    – Oliver
    Jul 15, 2019 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


In English, Rabbi Hershel Schachter's 1982 article in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society v4 was groundbreaking. He recounts that when the journal started, Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky felt that someone had to cover this subject, "as right now people are assuming all methods are prohibited, therefore not asking their rabbis and therefore using the halachically-worst methods."

There are several responsa of Rav Moshe Feinstein on the subject -- off-hand I couldn't tell you if the first was in the 1960s or 1970s; as I recall in each case he is answering a particular question posed to him, but it would imply that they are intended to be answered on a case-by-case basis. (In one he gives little room for waiting after marriage barring medical needs, though he says the couple doesn't have to actively "try" to have a baby right now, but shouldn't use contraceptives; in another he addresses a woman who's had a C-section and whose doctors tell her she'll only be able to have a few more kids, at which point Rav Moshe says she can space them out more if the total number won't change.)

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