If a woman were to donate her eggs to a family member who, unfortunately, could not conceive on her own, would that invoke considerations of halachic incest if the man who would fertilize the egg would otherwise be forbidden to the donor?

I know that there are many other halachic considerations but I'm curious about whether the label of incest ("forbidden relation") is one of the act of the physical bodies (intimacy), status of the involved individuals (regardless of the method of involvement), or the underlying event (conception regardless of location). The same question could be asked were the man the donor of his zera.

  • This might be relevant.
    – robev
    Sep 10, 2020 at 15:56
  • @robev that question alluded to here judaism.stackexchange.com/a/18416/1362 and discussed here jgspl.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/… page 662
    – rosends
    Sep 10, 2020 at 16:15
  • Right but I'm just suggesting that if it's not considered the donor's son, it would be surprising to consider it a case of incest. However, it's not perforce if it is the person's son, that it would be considered incest, as the end of your question presents.
    – robev
    Sep 10, 2020 at 16:17
  • @robev thos other sources though, are looking at it after the fact. I'm curious about the intent of the law/definition of the concept to guide before the act.
    – rosends
    Sep 10, 2020 at 16:19
  • 1
    Nishmas Avraham brings a lot of relevant sources regarding donating to a married woman and if that's prohibited because she's married, and is the child a mamzer. Rav Moshe says since there was no bias issur there's no znus and the child isn't a mamzer. However, many argue. It doesn't specifically address your point though, but it could be a start.
    – robev
    Sep 10, 2020 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


Nishmat's Women’s Health and Halacha deals with some of these issues.

The page on “Egg Donation & Surrogacy” contains this information:

There is no clear halachic consensus as to whether the status of the child as a Jew is based on the genetic mother, the birth mother, or both. Using a Jewish surrogate and/or a known Jewish egg donor is preferred when possible, so that there is no doubt about the baby’s religious status.

In practice, babies born from procedures involving non-Jewish surrogates or egg donors often undergo conversion in early infancy to ensure that they are considered Jewish according to all opinions.

Since they are contractually obligated to carry the baby, surrogates cannot be anonymous. In order to rule out an unwitting future marriage between halachic siblings, Jewish egg donors should be known or listed in a registry. (At this point in time, the medical establishment is less concerned than the halachic establishment about the chances of sibling marriage, because the statistical odds are very low.)

Marital relations are not involved in in vitro fertilization. Nevertheless, the surrogate or donor should ideally be a woman for whom relations with the genetic father would not violate a serious sexual prohibition (giluy arayot), since some halachic authorities argue that that would have negative halachic implications for the child. Therefore, a Jewish surrogate or donor should not be closely related to either parent (e.g. not a first-degree relative), and should ideally be unmarried.

Some authorities may permit using a married surrogate on a case-by-case basis, following individual consultation, because no act of prohibited relations is involved in these procedures.

At this stage, Nishmat’s Rabbis do not make rulings on the question of whether it is permissible for a married woman to be a surrogate, though they recognize rulings from other halachic authorities.

You ask, “whether the label of incest ("forbidden relation") is one of the act of the physical bodies (intimacy), status of the involved individuals (regardless of the method of involvement), or the underlying event (conception regardless of location).”

From the text above, I deduce that a case can be made that intimacy is not essentially the determinant in giluy arayot but that nevertheless the possibility of an association with giluy arayot should normally be avoided.

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