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?


3 Answers 3


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.

Sources. (שו”ע אבה”ע סי’ כג סעי’ א’: “אסור להוציא שכבת זרע לבטלה ועון זה חמור מכל עבירות שבתורה”. רמ”א שם סעי’ ה’: “אבל מותר לשמש עם קטנה ואיילונית, הואיל ומשמש כדרך הארץ (תוספות ומרדכי פ”ק דיבמות ונ”י פרק הבא על יבמתו)”.‏

ראה שו”ת אגרות משה אבה”ע ח”א סי’ סג ענף ג’: “אבל לפ”ז ניחא דכיון דפירוש לבטלה הוא לבטלה ממש שאין בה שום צורך ומטעם זה מותר לצורך מצות עונה ושמחת אשתו”. ראה עוד שם)‏


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.

  • 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, 2014 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, 2014 at 4:21
  • @user6591, please provide translations of your Hebrew terms in parentheses.
    – Ani Yodea
    Aug 22, 2014 at 13:42
  • @user6591 "why one act is problematic as apposed [sic] to the other" Where did you explain that?
    – Double AA
    Oct 15, 2014 at 6:41
  • 2
    @user6591 He asked why masturbation and sex with an infertile woman are different Halachically. You said: "they have these formal names and they do indeed have the difference you describe". That doesn't explain anything. Telling me that stealing and killing are different doesn't explain why they are different.
    – Double AA
    Oct 19, 2014 at 22:26

I'd just add a Drush explanation in the דרך העבודה approach:

Explanation 1:

Wasting means there is no reception כלי. A woman is a כלי as the Gemmorah says עשאה כלי. In any way of copulation (vag' and non-vag') the woman is considered a כלי and therefore allowed (see Gemmorah in "חתיכה שהביא מהשוק").

When there's no כלי - the זרע goes to חיצונים and therefore prohibited.

Explanation 2:

יחוד has two purposes - 1: procreation (פרו ורבו) and 2: יחוד by itself (the FUN). There are different כוונות of יחוד for Shabbos and weekdays.

That's the Gemmorah in Kesubos 59b: "אין אשה אלא לבנים" - procreation, "אין אשה אלא ליופי" - יחוד itself.

THe Poskim focused only on procreation, saying that even while pregnant the fetus benefits etc. But the truth is those relations are not only permitted but obligatory as procreational while focusing on the יחוד of the couple itself.

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