This should be taken as a bit of a light hearted question (but not a Purim Torah by any means, I am looking for a real analysis), inspired by a discussion in chat.

Why is a woman allowed to get pregnant?

It causes harm to her (bleeding, tearing, etc.) and is certain to create a situation of Sakanas Nefashos even if all goes well, as clearly recognized in Halacha (actually especially if all goes well - as opposed to an early miscarriage).

So why is a woman allowed to go through that on purpose? Normally things that cause such danger would be forbidden, it would seem.

Of course the cop-out answer would be "well, life couldn't exist without it" but two points about that:

  1. That is fine as an answer if it creates a principle that allows a broader applicability. If this is a one-off exception, that is really a cop-out.

  2. Even if, that doesn't explain the Mitzvah MiDerabbanan to have more than two children (which is already a stretch to say that the Mitzvah of two children applies to the woman enough to waive the problem).

    Can the Chachamim require you to put yourself in such danger for one of their Mitzvos as a precondition for the Mitzvah like that; by Chanuka, they don't (the Gemara in Shabbos says that in a time of danger, just light the candle on the table), but could they?

  • 1
    If I understand right, positive commandments override negative ones (like mila on Shabbes). Doesn't the obligation to multiply set aside venishmartem?
    – Adám
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:45
  • 4
    @NBZ, IIUC, women don't have such an obligation.
    – Isaac Moses
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:48
  • @NBZ, Positive commandments don't obviously override sakanas nefashos. Do you have to blow shofar even if it will get you killed? Sakanas Nefashos isn't obviously only a negative commandment (וחי בהם would seem to be positive). So it may be an answer, but it needs proof (if you overcome the problem of multiplying not being the woman's obligation directly, and saying her aiding the man is of the same force).
    – Yishai
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:53
  • @IsaacMoses Right, but maybe her hechsher mitzva (or however it is classified) is enough. I didn't answer – only comment. :-)
    – Adám
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:53
  • Great question. I'll bet it's dealt with somewhere in the pikuach nefesh literature. Anyone know experts in pikuach nefesh who may know on-point sources?
    – Isaac Moses
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:53

4 Answers 4


Rav Moshe Hershler answers (Halacha U'Refua vol. 2 p.65) that this is the natural way of the world, and things that are part of the natural way of the world are not forbidden. Thus someone is allowed to take on a dangerous profession because earning a living is a natural part of the world. In that case, even though there is no Mitzvah to specifically choose dangerous work, nevertheless it is part of the natural part of living, and thus not proscribed by Halacha.

All the more so for something which is part of the purpose of life.

He compares this to the Mitzvah of circumcision, which applies as long as the standard amount of danger is in place [but circumcision would seem to be much less dangerous, especially in earlier times?].

Regarding what a woman's obligation is exactly (since she is exempt from "be fruitful and multiply") he seems to include the possibility of "He did not create it for a waste, He formed it to be inhabited" and interestingly in footnote 6 he quotes the Meshech Chochma as saying that the reason that a woman was not commanded to be fruitful and multiply is that the Torah's ways are pleasant and thus would not directly command her to put herself in danger.


First of all reb Moshe Feinstein emphatically asserts that childbirth in its proper time is absolutely not a sakana. See Igros Moshe Yoreh deah 2 siman 74 & in Orach Chayim 4 siman 105 ois 6. Its only when playing around with nature by bringing on early labor through medication that a woman is put in sakana. Second of all harm for healing is allowed, such as blood letting and elective surgeries so I wouldn't be concerned with that. But third of all I think we've forgotten a basic Jewish hashkapha that her pain and suffering is a punishment for the eits hadaas incident so just like we are all 'allowed' to die and we are all 'allowed' to suffer for physical sustenance, she is 'allowed' to suffer child bearing and rearing.


Also there is a Ran in kidushin that gives a woman the status of machshir mitzvah for her husband's pru urvu being that he couldn't do it without her.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Sep 3, 2014 at 14:45
  • What does "its only when playing around with nature by bringing on early labor through medication that a woman is put in sakana"? I would imagine anyone in the health profession would disagree. Medication is essential for proper treatment. Often induced labours are needed to save/help/protect the child and mother. How is medical assistance considered a sakana?
    – bondonk
    Sep 9, 2014 at 14:09

The gemara in Berachos talks about Hezekiah who get in trouble for not having children, as he sees in ruach hakodesh that his offspring will be reshaim. The Navi Isaiah rebukes him and says that it is not his place to calculate when god commands us to have children.

I think perhaps there is a difference in immediate danger and future danger. In the case where there is an immediate danger, we are exempt from all mitzvot, as it state "vechay bahem". The source of the mitzvah may be "He [Hashem] did not create the world to be desolate; [rather] to be settled he formed it.Isaiah 45. But if the performance of the mitzvah may lead to danger at a certain future time, then it is not our place to calculate.

  • 2
    Such an analysis would lead one to conclude that smoking is not a problem, but it is in fact at least controversial.
    – Yishai
    Sep 2, 2014 at 17:55
  • Indeed I have heard this pshat put forward regarding the allowance of smoking by Rabbi Boruch Zaitchyk (talmid of R' moshe)
    – avner
    Sep 3, 2014 at 17:09
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    There seems to be a difference between refraining from having children because they will be wicked and refraining from having children because it is dangerous to do so.
    – Ze'ev
    Feb 4, 2015 at 19:56

Shame you all forgot a shulchon Oruch that even the chill shabbos which is allowed should preferably be done with a shinuy unlike the regular pikuach nefesh. The poskim rishonim explain that this is due to the fact that even one in a thousand are not at risk.

Regarding chilul shabbos I have been told by leading contemporary poskim that since there is no medical need for a hospital at the time of birth it is chilul shabbos min hatorah. A woman who buries her head in the sand and chooses to remain ignorant and believe that it's dangerous to give birth (assisted by a proficiently trained aid) at home, well she would be compared to someone who believes that fasting on yom kippur will kill her; we wont stop her eating. Get real and do your homework. The fact that the torah allowed us to be mechalel shabbos from he time she is a yoledes doesn't mean that child birth is dangerous, as explained by reb Moshe.

The reason more birthing woman died a century ago is due to malnutrition and lack of hygiene. Birth is a natural as marriage and doesn't warrant any outside interference. Medical statistics have proven this point. Much of the western world have already adopted these beliefs, some are slower coming round to it. Not to worry our grand children will be talking about those misinformed grandmothers who thought that they need a hospital to give birth. They will even talk about all the physical spiritual emotional problems for many mothers and children who went through it.

Birth is an intimate experience with the real life force of creation and in sharing a new partnership with our creator. For this reason - explains the kotzker - a woman after birth who must leave the esoteric levels of subliminal connection to hashem is compared to having lost her soul and immerse in a mikva - as ruled in the shulochon oruch.

  • 7
    This answer could be worthwhile if it contained a great deal less preaching and any sources for its assertions (including the unspecified one in the Sh"A).
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 3, 2014 at 12:07
  • 5
    That is in the first footnote on the page linked in my answer. Three points: 1) The Ramban argues (see the source quoted there) 2) Are you allowed to do other things that have a less than 1 in a thousand chance of causing sakana? Or is the issue here more that people will think there is no sakana and start taking Shabbos lightly? 3) Home birth with a hospital far away (travel-time) is dangerous for the baby, if not the mother, even in healthy situations (source: A friend that works in Hatzalah who has to come to the rescue far too often).
    – Yishai
    Sep 3, 2014 at 17:17

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