Birth Control by Men

Judaism is far more restrictive regarding methods of male birth control. It is opposed to condoms and most other methods because of the prohibition of “wasting the seed,” Haskhatat ha Zera.

According to Zohar, by wasting one’s seed, whether through masturbation or a condom, “One pollutes himself more so than through any other sin in this world or the next.” (Zohar, Vayeshev 188a, Gold 1992)

Rabbi Gold says that, “Despite the harsh language, it is difficult to site the source of the biblical prohibition.” According to Genesis 36: 6-10, in the story of Tamar, Onan wastes his seed with the sinful intention of avoiding his duty on behalf of his brother. In the text, the sin is his intention to avoid his levirate duty. It does not say anything about the wasting of his seed.

“This law is not absolute,” explains rabbi Gold. Continuing, Gold says, “A man is permitted to have sexual relations with his pregnant wife, i.e., waste of seed?” Also, “…with a wife that is infertile or too old to bear children.”

Rabbi Eliezer, a Talmudic authority, permits coitus interrupts if it serves a greater good–onah–fulfilling the requirement of sex between husband and wife. This opinion is not supported by the codification of Jewish Law.

Jewish Law clearly prohibits vasectomy, or the sterilization of any male or female with drugs. This is based on the verse in the Torah that says, “Men with crushed testicles or, without their sexual organ cannot belong to the congregation of Hashem.” (Deut. 23:2)

In conclusion: Judaism permits contraception only for reasons of health. However, where no health threat exists, the subject is gray.