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Laws of Marital Relations Part 6 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu   
Friday, 21 August 2009

By Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, excerpted from his book, “Darkei Taharah,” Chapters 19-24

Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 1
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 2
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 3
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 4
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 5
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 6
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 7

In the presence of certain factors and conditions, a husband and wife are not permitted to engage in marital relations.


Even though a man’s wife is permitted to him, he is not to conduct marital relations in the presence of other people, or in a public place, in gardens, or fields, for doing this is like an act of harlotry.

Husband and wife are to conduct their relations in modesty and take care that other people do not know their doings. The wife should not let others know when she has to perform her ritual immersion.

There are levels to modesty – some are obligations and some are voluntary. It is an obligation not to conduct relations when there are people around who are awake. This is the case even if the people who are awake are not aware that relations are being conducted. In principle, it is permitted to have relations if people in the vicinity are sleeping. In principle, it is also permitted to conduct relations before a one-year-old, or two-year-old, child who does not yet speak. Above this age, it is forbidden.  If parents conduct relations while their one-year-old child is sleeping at the foot of their bed, the child will suffer from a nervous disorder. But if a hand is placed on him, it is permitted.

Devout people will not even engage in marital relations in the presence of a baby. Rather, they will conduct their relations in total privacy, so that their complete attention will be focused on one another alone.

The Talmud relates that the great Sages of Israel would not even engage in marital relations in the presence of animals. They would even first remove mice and flies from the room. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught that the Holy One Blessed Be He despises those who have marital relations in the presence of any living creature.

Therefore a person should remove from the room all things that may be a distraction – especially things that may cause a man to think about other women.


Guests are not allowed to engage in marital relations because of modesty, lest their hosts sense that this is what they are doing, and lest they dirty the sheets of the hosts.

If the guests have their own room, closed off to themselves, whereby no one can enter at will, and from which the sound of their doings can’t be heard – then they may have marital relations, but they must do so on their own sheet or towel.
If there are holy books in the room, and they cannot make a barrier, or if they don’t have their own sheet, they are not to conduct relations, even if it is the night of the wife’s ritual immersion – and husband and wife should be forgiving one to another and not come to quarrel because of this.

If the husband fears that he may come to spill semen in vain, or think about other women, it is possible to be lenient on the night of ritual immersion, and the like, but only if they cover the books. If this is impossible, they must cover themselves with a covering extending over their heads and beyond their feet.


After a trip to the bathroom, at least nine minutes must pass before engaging in relations, because of the evil spirit which accompanies a person after leaving the bathroom. If one does not wait this amount of time, the children will be physically impaired.  This applies to a permanent bathroom, but if a person does his business in a field, or in a temporary outhouse, he does not have to wait.


A man who wakes up with an erection from a dream should not have relations while he is in that state, for it has not been brought about by his wife. If he has relations while in this state, it will cause damage to him and to the children who result from it. If his lust is great, he must wait until the erection from the dream ceases, and then he can engage in relations. If he feels that there is a likelihood that he will come to spill semen in vain if he waits, he is permitted to have relations immediately upon awakening.


The Rambam (Laws of Daot, Ch. 4, Sections 1 and 19) states: “A healthy and complete body are essential to the service of G-d, for it is impossible to understand or know the ways of the Creator when a person is ill. Therefore, a person should distance himself from things which weaken the body, and custom himself to partake in healthy and strengthening practices.”
Also: “Semen is the strength and vitality of the body, and the light of the eyes. The more it is emitted, the body becomes weaker and strength wanes… and this is what King Shlomo stated in his wisdom, ‘Don’t give your strength to women’” (Mishle, 31:3).

Therefore, the time of marital relations for a Torah scholar is on the night of Shabbat, for on Shabbat a person’s strength returns and is renewed, and a man won’t be weakened or come to any harm, because he has already received strength which he can actively exert. Thus it is said, “It brings forth its fruit in its season (the night of Shabbat), and its leaf will not wither, and everything he does will succeed” (Tehillim, 1:3).

It is forbidden for a sick person to engage in marital relations until he is healthy and has returned to his strength.

Someone who loses a quantity of blood (via donating blood, a serious wound, bloodletting in days of old) should refrain from marital relations that day. Also someone who is extremely tired, for instance after a long hike or strenuous physical activity, should not have relations that same day or the preceding day, so that his strength will be preserved and his body will be healthy to serve G-d. And he should ask for his wife’s agreement and forgiveness, and make sure she doesn’t harbor any ill feelings because of it.

One should not have relations when he is hungry or when his stomach is full from eating, but when the food has been digested. One should not have relations while standing nor while sitting, even though this is permitted, rather as has been explained (in the “missionary” position with the man lying atop the woman, he facing down at her, and she on her back facing upward at him.

One should not stand up immediately after relations, but only after a short rest, after one’s strength has returned.
If a person has relations when he is in a weak state, this may cause a danger also to the child who may be born from this coupling.

Everything forbidden due to weakness is permitted if there is the likelihood of spilling semen in vain.


A man is not to engage in marital relations at a time when the congregation is suffering tribulations – war, famine, and the like, even though he himself is not directly affected. The Gemara states that someone who excludes himself from the sufferings of the congregation will not share in its salvation (Taanit 11A). The Prophet Isaiah is speaking of this when he said, “Surely this iniquity shall not be forgiven until you die” (Isaiah, 22:14).

Marital relations that are forbidden during times of congregational tribulation are only those that are intended for pleasure, However, someone who does not have any children, or does not yet have a boy and a girl, or someone who is worried that he might spill semen in vain, or that he may think of another woman, he may engage in marital relations, but he must not intend to do so for pleasure, but only for the matter that makes it necessary.

There are authorities who say it is permitted to engage in marital relations on the night of the wife’s ritual immersion during times of congregational tribulation, and there are others who forbid this. It is proper to adopt the stringent opinion in years of famine, but for other afflictions, it is suitable to follow the lenient approach.


It is not permitted for mourners to engage in marital relations during the first seven days of the mourning. However, they are permitted other expressions of intimacy during this period, like eating at the same table and the like, as set forth in the laws of Niddah. It is proper to be stringent during this period and not kiss and embrace, and not to sleep in the same bed, even if both husband and wife are dressed.

This law applies both to a mourning husband or a mourning wife, whether the mourning is for parents, children, or siblings. It applies only to the first seven days.

A mourning period that has been postponed because of a Festival is like a regular mourning period, and marital relations are prohibited.

A groom has special mourning laws which apply to him, and it is fitting in such an instance to ask a Torah sage how to act.

Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 1
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 2
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 3
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 4
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 5
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 6
Laws of Marital Relations (Rabbi M. Eliahu) - Part 7

Last Updated ( Monday, 07 September 2009 )
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