Jerusalem – Halachic Ruling: Orthodox Couples Can Now Engage In Gender Selection Of Their Fetus


    Jerusalem – A radical halachic ruling to be announced at a conference tomorrow at the Puah Institute – an organization which helps couples struggling with infertility in keeping with Jewish law – will allow parents to select the gender of their fetus under certain circumstances according to a report in Israel Hayom (

    Rabbi Menachem Burstein, founder of the Institute, explained that there are several ways to choose the gender of a fetus.

    Until now, Rabbi Burstein said the rabbis have condemned such a practice because of various halachic issues. But because many parents desire to choose their future child’s gender from a “deep psychological need,” rabbis will now permit separating the chromosomes and in vitro fertilization as acceptable methods of gender selection.

    “We have come across cases of people who felt it was important to have sons to carry on the family line because of the Holocaust, or families with six or seven daughters in which the father wants a son so much that it threatens the marriage,” Rabbi Burstein said.

    “In cases like this, the matter will be examined by the appropriate rabbis, psychologists, medical committees, and clearly a Halachic compromise can be reached . . . It is easiest always to say no, but sometimes, if the rules can be eased or if solutions can be found, then we should strive for that.”

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    1. In IVF, especially when ICSI is used , there is a great manipulation of the sperm cells as it is. I am not sure why making sexual criteria in a case when the procedure is already allowed would be problematic. Employing IVF for nonfertility issues rather just choosing the sex sounds like a big issue

      • Sorry but I don’t believe you have your information straight. There is no great manipulation of the sperm cells, they are not manipulated at all, if anything the egg would be. But I believe that neither is manipulated they are just put in the same petri dish and allowed to fertilize naturally. Whichever eggs fertilize are then implanted back into the woman’s womb to see if a pregnancy will take hold. That is why they try to implant more than one embryo to assure a better chance of a pregnancy.

        In other scenarios petri dishes are not necessary and the sperm is injected into the woman. No manipulations necessary.

        Personally I wouldn’t take a chance playing with separating chromosomes. Too many things can go wrong. What if it is nicked, who wants to take responsibility for a deformity caused by defective chromosome. I think people who have a need for a certain gender should go for therapy and learn to be happy that they have healthy children or adopt the gender baby they have a need for!

    2. what next? maybe some parents will have a deep psychological need for children who don’t have down’s syndrome? or children with blue eyes? i cannot believe that halacha makes an exception for people to abort or select a potential fetus based on “psychological need”. these are potentially dangerous waters….
      I don’t think we should even go there. btw, is there ever a case where there is a deep psychological need for daughters? I didn’t think so

      • To #3 ” i cannot believe that halacha makes an exception for people to abort…”. No one here is talking about abortion. They are referring to a situation in which the couple is already doing IVF. Choosing sperm, not choosing babies. It’s a little different.

      • With all due respect (seriously, with all due respect), have you ever studied Jewish medical ethics, psychology, or basic human biology? If you had, then you might not be so confused. As “secular” says in comment 51, some poskim would categorize “deep psychological need” as an instance of pikuach nefesh when permitting a couple to abort. I don’t know whether it would be considered pikuach nefesh if the fetus has Down Syndrome, but in the past it has been decided that psychological need was a case of pikuach nefesh for a woman carrying a Tay Sachs fetus. There are poskim who consider psychological trauma or severe and chronic stress a reason to permit abortion. You cannot judge a decision like that. That is between the couple, their doctor, and their rabbi.

      • You also seem to minimize the value in considering psychological need when deciding to a abort a fetus or select its gender. Psychological need can come into the picture with gender selection, for example, when a family carries a sex-linked trait. In any case, raising a child with severe illness can be extremely taxing on the mental health of all family members involved. And the mental health aspect of it should not be dismissed. Chronic stress can lead to elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. It also increases one’s risk of gastrointestinal disorders and even cancer. Not to mention depression, sleeping disorders, and a reduction in size of certain brain structures. This is all can happen from years of being bathed in a cocktail of stress hormones (i.e. psychological need)

      • You’d be surprised!

        I was once listening to the radio in Israel when I heard the following story:

        A Sfardi man made a neder that he would divorce his wife if she fell pregnant with a girl one more time. They had 10 daughters and zero sons.

        They were now about to ask about theit Rav what they halacha was. She fell pregnant again, only this time it was….. TWIN girls! He wanted to know if he was bound by the neder

      • you are probably not married or simple minded

        just look at abraham our father for example, he had no son and took in hagar to have a son beah.fore he conceived with sar

        • Actually I think he’s making a very astute point. Of course its possible that not having any sons can cause rift in the marriage, but I can assure you that in a happy and healthy marriage it wont lead to such contention ( as the article is implying) that would impinge on the Shalom Bait to such an extant. As far as you Abraham comparison, Im sure who ever we are talking about is not on his level and besides, that not the point here.

      • Too bad. The Ebeshter decides the gender of your child, not each couple whose emotional needs of the moment dictate boy or girl. What happens if the IVF doctors are wrong and they get a girl instead of a boy? Do these phony rabbonim also approve infanticide like they do in China and India if the fetus turns out to be the wrong gender. Couples who pursue this meshugaas need our help and understanding, not some rabbonim and doctors catering to their obcessions with having a boy or girl.

    3. How presumptuous to assume that Puah has not already BEEN in consultation with Gedolei Hador.

      Have you figured out the pattern yet?

      They ask the Gedolim in private and get agreement. They announce things publicly and the Gedolim deny it. Sooner or later it becomes Halacha.

      But we always have this play acting first.

    4. There are diseases that That are sex specific. That sounds like a legitimate reason. The marriage is in jeopardy because he has no sons? Doesn’t sound like much of a marriage to begin with.

    5. All the people commenting have no idea at all what they are saying. Just because this sounds weird because we weren’t able to ever pick the gender till recently doesnt mean the RabbI is a fraud. Obviously the Rabbi studied the topic and through halacha found that this is permitted. Many orthodox jews 25 yrs ago also thought IVF is prohibited. Till this very day some of the “Gedollim” still say IVF is prohibited…

    6. “We have come across cases of people who felt it was important to have sons to carry on the family line because of the Holocaust, or families with six or seven daughters in which the father wants a son so much that it threatens the marriage,” Rabbi Burstein said.

      and this is the woman fault?

        • You refer to, of course, that it is non jewish to go to a psychiatrist in order to address real psychiatric disorders?
          Explain how it is normal and in line with torah ideology that not having a child of a certain gender should threaten a marriage.
          Not having children at all may threaten a marriage, but if the couple has proven that they can have children together, even if only of one gender, there is no reason to not keep trying in order to have the other gender and be yotzei pru urevu.

          • My wife and I have 4 daughters yet because of emotional issues, she is now on birth control. So now I am without the option to have a son and there is a small possibility that she could (Hashem forbid) become infertile from the birth control… she has had to change birth control 4-5 times because of complications.

            So, from someone that is actually in this position, I can say that there are struggles. For me, not enough to end a marriage… but it does add additional stress to the relationship. So if there are other problems in the relationship, then it could definitely push someone to the limit if they can’t have a child of their choice gender.

            • You are stressed because she has not given you a boy? Last time I checked it’s your sperm that determines gender. So since she doesn’t have a way of magically making male eggs, you better figure out a way to make your Y chromosome sperm swim faster.

            • sadly you again show your ignorance

              natural selection of which sperm makes it to the egg is complicated
              it has to do with many factors including a womans ovulation and time of union with her husband
              also hormonal factors in the womans reproductive tract change based on many circumstances which makes it easier or more difficult for y sperm to find the egg

              ultimately the process is complex and not to be laid upon either the man or the woman as his or her fault

            • Everybody knows that it’s the sperm that determines the gender. You missed the whole point of my comment. It causes stress because (in our case) she can’t handle even the idea of being pregnant more and because I can’t just choose to have a boy, it causes a certain level of stress because she feels like being done and I want to keep trying… If we never have a boy I’d be fine as long as I knew we tried. Therefore being able to choose the gender would probably open her up to having one more pregnancy and I would be elated to have a son.

          • some people are very strict in the orthdox world ( machmir is the term)
            according to beth shamai one does not fulfill the mitzvah of procreation unless there is both a girl and a boy.. 5 boys or 5 girls does not qualify according to beth shamai ( it does according to th ehouse of hillel)
            i suspect there are some people who want to be machmir to beth shami

            as for threatening a marriage, i just look to the bible
            our father abraham brought in an egyptian princess hagar to provide a child with sarah still in the home

            look at the story of hannah and her husband elkanah and how he treated his other wife that was despised and how hannah cried and prayed

            rachel felt so sad and threatened from her sister leah having children that she gave jacob her hand-maiden to procreate these are definitely issues that affect a marriage
            if anything the torah teaches us the critical nature of having children and the lengths some people go through to bring forth a new generation

            personally, after our parents endured a holocaust i beleive we have a particular obligation to bring in as many children as safe and possible both female and male.

    7. I wonder if his message wasn’t misinterpreted. Isn’t it daughters that ensure the future of family line (if ch”v intermarriage occurs the daughters kids are halachically Jewish).

      • having both sons and daughters isa blessing from the Almighty

        according to beth Shamai, one needs at least one son and one abd one daughter to fulfill the mitzvah of procreation.

        maybe there are many people who want to be stringent in their observance

    8. Why is everyone upset? This is the solution to the shidduch crisis. Now if only they could figure out a way to make the child tall, smart, and good looking.

    9. Machon Puah has an annual all-day conference with 10 hrs or so of lectures and shiurim, given by some the foremost Rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel, covering some of the most complex issues of halacha and fertility.

      Maybe they can another hour or so, so that VIN commentators can line up at the mike to add their 2c cents.

    10. You guys have no right to write such comments because you haven’t researched the halacha. Just because you were raised with a bunch of chumrot it doesn’t mean that GD wants us to live that way.

    11. Don’t understand any of your issues. Using IVF you already separate the chromosomes, now all you are doing is selecting which one you want. You are not killing zerah, babies or such. Instead of nature taking its course and selecting, the medical doctor can choose.

    12. I am surprised this would be an issue that a halachaic expert would really permit in his discretion, but that said, I am not sure that it would stop any person who really wanted to make this their selection. And that said, I am quite confident that Hashem would not be very harsh on someone for making such a selection overall, but of course, we do not completely understand G-ds intentions. G-d is Trusted and we can only hope that what we do to further our own prosperity on earth as we see somewhat meets all Torah criteria is not an avera. I think it is not myself, but I personally like to leave my hand to fate.

      • “The gemara itself talks about how to make a male vs. female child.”

        Are you referring to ברכות ס ע”א, where it states:

        והאמר רב יצחק בריה דרב אמי איש מזריע תחלה יולדת נקבה אשה מזרעת תחלה יולדת זכר

        • No, he is probably referring to the Gemarah in Niddah 31a-b Where Rav Ketina said he can make all his children boys.

          Interesting to note the Gemara also states (38 a-b), that the Chasidim HaRishonim would calculate they day of delivery so as to avoid a Shabbos birth (and Bris). I don’t know why Rabbonim make a big deal about induction of Labor…

          Obviously, the topic at hand is beyond the scope of this post or this blog, but I will add:

          From the Talmud it seems one can pray for a specific outcome (early in the pregnancy), or perform maneuvers that will ‘assure’ the birth of a male. Yet I would be wary of a Pesak that would tamper with embryos (if this is indeed the case).
          That said, some poskim allow for leniencies in the first ’40 days’ of gestation.

          However Israel is notorious for its ultra-liberal position on Abortion. I fear that a pesak like this, though well intended (?) may in fact cause more harm than good. Often women are granted abortions by hospital panels because of ‘psychological need’. ‘Psychological need’ is a way for some to stretch Pikuach Nefesh.

          Be careful

          • “No, he is probably referring to the Gemarah in Niddah 31a-b Where Rav Ketina said he can make all his children boys.”

            Yes, but, it is all based on איש מזריע תחלה יולדת נקבה אשה מזרעת תחלה יולדת זכר, which is also brought down in נדה. That is, concerning the statement of רב קטינא about being able to sire sons, רש”י learns:

            שישהא עצמו מלהזריע.

            And, for the suggestion of רבא of יבעול וישנה, we see that רש”י learns:

            שמתוך תאות בעילה ראשונה תהא מזרעת

            As stated in my prior post, this attempt at having males all stems from:

            איש מזריע תחלה יולדת נקבה אשה מזרעת תחלה יולדת זכר

            • Possibly,

              … But if it was a s simple as that, everyone would know what they were having before the first ultrasound. And yes, certainly the way Rashi is learning seems to be how he learns the Gemara.

              Interesting that Rav Ketina said he COULD sire boys, but the Gemarah does not follow up and say that was indeed the case. Similarly with Rava, there is no follow up. It’s hard to say if this was a ‘proven’ method, or something which made it more LIKELY to conceive boys. In any event they probably had a 49-51% accuracy rate (at the least).

              Now on to the topic of medicine in the Talmud…tread carefully.

            • It is a fair assumption to say that Rashi was simply following the Talmud’s premise, as you stated, but did not have any empirical knowledge. For if Rashi (correctly) understood what the Gemarah meant, then ….only three options remain.

              1) He chose to have girls

              2) His peshat is not what the Gemara means.

              3) His peshat IS what the Gemarah means, but the Gemarah is…( you fill it in).

              But again, if that statement of Chazal is as simple and strait forward, why the mystery. People should know what they are having at the moment of conception.

    13. I know the Rabbanim at Machon Puah. They are very Frum, Learned, and spiritual. They have the utmost respect for mesorah and halacha. Remember, Koach Dheitra Adif. Just because it doesn’t sound right, doesn’t mean it is not right. Rav Burstein and Rav Weitzman can out-learn anyone on this message board. (They can also teach a bit about middos, too)
      They are responsible for thousands of children born to Jewish couples that could not have children. Since someone who saves a life saves a world, these rabanim have saved and made many many worlds, are partners with Hashem, and have a cheiliek in so much more schar and mitzvos than any of us could imagine.
      I hope that they aren’t distracted by the meek and feeble minded socially “frum” Jews who try to make this and them into a problem.
      Relax, and hope that you never need their help. Rest assured that they will even help the most chutzpadik commentators on this blog, with love and happiness.

    14. Well, in ברכות נ”ד ע”א the משנה states:

      היתה אשתו מעוברת ואומר יהי רצון שתלד אשתי זכר הרי זו תפלת שוא.

      Does this mean that one shouldn’t be מתפלל for a child to be a certain gender, but it is all right to scientifically make the child the gender of choice?

        • “the mishna obviously knows that the gender is determined by the time the woman knows she is pregnant.”

          Yes, I am aware of this. But, have you ever heard of sarcasm?

      • I believe your referenced Mishna is after the woman is pregnant already and Hashem would have to change teva to switch genders,just like lihavdil the famous case if you Chasvishalom see your house is on fire and you Daven to Hashem please dont let it be my house. Prior to becoming pregnant (and I believe even before gender is decided early on)there are different segulas mentioned to keep in mind and Daven if requesting a boy or girl. Famous one is keeping in mind the Avos for a boy and Imahos for a girl.

      • Lichora, Pshat in that mishna is when she is actually pregnant – which at that point the gender is already fact – u can’t change it. Mah She’ein Kein with IVF the whole procedure is done to create a specific gendered Ubbar. (kach nireh li borur)

    15. I think most people took issue that the idea was referenced with a hint of misogyny. It should’ve said that couples can now choose one gender over the other. Instead it focused on being able to choose male over female.

    16. People should be a lot more compassionate, empathetic, and sympathetic to others, and less judgmental on a regular/general basis, and even more so when it comes to sensitive issues.
      Social skills therapy should be mandatory for all adults who have as not yet achieved the ability to think before they comment/speak to others at all times and even greater care should be taken when it involves issues as sensitive as the above discussion.
      A person should try and imagine what it would be like to be in the other person’s shoes, before being judgmental or commenting.
      In addition there seems to be a need to perhaps keep these type of issues for private discussions between those yechidim involved, the organization, and the Poskim. These are highly sensitive issues and I am sure require case by case, individual consideration and psak. Discussing these issues so offhandedly, and publicly invites trouble (people paskening for themselves, or those who never would otherwise look for such heterim or kulos doing so).

    17. We’ve seen the experiment in China and India, albeit with abortion rather than IVF. The result? Millions of men who will never have families because parents have an insatiable desire for sons. And in China at least a lot of the women have decided they’d rather do anything than marry a Chinese man leaving the situation even more unbalanced.

    18. Points to ponder:

      1) If this Halachic ruling becomes mainstream, would there be any reason to think there might be an Halachic imperative to choose/select a male over a female. Conversely, would couples still obtain a ‘Heter’ if they decided to have a girl.

      2) Will this gender choosing technology, and Rabbinic endorsement allow for families already blessed with children to have more children with predetermined gender?

      3) What about the Halachic implications and constraints of procuring the male (and female) reproductive cells. Once those cells are procured, and gender chosen what about the remainder? are they discarded? before or after a fertilization ?

      וּרְאֵה-בָנִים לְבָנֶיךָ: שָׁלוֹם, עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל

    19. Can I see a teshuva lehalocho either way? This whole issue sounds like a non-issue. Everyone should do what they want because there is no halocho governing this point. Medical ethics are not Judaism, nor are they particularly ethical so we can safely ignore them.


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