Simḥat Ha-bayit is devoted primarily to two mitzvot: ona, the conjugal rights and
duties implied by a marital relationship; and pirya ve-rivya, procreation, the duty to
have children. The first part of the book is devoted to the commandment of ona. From
the outset, Rav Eliezer Melamed clarifies that this mitzva is entirely independent of
the mitzva of procreation, that the importance of the marital relationship persists
regardless of how many children one has. He defines this mitzva as the duty to bring
joy and pleasure to one’s spouse through physical intimacy. This section goes into
detail about what sorts of activities are permitted and prohibited, and it also touches
on questions of self-gratification and same-sex attraction. The second part of the book
is devoted to the mitzva of procreation and addresses the subjects of infertility,
contraception, abortion, family size, the age of marriage, and family planning.
As usual, Rav Melamed does not view these questions in isolation, but as part of a
larger, holistic view of halakha, one that embeds the relationship between husband
and wife within the unfolding drama of God’s relationship with the Jewish people.
The result is a halakhic text whose candor and positivity is unprecedented, and which
is sure to become popular among couples young and old.
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