I thank NJJN for the coverage of my book “Shall We Have Another?:
A Jewish Approach to Family Planning” (“Why he had another child,”
After an analysis of my motivations and arguments, the article states that “in Dubov’s passionate search for understanding, he sometimes comes off as tone deaf to contemporary issues and touchstones. This occurs when he glibly dismisses oral contraception as something ‘all agree is at the very least unhealthy.’ (Basic research reveals that most physicians consider oral contraceptives beneficial despite possible side effects.)”
The word I used was “unhealthy.” The opposite of “unhealthy” is “healthy.” Health food does not have unhealthy side effects. Oral contraceptives are beneficial as birth control and are usually safe. But they are unhealthy, which is precisely the reason why they can have unhealthy side effects. What exactly is this argument of being “beneficial” supposed to mean, and how does it contradict what I said? And “glib dismissal” — to whom must we now attribute this honorable description?
The article claims I overlook the stress on marriage of raising children. It states, “In a section on the laws of the sotah, a woman accused of adultery, Dubov comments about the reward a woman proved innocent will receive — easy childbirth or beautiful children. He then extrapolates that children can heal a broken marriage, disregarding modern scholarship debunking this idea as a harmful myth and failing to acknowledge contemporary struggles with this biblical subject.”
What’s overlooked is my statement in chapter 13 that tension in the marriage is a reason to put the continuity of childbirth into question. This is not in contradiction to the conclusion evident in the sotah narrative. The Torah speaks in a case where the husband and wife in the sotah situation choose to remain together, indicating their ability for reconciliation rather than divorce. If an additional child is viewed as part of this, it can only help in the reconciliation process.
The supposedly “harmful myth” of more children possibly saving a marriage is established as true in several reputable papers which can be found on Google Scholar. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, which is why I wrote what I did in chapter 13.
The article also criticizes my lack of discussion on abortion and government regulation of choice. This is a book directed at a couple considering the conception of another child. I only bring up the abortion issue in the appendix as an indicator for current cultural attitudes.
NJJN praises my “good-faith effort to capture secular objections and reservations” in family planning.
As for my “come[ing] off as tone deaf to contemporary issues and touchstones,” I would think this requires either further substantiation or retraction.
Rabbi Mendel Dubov
Chabad of Sussex County