כ״ב במרחשון ה׳תשע״ה (November 15, 2014)

Yevamot 42a-b: Pregnant and Waiting

On yesterday’s daf we discussed the rule of havhana – waiting three months after one marriage ends before entering another marriage – in order to ensure that we will know who the father of the child is in the event that the woman becomes pregnant. The Gemara on today’s daf quotes a baraita that teaches that we also do not permit a woman to marry immediately if she is pregnant. In this case there is no doubt whose child the woman is carrying, which leads the Gemara to ask why this marriage would be forbidden. The Gemara’s conclusion is that the prohibition stems from the fact that the woman will need to nurse after she gives birth, and an immediate marriage may lead to a new pregnancy, which will ruin her milk, and possibly lead to the infant’s death.

This suggestion leads to an obvious question. If we fear that the newborn will starve to death because the mother is pregnant, shouldn’t forbid any nursing woman to engage in relations, lest she become pregnant? To this question the Gemara responds that the father of the newborn will be sure to supply eggs and milk as a supplement, something that we cannot be certain he will do for the woman’s child by another man.

The fear that a pregnant woman will not be able to produce milk that will contain the necessary nutrients to feed her infant is not an unreasonable one. In fact, the hormone that is responsible for lactation will often keep ovulation from occurring, offering a type of natural birth control that will keep the case described by the Gemara from occurring very often. With the higher level of nutrition in contemporary society, however, it is not unusual to find nursing women becoming pregnant.

The suggestion that eggs and milk be used as a supplement in this case is understood by most rishonim as being a supplement for the child’s diet, since the mother’s milk will no longer suffice. The Netziv in his Ha’amek She’ala suggests that the fear of a second marriage is not necessarily a concern with pregnancy, but that the responsibilities of married life may take a toll on the mother’s health. By supplementing her diet with eggs and milk, her ability to nurse her baby properly is ensured.

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