Exemption from Onah-Mechila; Illness

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6. Exemption from Onah:

A. Mechila – Wife forgives her Onah:[1]

A wife has the ability to forgive and forgo [i.e. be Mochel] her Onah rights. Thus, if after the marriage[2] a wife agrees to allow her husband to withhold her Onah rights, then it is permitted for the husband to do so, and he is exempt from his Onah obligations. [Likewise, if during one week, or during one of the occasional Onah obligations explained in Halacha 3, the wife forgives her Onah for that occasion, then he is exempt from doing so.[3] This, however, only applies if she is Mochel with a full and complete heart.[4]]

Cases of Onah obligation despite Mechila – Peru Urevu:[5] The above ability for a wife to forgive her Onah only applies if the husband has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu [i.e. one boy and one girl[6]], otherwise, he is [Biblically] obligated to have intercourse with her at every interval of his Onah obligations [even if he desires to abstain for reasons of Teshuvah and Torah learning,[7] or due to becoming a Ba’al Keri[8]]. [Some Poskim[9] rule that this obligation, due to Peru Urevu, applies even when she is nursing (within 24 months of birth), as she could nevertheless still become pregnant, and hence her Mechila does not suffice. However, when she is pregnant, there is no further Onah obligation due to Peru Urevu during her pregnancy, and hence he may abstain from intimacy if his wife is Mochel.[10] Likewise, if one’s wife is past menopause or has lost her womb r”l, and can thus no longer have children, then he may abstain from intimacy if his wife is Mochel, even if he has not yet fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu.[11] Some Poskim[12] learn that this obligation applies even if the man is married to two wives, nevertheless, neither of his wives may be Mochel until he fulfills the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu.]

For how long does the Mechila exempt intercourse? [Even if one already has fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu] the wife’s forgiveness only lasts for a one-month period, and hence, after one month he is obligated to be intimate with her.[13] However, if one’s wife was originally Mochel him without needing appeasement, then he may be abstinent indefinitely.[14] Nonetheless, even this only applies if one’s wife can no longer have children, as otherwise one is Rabbinically obligated to have intercourse for the sake of fulfilling the Rabbinical Mitzvah of having children, as learned from the verse “La’areiv Al Tanich Yad’cha.”[15] [Accordingly, if one’s wife can still have children, he is obligated to have intercourse with her on occasion, even if she is Mochel and he has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu, although he is only obligated to do so on occasion and not according to his minimal occupation-based Onah.[16] Practically, this obligation applies once every thirty days.[17]]

The proper custom even if exempt due to Mechila:[18] Furthermore, even in the case that a wife forgoes her Onah [and one has already fulfilled his Mitzvah of Peru Urevu], it is proper to fulfill [her Onah] anyway. [This applies even if he desires to abstain from Onah in order not to become a Ba’al Keri and Mikva’os are not available.[19] This is due to two reasons: a) as perhaps one’s wife is not truly Mochel him, and b) it can lead him to have forbidden thoughts.[20] Accordingly, the Rebbe vehemently discouraged people from practicing abstinence, and viewed it as a stringency that leads to a leniency in Kedusha and Taharah.[21]]


A wife has the ability to forgive and forgo [i.e. be Mochel] her Onah rights and exempt her husband from needing to have intercourse with her, if both of the following two conditions apply:

1.       He has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu.

2.       A month has not passed since her last Onah, unless she forgives him without needing appeasement.

*In all cases it remains a Mitzvah for the husband to fulfill his wife’s Onah, even if she forgives him.


If a wife forgave her Onah, may she then retract her forgiveness?[22]

If a wife forgave her husband’s abstinence from Onah for a certain period of time, and then retracted her Mechila, then the husband is no longer exempt from his obligation and must fulfill her Onah. Accordingly, the exemption is only valid so long as she prolongs her Mechila.


If a wife in uninterested in having relations, does the Mitzvah of Onah still apply?[23]

No. If the wife is uninterested in relations, then there is no Mitzvah of Onah, at all, involved in doing so. [If, however, this is due to the fact that she is upset with her husband, then obviously he is to try to appease her so she wants and desires the Onah. Often, it occurs that a wife will make herself uninterested in relations simply because she feels ignored by her husband and that he has not shown her affection. Obviously, in such a case he remains obligated to appease her and bring back her true desire for intimacy. However, if she is not interested due to other reasons which are not dependent on him, such as if she does not feel well, or has a UTI, or is too tired, or is in the early or very late stages of pregnancy and has low libido, or is on birth control and has low interest, etc., then the husband does not have an Onah obligation. Nonetheless, if Peru Urevu has yet to be fulfilled and she is able to become pregnant, then the husband remains obligated to have intimacy in order to fulfill this Mitzvah, as stated above. In such a case, he is obligated to appease her until she acquiesces to the intimacy.]

If the wife is Mochel her Onah [i.e. is not interested], does that mean the husband loses his rights to have intimacy?[24]

No. Even if the wife is not interested, it does not mean that the husband has lost his right to have intimacy; as explained in Halacha 1B that a wife is subjugated to her husband in this respect. Rather, her uninterest simply effects that he is not obligated to do so, if he agrees to withhold [and has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu]; hence, if both he and her are not interested then they are both exempt. Nonetheless, even when the husband is interested and has the right to intimacy, he is obligated to appease her until she acquiesces to the intimacy.


If a wife is Mochel her Onah, may the couple nevertheless engage in hugging and kissing?

Yes,[25] however only if he is positive that it will not lead to Zera Levatala.[26]

B. One who is sick:[27]

The above obligatory times of Onah only apply to a person who is healthy and is physically able to fulfill his Onah obligations. However, one who is not in a good state of health is only obligated in intercourse at frequencies that he is capable of.[28] Nonetheless, even one who is sick or weak (and cannot have intimacy with his wife) may only delay her intimacy for up to six months.[29] [Furthermore, he remains obligated in showing her other acts of intimacy and affection, even if he cannot have actual intercourse.[30]] Past six months, he must either receive her permission to continue the delay, or he must divorce her and pay her Kesuba.[31] [However, if the illness is curable, then she must bear with him until he is cured.[32] Furthermore, it is proper for her to not demand a divorce from her husband due to his weakness, even if six months have passed; rather, she should wait two to three years and see if the situation improves.[33]]

After bloodletting: See Chapter 5 Halacha 5.


Intercourse after recovering from illness:[34]

One who has recovered from an illness is to abstain from intercourse until he fully regains his strength. Lack of waiting until a full recovery can lead to a relapse r”l. [In all cases of doubt, one is to seek advice from a doctor.]


C. One who can’t immerse in a Mikveh – Winter time:[35]

The above obligation of Onah applies even if one is unable to immerse in a Mikveh afterwards, and even in the winter when it is too cold to immerse in a Mikveh. This applies even when one’s wife is pregnant or nursing. However, if one’s wife is Mochel [as explained in A] then one is not obligated to have intercourse, although, even in such a case it is proper for one to have intercourse.


May a husband be stringent to consider his wife impure against the ruling of the Rav?[36]

If a wife brought her Eid to a Rav, who ruled it to be pure, the husband may nevertheless choose to be stringent and consider it impure, despite the protests of his wife.



[1] Michaber E.H. 76:6; Admur 280:2; Y.D. 184:33; M”B 240:2; See Igros Moseh E.H. 1:102; Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:9; Sheyikadesh Atzmo [Nachmonson-2015] p.  118-122

[2] However, before the marriage it does not help for her to give permission. [Mishneh Limelech Issurei Biyah 15:1, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 76:5 and Rav Akiva Eiger]

[3] See Admur Y.D. 184:33 “If Mechila helps even by a Biblical Chiyuv Onah, then certainly by a Rabbinical one [of Yotzei Laderech]”

Does Mechila help even on the night of Mikveh? Yes. See Halacha 1B in Q&A!

[4] Igros Kodesh 10:370; 13:314; printed in Shulchan Menachem 6:245

[5] Michaber ibid; Beis Shmuel E.H. 1:1; Rambam Ishus 15; P”M 240 A”A; Beir Heiytiv E.H. 1:1; Kitzur SHU”A 150:7; M”B 240:2; Igros Moshe ibid; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 1:14; 3:1

Other opinions – The Mitzvah of Liareiv: Even after one has fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu, he nevertheless remains Rabbinically obligated in the Mitzvah of Liareiv, to have even more children. [See Michaber E.H. 1:8; Beis Shmuel 1:1 and 14-15; Rambam Ishus 15:16; Yevamos 62b] Nonetheless, from the above Poskim it is evident that one is permitted to abstain from his minimum Onah frequency if his wife is Mochel, even if it means that he will nullify this Rabbinical command. [See Beis Shmuel 1:1 that so is implied from Poskim ibid] Some Poskim, however, question this ruling and suggest that Mechila should not help, even after the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu is fulfilled, as he nevertheless is still required to fulfill the Mitzvah of Liareiv. [Beis Shmuel ibid] Other Poskim conclude that so long as one does not have another wife from whom he can have children with, then he remains obligated to have intercourse with his wife during the Onah frequencies, even if she is Mochel, in order to fulfil the Rabbinical Mitzvah of Liareiv. [Taz E.H. 1:1; Suggestion in Beis Shmuel ibid; Maggid Mishneh on Rambam ibid; Nimukei Hagriv on Rambam ibid; See Likkutei Sichos 30:264 footnote 31] Practically, we rule that from the perspective of the Mitzvah of Liareiv, the husband is only obligated to have intimacy on occasion, and hence once the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu is fulfilled, the Mechila of the wife helps to permit skipping the minimum Onah frequencies, however not to skip indefinitely as explained in the next paragraph on this Halacha! [Birkeiy Yosef E.H. 1:2; Pischeiy Teshuvah E.H. 1:1]

[6] Michaber E.H. 1:5; See other opinions in previous footnote

[7] Machaneh Chaim 1:18 based on Noda Beyehuda Kama 35; Maharsham 8:240

[8] See Minchas Yitzchak 3:15; Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:9

[9] Hagahos Ezer Mikodesh E.H. 76:6; See Sheyikadesh Atzmo 3:2 footnote 2 for possible implication from M”A 240 in name of Arizal that the Mitzvah does not apply when she is nursing, although certainly the Mitzvah would apply once she stops nursing, even though she is within 24 months.

[10] Az Nidbaru 6:107; Minchas Yitzchak 3:15-2; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 3:3

[11] Sheyikadesh Atzmo 3:3

[12] Taz E.H. 1:1

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that when one is married to two wives, the Mechila of one wife is valid, even if he has yet to fulfill the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu. [Birkeiy Yosef E.H. 1 and Beis Moshe]

[13] See Rama E.H. 76:5 and above in Halacha 2G regarding travel; See Igros Kodesh 10:370; 13:314; printed in Shulchan Menachem 6:245

The reason: Although if the wife forgives her Onah he may travel for as long as he wishes, nevertheless, one is not to do so, as in truth she has pain in her heart because of this [and hence her forgiving is only superficial]. [Beis Shmuel 76:7; Chelkas Mechokeik 76:7]

[14] Beis Shmuel 76:7 based on Tosafos Kesubos

[15] Beis Shmuel 1:1; Beir Heiytiv 1:1; Taz E.H. 1:1; Birkeiy Yosef E.H. 1:2; Pischeiy Teshuvah E.H. 1:1

[16] Birkeiy Yosef E.H. 1:2; Pischeiy Teshuvah E.H. 1:1

[17] Otzer Haposkim 1:3 in name of Pnei Moshe; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 3:4

[18] Admur ibid “…as was explained there [in 240]”; M”A 240:1; Arizal in Peri Eitz Chaim Sha’ar Kerias Shema She’al Hamita 11; Beir Heiytiv 240:1; Minchas Yitzchak ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; See also Michaber E.H. 76:8 and Beis Shmuel 76:7

[19] See Arizal ibid; Poskim ibid; See Maharam Brisk 3:35 and Peri Hasadeh 4:2, brought in Sheyikadesh Atzmo 63:18, that one may push it off even if it is Mikveh night in such a case that all the following conditions are fulfilled: a) his wife is completely Mochel, b) he has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu or his wife cannot get pregnant, c) he is not bothered by Hirhurim, d) he is always Makpid on Tevials Ezra,

[20] Minchas Yitzchak ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:9 footnote 69; Igros Kodesh ibid and brought in next footnote

[21] Igros Kodesh 6:156; 9:326; 10:370; 13:314; printed in Shulchan Menachem 6:245; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 3:5; See Rambam Shemoneh Perakim 4; Igara Dikallah Mishpatim p. 22

[22] Admur Hilchos Nizikei Guf V’Nefesh 4 in parentheses “Regarding bodily pain, a condition does not remove his ability from retracting from it, as explained in Even Ha’ezer 76 regarding forgiving Onah, that she can retract from it being that it is pain of the body and is not given to eternal Mechila, and rather is only valid so long as she is Mochel.”; Shut Mayim Amukim [Ranach] 2:43, brought in Beir Heiytiv E.H. 1:1 and Pischeiy Teshuvah E.H. 1:1; Y.D. 234:12

[23] Igros Moseh E.H. 1:102

[24] Igros Moseh E.H. 1:102

[25] See Admur Y.D.

[26] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 240 footnote 44

[27] See Sheyikadesh Atzmo [Nachmonson-2015] p.  116

[28] Michaber E.H. 76:3; Elya Raba 240:2; M”B 240:3; Kaf Hachaim 240:11; See Beis Shmuel 76:5; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 1:11

[29] The reason: As the longest interval of Onah that we find is every six months. [Michaber ibid]

[30] See Maharam Melublin 53

[31] Michaber E.H. 76:11

[32] Beis Shmuel 76:17 and Chelkas Mechokeik 76:18 in name of Hagahos Alfasi / Shiltei Giborim in name of Rebbe Yeshayah Hachron and Hagahos Ashri

[33] Mahralbach 29

[34] Tzeida Laderech; Elya Raba 240:22; Siddur Ya’avetz Mosach Hashabbos 7 Chulya 2; M”B 240:53; Kaf Hachaim 240:89; Darkei Taharah p. 212; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 2:1

[35] M”A 240:1 in name of Arizal in Sha’ar Hakavanos; However, regarding the Arizal himself, it has been testified that he did not fulfill the Mitzvah of Onah in the winter. [M”A ibid; Shaar Hakavanos ibid]

[36] Chasam Sofer Y.D. 149; Pischeiy Teshuvah Y.D. 188:2; E.H. 76:4

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