The Mitzvah of Onah – The wifes obligation

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1. The Mitzvah of Onah – The obligation of the couple to engage in intimacy:[1]

B. The Wife’s obligation – May a wife deny her husband intercourse?[2]

The general rule: A wife is subjugated to her husband for his rights of marital relations.[3] This means that she is prohibited from refusing his desire for intimacy, even if he desires it more often than she does and even if she is Mochel on her Onah; rather, whenever he desires her, she is to try to greet his wishes.[4] It is forbidden for her to give her husband an ultimatum to bargain with her intimacy, such as to say that she will only agree to intimacy if he buys her jewelry, and the like.[5] It is likewise forbidden for her to refuse her husband intimacy in order to cause him to try harder at showing her love.[6] [However, this does not absolve the husband’s obligation to appease her and show her love prior to the intimacy, until she acquiesces, as explained next that it is forbidden to have intimacy against her will.]  It is likewise forbidden for her to refuse her husband intimacy in order that he enhance his religiosity.[7] It is forbidden for her to refuse her husband intimacy even as a joke.[8]

The limitations of the husband’s rights: Although a wife may not refuse her husband intimacy, the husband is obligated to appease his wife during intimacy and is prohibited from having relations with her against her will, as stated in Chapter 5 Halacha 1. Furthermore, it is forbidden for a husband to overburden his wife with demands of intimacy more than the norm, and to cause her pain with his demands.[9] Some Poskim[10] rule that the minimum frequency which a wife must provide her husband is the same as the minimum frequency of Onah that the husband must provide his wife. [See Halacha 2 that some husbands have a minimum Onah frequency of once a day, although the general accepted frequency is twice a week. According to this approach, whatever frequency the husband is obligated towards his wife, so too the wife is obligated to provide her husband.] Nonetheless, practically, a wife is not to refuse her husband’s desires even if he surpasses the minimum Onah obligations, if doing so will cause the husband pain [or sexual tension that could lead him to sin]. Notwithstanding, a wife is not obligated to give into her husband at a time that intercourse is difficult or painful for her.[11] [Thus, every couple is to do the utmost to respect the other spouse’s rights, feelings, and desires; while the husband is to endeavor not to overburden the wife with his sexual needs, the wife is to consider his feelings and desires and not be quick to dismiss them simply due to an inconvenience. Some husbands have very high sex drives, that are instigated by hormones and exposure to the immodesty which flaunts our streets, and need intercourse on a daily basis.[12] A wife should be accommodating to this reality, and not deny him intimacy simply because she is satisfied and not in the mood, or wants to do something else. In all cases of controversy, a mutual Rav is to be contacted for arbitration.]

Not to delay Mikveh:[13] It is forbidden for a woman to delay her immersion in the Mikveh [without her husband’s consent,[14] even if she is Mochel her Onah and the couple has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu].[15] [This applies even if the woman is pregnant or nursing, or past menopause.[16] This applies whether she delays immersing after her Shiva Nekiyim or delays performing her Hefsek Taharah.[17] Indeed, Yehoshua Ben Nun was punished for delaying the Jewish people from performing intimacy one night.[18] Likewise, the sons of Eily were punished for delaying the purification of the women.[19]] A woman who delays her immersion in order to pain her husband is doing a great sin and causes much evil to occur.[20] [This applies even if her Mikveh night coincides with Friday night, Rosh Hashanah, Shavuos, Hoshanah Raba, night of the Seder,[21] and the like. However, it is permitted to delay going to Mikveh for a justifiable reason, such as if the wife is ill, and the like.[22] In all cases that one desires to delay Mikveh, one is to contact a Rav for guidance in this matter.]


Practical Q&A

May a wife delay Mikveh if she has her husband’s consent?[23]

If the husband has already fulfilled the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu, then it is permitted to delay Mikveh if both the husband and wife consent to it. If he has yet to fulfill the Mitzvah, then it is forbidden to delay, even if they both consent.


Should a woman immerse in a Mikveh if her husband is out of town, or knows that her husband will be unable to be intimate with her due to some other reason?

See Halacha 3B in Q&A!


During intimacy, may a wife delay her husband from doing the act?[24]

This part of the article has been censored due to its intimate content. It is available in our corresponding Sefer or in the chapter 2 article on our website through a passcode

If a husband’s request for intercourse will come at the expense of neglecting children, must the wife comply?

If a husband requests intimacy during times that would cause the wife to neglect her children (such as placing a screaming baby next door or leaving children unsupervised at home) then she is not obligated to comply until the baby has calmed down, and the like. This is no different than physical pain, for which, the wife has a right to deny intimacy due to it, as stated above. Thus, often a mother with small children may feel unable to consent all the time to her husband’s requests for intimacy due to her preoccupation with them, and doing so is a valid reason for being unavailable. Nonetheless, she should try to make herself available for her husband at another convenient time, when the children are not in need of her.

If a husband requests intercourse when his wife is too exhausted for it, who should give in, the wife or the husband?

This part of the article has been censored due to its intimate content. It is available in our corresponding Sefer or in the chapter 2 article on our website through a passcode

Must a wife consent to have intercourse with her husband if she feels that he is doing so too often and is not interested? [See also next Q&A]

This part of the article has been censored due to its intimate content. It is available in our corresponding Sefer or in the chapter 2 article on our website through a passcode

Is a husband asking for intimacy daily, or twice a day, too much? Can I refuse him? [See also next and previous Q&A]

* This part of the article has been censored due to its intimate content. It is available in our corresponding Sefer or in the chapter 2 article on our website through a passcode

I know that I am required Halachically to give my husband intimacy when he desires it, but I think my husband is being abusive by asking for intimacy so often and ignoring my feelings and needs? [See previous Q&A]

Abuse is a very heavy term, and should be saved for only real verbal or physical abuse cases Ch”V. With that said, unfortunately, sometimes the way the husband demands intimacy and goes about doing it, making his wife feel like an object, is indeed mental and emotional abuse even if no words or physical hitting was present. As stated many times, a husband does not have the right to demand intimacy on his terms without the need to appease his wife beforehand, and it is forbidden to have intimacy under coercion, as stated in chapter 5 Halacha 1. Thus, a husband who is not investing in the emotional needs of his wife prior to his frequent quests for intimacy cannot use the Halacha that his wife is Meshubad to him as a legal weight to force her to comply. If proper communication between the couple cannot help them solve their differences, then it is advised for them to seek counsel for their personal situation.

Verbal and/or physical abuse:

Verbal and physical abuse can never be tolerated in a relationship. A wife is not a slave to be controlled and abused by her husband, not verbally and certainly not physically. Wives and daughters should be educated to learn how to identify verbal, and certainly physical abuse and seek counsel immediately at the onset of such occurrences. She should never view herself as the one at fault, and thereby excuse her husband’s behavior, as is common with abusive partners who manipulate the minds of their victims to make them feel that it’s their fault they are being abused. There are many Frum hotlines available for woman suffering from domestic abuse, and one should seek council from them in this regard.[25] Many Rabbanim are not equipped to deal with these situations, as they are not marriage counselors and certainly not abuse experts, and unfortunately, often their advice goes contrary to the expert opinion, causing very damaging results.[26] The position of a Rav when faced with such a Sha’alah is to direct the wife to the proper experts that can deal with her situation in a most professional and beneficial manner.   


A Rav’s answer to the husband versus a Rav’s advice to the wife:

During Shimush, we often received questions from wives regarding their husbands’ frequent requests for intercourse, and the Rav would always explain to the wife that she is Meshubad to her husband and is to try to satisfy him whenever she is physically able. In one epic conversation he told her that she cannot expect her husband to be like the Tzadikim and Chassidim who control their desires and lust, especially in today’s blatantly immoral society which ignites the sexual inclination on an almost daily basis to and from work. Often the wife called the Rav with the intent that he would speak to her husband and tell him to back down from his frequent requests etc., but the Rav would on the contrary emphasize to the wife her obligations. At the same time, the Rav would then get on the phone and call the husband and explain to him the needs and benefits of controlled intimacy and how his wife feels about it, and if he could be less demanding and more appeasing. So, the Rav told each spouse what, Halachically, they needed to hear. Often, the wife and husband use the other’s Halachic obligations to express why their feelings should be the ones that are respected, without thinking about their own obligations. A most balanced approach, as done by the Rav in the above case, is for each side to recognize their obligations in the matter and come to an agreeable solution.

In another case, which occurred with HaRav Yaakov Yosef z”l, the wife told him that she does not have such a desire for intimacy, and usually does not want to have intimacy when her husband desires it. For example, she said she usually wants to simply read a book and go to sleep and is not interested in intercourse. He asked her if her husband is kind and appeasing to her when he desires intimacy and she said that he is, but that she is not interested in either and simply wants to do her own thing. Rav Yaakov Yosef answered to her that she is very misguided in her understanding of her marriage obligations; and that included in her agreement of marriage is the obligation towards her husband to be available for him when he desires intimacy, and she can’t just decide to read a novel and ignore her husband. He emphasized that marriage is not about “I do what I want when I feel like it,” and the spouse must respect that often he or she will need to put aside what I want for the sake of my marriage obligations. As he later emphasized in a public class, a husband or wife who does not understand this basic fundament of the marriage relationship is simply not ready for marriage and should remain single and have the advantage of doing whatever they want without ever needing to compromise for another.  


[1] Michaber Even Ha’ezer 76:1 and 11; Mishneh Kesubos 61b

[2] See Sheyikadesh Atzmo [Nachmonson-2015] p.  156-163

[3] Michaber Y.D. 234:67; See also Michaber E.H. 77 regarding Moredes

[4] Rambam Ishus 15:18 “She is to listen to him whenever he desires”; Elya Raba 240:25; Taharas Yisrael 240:90 that “She is to listen to him whenever he desires” and “Whenever she does not listen to him, she is a grave sinner”

[5] Sefer Chassidim 506 regarding Mikveh night; Elya Raba 240:25; Sh’lah Sha’ar Haosiyos Kedushas Hazivug p. 378; Rashal; Taharas Yisrael 240:90

[6] Rambam ibid; Machaneh Chaim E.H. 2:41

[7] Sefer Chassidim 873 regarding the prohibition for a wife to abstain from Mikveh in order to force her husband to purchase Torah Sefarim and distribute charity

[8] Sh’lah ibid

[9] All Poskim in next footnotes; Yaskil Avdi E.H. 5:69; 6:25; See also Sefer Bas Neos Hamardus 2:2 that a husband was forcing his wife to have relations with him 12-13 times a night and they ruled that she is not a Moredes for refusing as it’s not possible for her to enjoy it, and he has no right to oppress her.

[10] Shut Maharit 1:5, brought in Beir Heiytiv E.H. 77:7, “If she claims to provide him intimacy according to the frequency of Onah recorded in the Torah, then she is not considered a Moredes, as she is not a captive of war that she must provide him intimacy at every moment”; Implication of Chelkas Mechokeik E.H. 77:19; Pirush Shem Tov on Rambam Ishus 14:9

[11] Igros Moshe O.C. 4:75

[12] See Ma’amarim Haketzarim of Admur Hazakein p. 71 that different people have different sex drives

[13] Michaber Y.D. 197:2 “If her husband is in the city, it is a Mitzvah to immerse on time in order not to nullify the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu even one night”; See Admur 326:7; 613:20; Y.D. 186:8; Implication of Eiruvin 63b and Yuma 9a on the severity of delaying intimacy even for a single night; Zohar Parshas Mishpatim p. 111; Sefer Chassidim 506; Beis Yosef Y.D. 197; Beir Heiytiv 240:24; Elya Raba 240:25; Olas Tamid 240:8; P”M 241 A”A 1; Kaf Hachaim 240:16; Shevet Hamussar 24; Darkei Teshuvah 184:64; See Sefer Kerem Yisrael p. 22 and Otzer Sippurei Chabad 14:235 for a story with the Maggid and how his wife or mother pushed herself to immerse on time and not delay it; Likkutei Maharich Hilchos Tzenius for a story with the mother of the Divrei Chaim; Chupas Chassanim; Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:9

[14] See Q&A regarding the exact circumstances in which Mikveh may be delayed if both the husband and wife consent to it; Regarding whether a woman is obligated to immerse on time irrelevant of whether intimacy will take place that night: See footnotes below for a dispute on this matter, although the final ruling follows that she does not immerse.

[15] The reason: As the night of Mikveh is considered a Mitzvah even in today’s times.

[16] Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:9 footnote 69

[17] Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:9 footnote 71

[18] See Eiruvin 63b; Yehoshua 5:14 and Mefarshim on verse

[19] See Shmuel 1 2:22 and Rashi 2:22; Radak ibid; Metzudos David ibid

[20] Zohar Mishpatim ibid, brought in Beis Yosef Y.D. 197, M”B 240:54, and Kaf Hachaim ibid; See Sefer Chassidim 506; Elya Raba 240:25; Sh’lah Sha’ar Haosiyos Kedushas Hazivug p. 378; Rashal; Taharas Yisrael 240:90;

[21] See M”A 240:3; Admur 494:3 regarding Shavuos; Chesed L’alafim 240:3; Siddur Ya’avetz; Chayeh Adam 130:22; 139:7; Torah L’shma 142; M”B 240:7; Kaf Hachaim 240:5

[22] See Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; Sheyikadesh Atzmo [Nachmonson-2015] 7:8

[23] Regarding the general ability for the wife to forgive her Onah, and the prohibition to delay intimacy if the husband has yet to fulfill the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu, even if they both consent: See Halacha 6A!

Regarding the permission for the wife to delay Mikveh/intimacy if both husband and wife are Mochel: See Pesakim Uminhagim of Maharam M’Rothenberg 161 [May delay if water is cold and husband and wife both agree]; Tashbeitz Katan 480; Zohar Mishpatim ibid [that the Aveira is only if the husband minds her delay], brought in Beis Yosef Y.D. 197, Olas Tamid ibid and Kaf Hachaim 240:16; Rav Poalim 2:34 that they may delay with mutual consent; Rav Azriel Hildsheimer  Y.D. 1:191; Shoel Vinishal 3:422; Mishneh Halachos 12:92; Mayan Omer 7:91; Simchas Yehuda p. 40-43

Regarding the general permission to delay Mikveh if intercourse will not take place: See Shvus Yaakov Y.D. 3:78; Kaf Hachaim 240:14; Betzel Hachochma 3:71; Shevet Halevi Y.D. 197:1 that so is the custom amongst majority of Jewry; Implication of Admur 326:7 and 613:20 that the entire need to immerse is due to Peru Urevu and not as an intrinsic obligation, and hence, if intercourse will not take place then she does not need to immerse. [This is unlike Admur Y.D. 187:8 who rules that it is forbidden for a woman to delay her Tuma even if her husband is not in the city; See See Likkutei Sichos 14:27 footnote 58 that leaves this as Tzaruch Iyun; See Taharah Kahalacha 21:1; See there Biurim 1]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that Mechila does not help on the night of Mikveh, and therefore the couple always remains obligated in Onah on this date. [Toras Chaim 240:3, brought in Taharas Habayis 1:105] Some Poskim rule that irrelevant of whether or not the couple plans to have intimacy that night, she must immerse on time. [Admur Y.D. 187:8 that it is forbidden for a woman to delay her Tuma even if her husband is not in the city, and so rules Shevet Hamussar 24; Darkei Teshuvah 184:64; See Likkutei Sichos 14:27 footnote 58 that leaves this as Tzaruch Iyun; See Taharah Kahalacha 21:1; See there Biurim 1 for explanation of Admur ibid however, practically, the custom is not to immerse when the husband is not in the city, even during the week; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 240 footnote 45; Shiureiy Shevet Halevi 197:1; Taharah Kahalacha ibid; Mishneh Halachos 9:179; Minchas Yitzchak 6:149] According to this approach, even if Mechila of the husband and wife help, she must nevertheless still immerse on time.

[24] See Sheyikadesh Atzmo [Nachmonson-2015] 7:6

[25] In Israel, In the USA: 

[26] In one true and very unfortunate case, a couple, of whom the husband was physically abusive, came to the Rav for guidance, to which the Rav expressed disbelief that in truth the husband is abusive (he denied it all) as he is known for being such a kind and sensitive man and comes from a well-known and good family. The wife went ahead and did the unthinkable in front of the Rav. She lifted her dress and shirt from behind and showed him the black and blue marks on her back. The Rav, taken aback, responded that he has no proof that the husband did it and perhaps she did it to herself. This woman proceeded to angrily get up and leave the room, and the aftermath of the story was very sad. On the other hand, in another similar case that I witnessed during Shimush, when a wife came with complaints of physical abuse to the Rav he immediately told her to have the police intervene and that she does not need to wait for any Heter of Rabbanim. In another case, someone who asked whether he may call the police on his neighbor who he occasionally hears beating his wife, was told that he absolutely must call the police, otherwise he transgresses Lo Samod Al Dam Rei’acha. Nonetheless, more importantly than calling the police is calling the domestic abuse hotlines who can give proper guidance, council, and support for each individual situation, and help the woman feel that she is not alone.

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