Halachic Infertility: Rabbis, Doctors, and the Struggle over Professional Boundaries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyzes a public controversy surrounding the hormonal treatment of infertility associated with observance of rabbinic law to illuminate the reach of rabbi-doctor relations in a local configuration of religion and biomedicine that I call "kosher medicine." I combine a historical perspective on the evolution of religious laws governing menstruation, and the rabbi-doctor relations with a contemporary ethnography of these relations and laws to illuminate the interplay of continuities, discontinuities, tradition, and modernity and their uses and abuses in the contemporary mode of interpenetration between observant Judaism and biomedicine. The controversy highlights asymmetric permeations into biomedical and rabbinic professional domains. Collaborations persist as long as doctors who declare their incompetence in rabbinic law accommodate to demands of rabbis who are expert in it and also claim competence to challenge medical decisions. Once a doctor demonstrates competence in rabbinic law to challenge rabbinic directives a crisis develops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-226
Number of pages19
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Israel
  • assisted conception
  • biopolitics
  • professional authority
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'Halachic Infertility: Rabbis, Doctors, and the Struggle over Professional Boundaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this