Simḥat Ha-bayit is devoted primarily to two mitzvot: ona, the conjugal rights and duties implied by a marital relationship; and pirya ve-rivya, procreation, the duty to have children. The first part of the book is devoted to the commandment of ona. From the outset, Rav Eliezer Melamed clarifies that this mitzva is entirely independent of the mitzva of procreation, that the importance of the marital relationship persists regardless of how many children one has. He defines this mitzva as the duty to bring joy and pleasure to one’s spouse through physical intimacy. This section goes into detail about what sorts of activities are permitted and prohibited, and it also touches on questions of self-gratification and same-sex attraction. The second part of the book is devoted to the mitzva of procreation and addresses the subjects of infertility, contraception, abortion, family size, the age of marriage, and family planning.
As usual, Rav Melamed does not view these questions in isolation, but as part of a larger, holistic view of halakha, one that embeds the relationship between husband and wife within the unfolding drama of God’s relationship with the Jewish people. The result is a halakhic text whose candor and positivity is unprecedented, and which is sure to become popular among couples young and old.