Talmudic Advice on Producing Male Children

Talmud Tuesdays - DrewsViewsWith three daughters and no sons, not infrequently do people mention something from the Talmud about how to have male children. Knowing that the statement, in particular, was not the only one suggesting how to have male children, I decided I wanted to share what all of the statements in the Talmud are regarding how to have male children.

The first occurrence is the only one ascribed to be tannaitic (Bava Batra 10b):

מה יעשה אדם ויהיו לו בנים זכרים
רבי אליעזר אומר: יפזר מעותיו לעניים
רבי יהושע אומר: ישמח אשתו לדבר מצוה

What should a person do so that he will have male children?
Rabbi Eliezer says: “He should spread out his money to poor people.”
Rabbi Yehoshu’a says: “He should engladden his women for a matter of a mizvah.”

The second one is found in a teaching of Rabbi Hiyya, who, in the midst of a parable, says (Niddah 70b-71a):

מה יעשה אדם ויהיו לו בנים זכרים? אמר להם: ישא אשה ההוגנת לו, ויקדש עצמו בשעת תשמיש

What should a man do so that he should have male children? He said to them: “A man should marry a woman who is appropriate for him and he should sanctify himself at the time of sexual intercourse.”

The third and fourth instances are by the same speaker(s) (Shevuot 18b):

אמר ר’ חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן: כל הפורש מאשתו סמוך לוסתה – הויין לו בנים זכרים, דכתיב: הלהבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהור, וסמיך ליה: אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר

Rabbi Hiyya, son of Abba said: “Rabbi Yohanan said: ‘He who separates from his wife near her period will have male children, as it is written: “To make a distinction between the unclean and the clean” (Lev. 11:47); and next to it: “If a woman conceive and bear a male child” (Lev. 12:2).'”

אמר רבי חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן: כל המבדיל על היין במוצאי שבתות – הויין לו בנים זכרים, דכתיב:להבדיל בין הקדש ובין החול, וכתיב התם: להבדיל בין הטמא ובין הטהור, וסמיך ליה: אשה כי תזריע

Rabbi Hiyya, son of Abba said: “Rabbi Yohanan said: ‘He who recites the separation ceremony over wine at the termination of Shabbat will have male children, as it is written: “That you may make a distinction between the holy and the common” (Lev. 10:10); and elsewhere it is written: “To make a distinction between the unclean and the clean” (Lev. 11:47); and next to it: “If a woman conceive [and bear a male child]” (Lev. 12:2).'”

bedThe fifth instance is the following (Berakhot 5b):

אמר רבי חמא ברבי חנינא אמר רבי יצחק: כל הנותן מטתו בין צפון לדרום הויין ליה בנים זכרים, שנאמר ווצפונך תמלא בטנם ישבעו בנים

Rabbi Hama, son of Rabbi Hanina, said: “Rabbi Yizhak said: ‘Whosoever places his bed north and south will have male children, as it says: “And whose belly You fill with your treasure who have sons in plenty” (Ps. XVII:14).'”

The sixth instance follows (Shevuot 18b):

אמר רבי בנימיןבר יפת אמר רבי אלעזר: כל המקדש את עצמו בשעת תשמיש – הויין לו בנים זכרים, שנאמר: זוהתקדשתם והייתם קדושים, וסמיך ליה: אשה כי תזריע

Rabbi Beenyahmeen Yahfet said: “Rabbi Eleazar said: ‘He who sanctifies himself during cohabitation will have male children, as it is said: “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy” (Lev. 11:44), and next to it: “If a woman conceive [and bear a male child]” (Lev. 12:2).'”

From these Talmudic occurrences, it seems that there are multiple possibilities for how one could get male children.  Yes, Leviticus 12:2 is certainly a useful verse when juxtaposed with other verses, although there are other verses employed.  Moreover, some of the statements seem to point to how one accords oneself at the time of having sexual intercourse with one’s wife, while others point to something else….

(The point of this post was to show that the Babylonian Talmud points out different possibilities how one is to merit having male children.)

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