Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

Basic HTML Version

F
reehof
— R
ecent
R
esponsa
L
iterature
23
of artificial insemination. It is believed in the tradition that a
woman can be impregnated without sexual intercourse. If, for
example, she sits upon a pillow on which some male semen has
escaped, or under similar circumstances in a bath. According to
tradition, Ben Sirach was born of the seed of Jeremiah and was
deemed a kosher Jewish child (see the Taz to Yore Deah, 195, 7).
Rabbi Feinstein realizes that the child may not know his blood
kin, but maintains that this danger is virtually obviated if the
donor is Gentile. Hence he accords full permission to artificial in­
semination.
His opinion, although firmly based upon the Halakhah, was
bitterly opposed by groups of the hasidim who placarded some of
the synagogues with posters of protest. Their objection was made
clear in an essay published in the Hamaor collection of responsa,
by Solomon Halberstam, the Rebbe of Babov, now in New York.
A woman came to him and asked for permission to be artificially
inseminated. A woman friend of hers was given permission by
a rabbi. Rabbi Halberstam declares he was dumbfounded at the
permission, because if this continues Jewish genealogy will become
all muddled; and how will we be able to face our ancestors? He
will not discuss the matter from the point of view of Halakhah,
but he reminds his readers of the Talmudic statement (Niddah
31a) that the contributions of the father’s semen are the child’s
bones and brains (the mother providing the skin and the flesh,
and God the soul). Therefore, he maintains, not only will our
paternal genealogy be all confused, but the Jewish mind and
accordingly the Jewish personality will be hopelessly diluted.
He ends with admonishing the rabbi who gave legal permission
(Moses Feinstein) to consider the effect of artificial insemination
on Jewish genealogy and Jewish personality, and on this basis
he should join in a proclamation proscribing the practice. The
Rabbi of Satmar, Joel Teitelbaum, also wrote a pamphlet op­
posing artificial insemination (Brooklyn, 1967).
It is evident, then, that artificial insemination is unobjection­
able from the point of view of Jewish law, but among the hasidim
there is strong emotional resistance to it.
The most dramatic medical advance has, of course, been the
transplanting of organs from the body of the dead into the body of
the living. Heart transplants have not yet attained full discussion
in the responsa, but prior to the recent heart operations there
were transplants of bone sections. These transplants have been fully
discussed by Moses Feinstein in Igrot Moshe, Yore Deah 229-230.
His two responsa deal with the general principles which are
relevant to all types of transplants. The main principle involves
the prohibition against obtaining benefit from a dead body.
Cadavers and parts of cadavers were used in folk medicine since