Nothing Immoral About IVF IDF | Elchanan Poupko

As these lines are written, Israel’s “continuity law” is making its way into the halls of the Knesset, with the possibility of becoming the law of the land. The law would allow families of fallen Israeli soldiers to harvest sperm from the bodies of their deceased sons and use it in IVF treatment, hoping to create life and have a childless grandchild of the deceased son. While it’s not for me to tell Israelis how to run their health care system or their legislation, to see other rabbis oppose this law for “ethical reasons,” when those don’t exist. , is appalling. Unfortunately, the same arguments made today to the families of fallen soldiers have been made in other contexts of reproductive Halacha, in some cases causing eternal harm to those who might have given birth to children. We cannot remain silent in the face of these misplaced arguments.

While there is no doubt that there are legitimate legal, halakhic, public policy, and ethical dilemmas regarding bringing children to someone who is already deceased and cannot consent, other arguments advanced in this case have been advanced elsewhere, arguments that are difficult to sustain.

Take, for example, the argument made against this law by the PUAH Institute for Medical Halachaarguing that by having such a child, one “gives birth to an orphan”, an argument that is not very moral and which goes against the very existence of the Jewish people.

Going back to present day Egypt, the Jewish people have always had to reckon with the idea of ​​bringing children into a world full of parodies. This is the reason why Amram, the father of Moses, was famously and wrongly separated from his wife. However, “it was by the merit of righteous women that our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt”. While the men chose not to bring children into a world of slavery and pain, the women recognized that taking such a stand would be the end of our people. Bringing children into the world is an act of incredible hope and faith, an act that has been the essence of being Jewish. Telling people that they may not have a child because the child will be an “orphan” is hard to justify given our history. This same argument has been made with regard to single women having children alone with IVF, and somehow, shockingly, a generation later we don’t see any kind of horrible fallout from those few “orphans” created under these circumstances.

It is appalling to see these strong moral voices ready to tell people when they shouldn’t have children, an act that is morally appalling in itself – how can you, a rabbi with children, go and tell ANYONE they shouldn’t have kids?! Who can assume the purse of Torah and the responsibility of making such a decision?!

One of the greatest scholars of the previous generation was approached by a school principal about whether to expel a child from a yeshiva day school, which would jeopardize the child’s future . To the school principal’s shock, the rabbi told him that to decide a capital punishment case, when the Temple existed, a Sanhedrim – a Jewish high court – was needed with 71 Torah scholars. As he did not have this power of authority, and as the expulsion of this child from school risked compromising his entire future, the chief rabbi felt that he did not have the authority to allow his expulsion.

The school principal got the message: making a decision that could impact someone else for life was not something anyone could take lightly. Of course, in some cases, a halachic decision must be made. For example, is an intubated patient who is considered medically dead also halachically dead? We must weigh this decision. Yet, for a rabbi to arrive on the scene with no compelling halachic need, no clear moral obligation, and no consideration as the greatest halachic authority of a generation, and tell people that they may not have no child or grandchild after the death of their only son in battle, is something difficult to understand. How much more when this rabbi has a child of his own. This is not only true for Israel’s recent “law of continuity”, but also for other areas of fertility halakha where there is no clear halachic prohibition.

Also, for some reason the voices that oppose certain IVF treatments using the “don’t give birth to an orphan” argument and the child welfare argument, are for some reason too quiet when it comes to a family of 14 children living in poverty and struggling to raise their children. I would never tell this family, or any family, not to have children. But ignoring the many cases in which children are born into really difficult circumstances, including poverty, a parent with a known personality disorder, or other cases in which we know the child will genuinely suffer, and to invoke this only in cases where generally families devote a lot of love and resources to the child born, is not very convincing.

Another argument advanced against this “law of continuity” is that it is not included in the biblical commandment to “Pru Urvu — Be fruitful and multiply. This argument has been advanced by some in complete opposition to IVF treatments (a line of argument that has thankfully disappeared from all segments of the Orthodox community). Again, going to tell the parents or the grandparents that their only hope of having a child or a grandchild must vanish because they do not respect the obligation to Pru Urvu is strange and morally dubious.

It’s one thing to say that if someone came to the rabbi and asked him to take that path, but once the person has taken that path, it’s hard to see how that logic can work. ‘to apply. Interestingly, do you know who else was under no obligation to Pru Urvu, the biblical responsibility to bear fruit and multiply? Abraham. And Sara. And Isaac. And Rebecca. And Rachel. And Amram, the father of Moses. And Hannah the most Samuel. And many other Jewish women who lived through the most difficult circumstances and yet chose to raise another generation of children. So while no one should be telling a woman what choices she should make when it comes to childbearing, seeing a rabbi telling women what choices not to make — when the question hasn’t even been asked — seems out of place.

The PUAH Institute went further in opposing the Law of Continuity, making the jaw-dropping argument that “it is feared that a child born by will of the parents of the fallen soldier will serve as a memorial wall to a deceased son. The Torah sees an internal value in every soul that enters the world. It doesn’t seem ethical for children to be born to memorialize deceased parents or for any other purpose other than having a child.

While these matters are best left to those who will assume the responsibility of bearing and raising the child, to assert that memorial considerations are antithetical to the Jewish notion of having a child is to suggest never having read the Tanach only once. From the story of Tamar in the book of Genesis to the mitzvah of yibum (levirate marriage) in Deuteronomy to the famous story of Ruth, the idea of ​​children carrying the inheritance of those who are no more is as Jewish as it comes. As a Lithuanian Jew, I remember many Jews who called their only child “Kaddish” since he was their only child. I do not recall any rabbi scolding the parents of Israeli leader Kaddish Luz, George Kaddish, or many other Lithuanian Jews, among whom the practice was common at the time. While one may question the social appropriateness of naming your child “Kaddish” when he is your only child, the idea that children are the bearers of the legacy of those no longer with us is certainly as Jewish as she comes.

Yet, ultimately, the statement says aloud the quiet part and confesses what is, unfortunately, the reality in too many cases of opposition to fertility treatments: control. “Our position is that the birth of a child without a father figure is incompatible with Jewish law.” While anyone is entitled to their options on the ideal way to raise a child, declaring those views to be Jewish law – and even more so, influencing Israeli law to prevent grandparents from having a grandchild, even if it is the only grandchild they will ever have, is deeply discouraging.

While the topic of post-mortem IVF treatments is rare and fortunately less than one in a million among our people, some of the destructive regimens used in this conversation are not.

Couples struggling with infertility most often do so in silence and sometimes even in shame. Halachic guidelines are rarely questioned, and the topic is often one on which few have expertise. There is no moral justification I can think of for a rabbi – let alone one who has children of his own – to tell others they cannot have children. If indeed such a directive is given, it must be accompanied by the same consideration given to matters of life and death. The biological desire to have children, even in non-humans, is often stronger than the desire to live itself. My hope and prayer is that we will all do our best to support those looking to have a child, and even more for those who have lost their own child in the service of defending the Jewish people when they were sent by their people to serve in the Israeli army. .

The writer is an eleventh generation rabbi, teacher and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN–The American Israel Jewish Network

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