Thursday, December 22, 2005

Judaism’s Priestly Classes and Classifying Children of DI

While trolling the web for donor conception related sites I happened upon the blog of a woman named Mel from Houston who with her husband have been dealing with infertility. What struck me was the title of her most recent blog post “Infertility in the Torah: A Jewish Perspective on Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART)”. I also learned from her blog post that my children probably should not be considered Levi’im (as I am through my father) as I have no idea of our donor’s priestly classification. I partially addressed this topic in my earlier post regarding the Conservative Jewish position on ART.

Mel’s blog post recounts her D'var Torah at this past week’s Shabbat service where generally the speaker discusses the content of that week’s specific Torah reading. Mel decided however to address in general the fact that each of the Jewish Matriarchs, Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel all had a difficult time fulfilling the commandment "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it". [Exodus / Bereshit 1:28]. In short Mel discussed their battles with infertility. Each Rosh Hashonah the Torah reading recounts Hannah’s infertility and her eventual gift from g-d of her son Samuel (who became one of Israel’s greatest prophets.) During our own infertility battles this reading always brought my wife to tears during the service.

In Judaism no matter what movement a Jew belongs to (Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform) all Jews are classified as Kohanim (priests), Leviim (teachers, spiritual leaders), or Israel. The classification is mostly seen each Shabbat when only Kohain can say the first blessings during the Torah readings. The Leviim go second and then Israel. The classification or status passes through the Father as opposed to the Mother (i.e., if your mom is a Jew so are you). As I am not the biological father to my kids this issue has interest to me. According to the Conservative Movement’s position that technically the donor is the father and I am only the agent for the father ... therefore I should have realized that my kid’s priestly status would actually follow that of our unknown donor. So far as his agent I have treated the kids as following my own Leviim status which is not correct but what I have done. As my kid's have not been called to read from the Torah yet no sin has been comitted as far as I know. Prior to their Bar and Bat Mitzvah's they will be told that they must treat themselves as Israel for fear of committing a sin unless I can determine the donor's status.

Getting back to Mel’s blog post I recommend it as great little summary of infertility in the bible and primarily one Jewish movement’s perspective on treating infertility.

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