Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Judaism & Reproductive Technologies (Including Cloning)

"Be Fruitful and Multiply"
Because the Torah commands men and women to have children, Jewish law allows for reproductive technologies

Science & Theology News
By Dr. Joseph G. Schenker (July 21, 2006)

Excerpts (I have added bolding and color to the phrases I found interesting):

The requirement for a man to procreate by having a minimum of two children — a boy and a girl — is obligatory according to Jewish law. According to both schools, Beit Shamai and Beit Hillel, in order to fulfill the obligation of procreation at least one son is required. To help satisfy this requirement, fertility treatment is allowed to help Jewish couples to conceive children.

There are three basic principles in the Jewish religion that, with certain restrictions, favor the permissibility of fertility treatment. The first is based on the verse in the Torah, “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth.” In Halakhic literature the fulfi llment of this command is considered of greatest importance because the fulfi llment of all other commandments depends on it.


Nearly every mainstream religious group that has officially taken a position on reproductive cloning has condemned it. Some cite safety as the primary basis for their objections. Some religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, object to both reproductive and therapeutic cloning on religious or moral grounds.

Others, including several Jewish groups, advocate so-called therapeutic cloning on the grounds that such medical research could uncover cures for debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases. The Jewish religion takes the position that reproductive cloning could conceivably be justified in some circumstances. This view is largely based on historical tradition and sacred writings, which focus on human destiny.

The Jewish tradition emphasizes that man is in a partnership with God. Some Jewish thinkers find justification for this view in the story of Genesis, which says that Adam and Eve were “to work [the garden] and to preserve it.” Man is obligated to care for what God has created and to improve upon creation to meet human needs.

Jewish scholars do not believe that potential violations of human dignity are reason enough to prohibit human cloning. They believe that the likely benefits of developing cloning technology outweigh the potential costs, provided man fulfills his obligation to minimize violations of human dignity. Some Jewish thinkers fear that cloning humans might harm the family by changing the relationships among family members that define their responsibilities to one another as well as patterns of inheritance.

Furthermore, in Judaism, religious status is passed down through the mother, and tribal designation is passed down through the father. Thus, a child needs both a mother and a father. However, many regard cloning of a family member as more acceptable than donor insemination or egg donation. If cloning technology research advances our ability to heal humans, it ought to be pursued because it does not require or encourage the destruction of life in the process. Jewish law does not grant full moral status to human embryos — the Talmud deems the embryo during the first 40 days following conception as “mere water.”

The overriding duty derived from the Torah and rabbinic commentary is the preservation of human life. Given this presumptive duty, it is possible to support cloning when it is presented as a therapeutic remedy for diseases. Jewish law is squarely on the side of medical research that has potential to save and preserve life.

The author provides no scriptual citations suporting his statements so I am unclear how stongly we can accept his conclusions. I am unfamiliar with the publication but the mix of the two topics in its title promise some interesting viewpoints.

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