Sunday, November 19, 2006

Who'll Say Kaddish for This DI Dad?

no. 294

Recently while googling "religion and donor conception" I found an interesting site that analyzed donor conception under Halakhah (traditional Jewish law and ethics) and also compared the analysis to a paper published in 1990 by the Ethics Committee of the American Fertility Society1 published in reaction to the Roman Catholic Instruction on Respect for Human Life and the Dignity of Procreation.2

What struck me hard was a one line sentence at the end of a short paragraph in the midst of the website which stated:

Halakhah, too, knows of no legal procedure by which a genetically unrelated person can be considered the full legal father of a child. The sperm recipient's husband, by virtue of his consent to the donation, might have assumed those legal obligations to support and educate the child that usually evolve only on the natural parent. However, when the husband dies, he is assumed to be halakhically childless with regard to inheritance and other religious issues.

Now I should not have been surprised by this statement as I already knew most interpretations of Jewish law on the topic only looked at me as the guardian of my kids but something about the starkness of this statement hit me hard.

I am probably screwing this up but here goes. Years ago when I used to go daily to morning prayers I read something about the Mourner's Kaddish that said unless the child of the decedent says Kaddish the decedent does not pass through onto heaven.

A friend told me that there are specific rules when the child is adopted which may apply in this case but I have yet to find them. Does this mean I need to adopt my children under Halakah?

How will my children feel if at my death a Rabbi tells them they are not allowed to say Kaddish for me? I can't imagine being told you can't do something that is integral to what we know as part of the mourning process.

The Kaddish is one of the most basic prayers in Judaism and one repeated in various forms including that of the Mourner’s Kaddish. Somehow I all of sudden felt cut off from my children and from a future (even one after death). Now don’t get me wrong I am not “observant” in the true sense of the word but my religion is a big part of me.

But this statement more than many I have read before it hit me hard.


Donor Gametes for Assisted Reproduction in Contemporary Jewish Law and Ethics
Richard V. Grazi, MD, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York 11219,Joel B. Wolowelsky, PhD, Department of Jewish Philosophy, Yeshivah of Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York 11230
Assisted Reproduction Reviews 2:3 (1992)
1. Ethics Committee of the American Fertility Society, Ethical Considerations of the New Reproductive Technologies, Fertil Steril. 53:6 Suppl 2 (1990).
2. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation, Vatican Press, 1987.


Rachel Inbar said...

I'm not familiar with halacha regarding DI, but I do know that the issue of a suspected "mamzer" (a child born of forbidden relations) is dealt with by the rabbinate pretty liberally, by saying that every child born is the child of the husband of the mother. Only in very rare cases will the rabbinate allow paternity testing to prove otherwise.

Personally, I would hope that no rabbi would tell a child who feels that s/he wants to say kaddish over a parent that it is not allowed. I can ask my dad, he's a rabbi :-)

DI_Dad said...

Hey there. The one thing my rabbi did tell us when we mentioned the DI stuff was that he did not believe our kids would be considered a mamzer and that was because my wife had no physical relations with the donor.

Rachel Inbar said...

Here the orthodox use sperm from a non-Jew. I don't know why, but that somehow solves the problem...

DI_Dad said...

My understanding is the reason the orthodox use sperm from a non-Jew is so there is never a chance (theoretically) that the child would marry a half sibling as the child would be raised Jewish and any half siblings presumably would be raised as gentiles.