Kann Israel sowohl ein jüdischer als auch ein demokratischer Staat sein?

March 14, 2011

Mein Vortrag an dem Dialog VI der jüdischen Gemeinde Karlsruhe (Einladung hier) ist nun online auf der Webseite jener Gemeinde: Kann Israel sowohl ein jüdischer als auch ein demokratischer Staat sein?.

Die folgende Geschichte, die ich im Vorrag nicht erwähnte, zeigt, das in noch einem Hinsicht, die obige Frage mit einem klaren ja beantwortet werden kann.

Die hebräische Webseite Bechadréj Charejdím berichtet über einen Araber aus Hebron, der von seinem jüdischen Arbeitsgeber mit Cheques bezahlt wurde, die ungenügend gedeckt waren. Der Arbeitsnehmer konnte dem entsprechend seinenLohn nicht einkassieren und sollte den Arbeitsgeber vor dem Gericht anklagen. Weil aberein Gerichtsfall teuer werden und lange dauern könnte, entschied er sich für eine bahnbrechende Einfall: er verklagte den Arbeitsgeber in dem rabbinischen Gerichtshof. Read the rest of this entry »


Brain Death and Organ Transplantation in Halacha – Redux

December 21, 2010

Recently I posted an entry entitled “When Does Death Begin, According to Halacha?” about a long awaited paper which the Rabbinical Council of America’s Vaad Halacha recently published. It turns out that it’s not just the RCA that has recently revisited “brain death” and organ transplantation in halakha, nor was their opinion piece long in the making. Turns out that British Jewry has been grappling with the same issue. The Chief Rabbi’s and London Beth Din’s rulings had yet to be published, as of last summer.

However, while the RCA’s paper is billed as a research paper and an educational tool, the London Beth Din’s decision is supposed to be an actual halakhic ruling from a national organization in a country with a significant Jewish population, making it particularly interesting.

From the Jewish Chronicle (July 15, 2010):

The founder of a campaign to encourage Orthodox Jews to carry organ donor cards has voiced frustration at the time taken by the Chief Rabbi to issue new guidelines on the subject.

Mr Berman, who lives in Jerusalem, said that after meeting the Chief Rabbi in March 2009, he had agreed not to lecture on organ donation in the UK until the Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din decided their position in the summer.

Arguing there had been no major new developments on organ donation in medicine or Jewish law over the past decade, he declared: “I hope this review will not drag on for years, as I fear it will. This issue is of an urgent life-saving nature and should be given priority.”

A spokesman for the Office of the Chief Rabbi said for the past 12 months, the London Beth Din had been engaged “in careful consideration” of organ donations and living wills.

Can anyone report whether the Beth Din has meanwhile issued this ruling?

One wonders whether one of the things the Beth Din was waiting for was the RCA’s paper, as it significantly contributes to the field by documenting the medical conditions the landmark published halakhic responsa responded to.


When Does Death Begin, According to Halacha?

December 18, 2010

One of the most vexing questions in contemporary medical ethics is when a dying patient can be considered dead. Until several decades ago, the answer was simple: when a patient stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating. However, since the invention of artificial respiration, the answer is no longer straightforward.

During the last fifty years, a number of landmark halakhic responsa have been written, evaluating whether neurological definitions of death (a.k.a. “brain death“), such as the Harvard Criteria of 1968, are valid in the eyes of halakha. However, up until now, there has been no systematic attempt to research which medical information had been used as a basis for those halakhic responsa.

Recently, the Vaad Halacha of the RCA has done just that and published a extensive paper on the determination of death in halakha. The paper has been picked up by the news media [Jewish Week] and been extensively discussed in some blogs [Hirhurim I and II].

While the paper does is presented as an educational exploration, not forcing any conclusions, the paper nonetheless demonstrates that to date, there has been very little support from the halakhic responsa literature, to support accepting “brain death.” See below for my take on this. Anyway, understandably, those who advocate accepting the neurological standard were not pleased, and not everybody welcomed the paper.

The lead author of the study is R’ Asher Bush, the chairman of the Vaad Halacha, and yours truly had the privilege to contribute as an editor of the paper.

Despite having contributed to the paper’s final form, the comments below are mine only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the article’s authors. Read the rest of this entry »


Choshen Mishpat, Gift of the Jews

October 13, 2008

EnglishThis essay explores the moral importance of the conflict between Halakhah and temporal civil law. It was presented as a sermon to the Book Shemot, on the 28th of Tevet 5766 (28th of January ’06).

True Freedom of Conscience -by Rabbi Arie Folger

Halakhah is frequently at odds – in monetary matters – with applied Western law, such as, for example regarding the permissibility of charging interest on loans, the permissibility of charging certain fines, the validity of speculative contracts, the definition of unfair competition and more. However, the respective national constitutions are clear, the judicial power belongs to the civil courts and they need to take the instructions of the legislative branch into account. Many of us feel uneasy about the disagreement Halakhah has with the national secular legislative reality, and as a result, the Halakhah is either forgotten, or willfully ignored.

The tension between Halakhah and Western law evokes in us memories of accusations of double standards and disloyalty to our respective countries of citizenship or residence. Hence, many choose ignorance over knowledge, breech over observance. The major question is then: have we served the greater good of general society by adopting the single yardstick of law and ethics which our host society provides us with? Read the rest of this entry »