A Modern Orthodox Sage on Abortion

Feb. 15 2016

Unlike most conservative Christian denominations, Orthodox Judaism tends to be more hedged in its opposition to abortion. Gidon Rothstein analyzes an essay on the subject by the late Aharon Lichtenstein, one of the greatest Modern Orthodox talmudists. In brief, Lichtenstein’s reading of halakhah generally permits abortion until the 40th day from conception, forbids it in all but extreme cases in the third trimester, and entertains a variety of reasons to allow it, in specific circumstances, during the intervening period. Rothstein writes:

Lichtenstein closes [his essay] with two general points. First, he has left some areas of the discussion not fully determined. This was not out of any hesitation to come to conclusions, but because he thinks [halakhic decisions] cannot be painted with too broad a brush, which is why he was always . . . insistent on laying out parameters rather than giving firm answers; the flexibility in the sources means the same rabbinic authority might in one case prohibit an abortion but in another case . . . allow it.

He wrote as he did to leave room for human input into decisions, which is how halakhah is supposed to work. . . .

Without apologizing, he did note that the “liberal” view on this issue comes at the expense of the humanity of the fetus. In order to allow the mother to do what she feels right, the liberal view had to ignore or dismiss the concerns and humanity of the fetus.

In arguing that the decision often [should] go the other way, Lichtenstein closed by reminding his listeners and readers that this isn’t only out of obedience to the will of God, but is also an expression of halakhah’s concern with human dignity and welfare, which “rises up in indignation against the torrent of abortions.”

Read more at Torah Musings

More about: Abortion, Aharon Lichtenstein, Halakhah, Modern Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount