The Pagan Impulses behind the “Right-to-Die” Movement

Nov. 30 2017

The much-publicized case of Charlie Gard—an infant afflicted by a rare fatal disorder whose parents were prevented by a British court from taking him to the U.S. for experimental treatment—and the rapid expansion of euthanasia in the Low Countries, where it is routinely administered to the mentally ill, point to the risks of legalizing “physician-assisted suicide.” Assessing the attitudes underlying the “right-to-die” movement, and the inroads these attitudes have already made in the American medical system, Mitchell Rocklin argues that Jews should refrain from joining in:

Having worked as members of the clergy at healthcare facilities for years, my colleagues and I have witnessed a genuine “culture of death,” wherein too many of those who ought to be healers instead become agents of death. Some are well-meaning, seeking to help patients avoid what they believe to be needless suffering. Others may be motivated by financial considerations, such as saving medical facilities money. Whatever the rationale, too many of us have witnessed premature hospice visits and recommendations to withhold treatments. . . .

Pagans, including ancient Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Romans, all believed death with honor—usually typified by death in battle—to be far superior to ordinary death. How people died was far more important than how they lived. Not so for Judaism, which emphasized that the content of life is what matters, and that even martyrdom is characterized by sacrificial dedication rather than glory. . .

This difference of opinion had major ramifications. For instance, while Romans commonly glorified suicide, Jews vehemently opposed shortening a life. . . . The “death-with-dignity” movement seeks to fulfill an age-old pagan impulse: to control the circumstances of death to give it meaning. This is, however, an attempt to escape what Judaism teaches us: that there can be no death with dignity, only life with dignity. . . . To argue otherwise is a fatal conceit for true human dignity, resulting in undervaluing the importance of living every moment of life to its fullest.

This is not to minimize the existence of heartrending cases involving pain and suffering. But attempts to end pain do not justify creating a legal regime to enlist the help of healers in support of those who resort to extreme measures.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Euthanasia, Judaism, Medicine, Paganism, Religion & Holidays


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria