Does Jewish Law Dictate Whether American Jews Should Be Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?

According to the rabbinic tradition, Gentiles are entirely exempt from the 613 commandments that constitute the terms of the Jewish covenant with God, but they are obligated to follow seven laws given to Noah after the Flood. These include prohibitions on murder, theft, and so forth. With this distinction in mind, Michael Broyde tackles the question of how Orthodox Jews ought to respond to the question, raised anew by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, of whether abortion should be legal, which in turn rests on the nature of halakhic attitudes toward abortion:

It is well known that the nature of the prohibition [on abortion] is disputed in Jewish law. Some rabbinic authorities rule that nearly all abortions are non-capital murder, permitted only to save a pregnant woman’s life. Others rule that abortion is almost never murder but some lesser prohibition, and is permitted [under many circumstances]. Still others rule that abortion flips from non-murder to non-capital murder in the middle of the pregnancy. Despite the vast literature on this matter, no consensus has developed.

At the same time, it is equally obvious that Noahide law prohibits more abortions for Gentiles than Jewish law does for Jews.

The reason for this unique situation is that the Noahide laws do not come with an interpretive tradition that would allow for the adjudication of hard or ambiguous cases, exemptions, and intermediate categories. Thus, many rabbis conclude, for Gentiles abortion is simply murder. But, asks Broyde, where does that put Jews in relation to abortion law:

Is there, then, a halakhic obligation for Jews to urge non-Jews to follow Noahide law? Maimonides (Hilkhot Malakhim 8:10) seems to indicate that Jews share an obligation to participate in and enforce Noahide law, but nearly all other [medieval rabbis] disagree. . . . Indeed, most [rabbinic authorities] of the last 500 years permit a Jew, for his or her economic benefit, to participate in a transaction even if a Gentile in the transaction thereby violates Noahide law. This speaks volumes about practical Jewish law on this subject.

In my view, American Orthodoxy’s decision to support the expansion or contraction of civil or political rights in American law has never been a Jewish-law discussion, nor will it ever be.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Abortion, Halakhah, Supreme Court

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict