After Israel’s fall elections, the new Knesset will take up legislation that would allow soldiers to become parents after their deaths through the posthumous extraction of sperm. Shlomo Brody analyzes the ongoing halakhic debate about the permissibility of the practice:
One of the impetuses for facilitating such a procedure is to allow the deceased to leave behind descendants to preserve his legacy. In biblical law, when a married man dies without any progeny, a “levirate marriage” is arranged between his brother and widow. “The first child that she bears shall be accounted to the dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out in Israel,” the Bible declares (Deuteronomy 25:6). [This practice has] largely been defunct for many centuries. Nonetheless, some Israeli jurists and rabbis view posthumous sperm implantation as a modern-day [application] of this biblical value.
The most prominent supporter of this line of thought was [the late Israeli halakhic authority] Rabbi Zalman Nehemia Goldberg, who argued that such a procedure is permissible if the deceased gave explicit permission or “we can safely assume that he would have desired this.” While it may be sometimes difficult to know the desires of the deceased, one must take into account the “natural human desire” to leave a legacy. Goldberg further argued that the default perspective of Jewish law is to permit an action unless it violates some clear prohibition.
Others, like Rabbi Yigal Shafran, worry that in cases when sperm was not already frozen in one’s lifetime, the procedure to retrieve it violates the biblical prohibitions of desecrating a corpse or gaining illicit benefit from it.
[A] range of figures, including Rabbis Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Dov Lior, and Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch, . . . offered a more fundamental moral objection. While they are deeply sympathetic to the bereaved widow or parents, they contend that it is immoral to bring a child into the world knowing that he or she will not have a biological father. However noble the intentions, it is not in the interest of the child or broader society to allow such a phenomenon.