The Rabbinic Debate over Post-Mortem Fatherhood

Aug. 29 2022

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.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Bioethics, Family, Halakhah

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy