New Periodical: Verapo Yerape IV

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20130312-203408.jpgThe Journal of Torah and Medicine of the Einstein College of Medicine Synagogue and RIETS, Verapo Yerape, published a fourth volume:

  • Bone Marrow Donation in Jewish Law by R. Asher Bush – Donation is obligatory once a match is established. Being tested for a match is meritorious but not required. Similarly, when a critical patient requires your type of blood, according to most poskim you are obligated to donate. In situations of more general need, it is a mitzvah but not obligation.
  • Are Two Heads Really Better Than One? Halakhic Issues Relating to Conjoined Twins and a Two-Headed Person by R. Dr. Edward Reichman – A variety of halakhic questions related to conjoined twins – tefillin, inheritance, marriage,… Distinguishes between where the twins are joined.
  • Hormonal Birth Control: Therapies and Vesatot by R. Tzvi Sinensky – Leniencies, strictures and other implications of taking “the pill” to the laws of nidah.
  • Medical Care for a Child on Shabbat by Dr. Ariella Nadler – Debate on the definition of a child (until what age) and a survey of the leniencies allowed for treating a child.
  • May Physicians Strike? by R. Ephraim Meth – Is anything allowed priority over saving lives? Various theories why society may build libraries and not just more hospitals, and the implications toward physician strikes.
  • But the Earth He Has Given to Mankind? Toward a Theology of Synthetic Biology by Peter Kahn – Mankind may tinker with creation but only to advance the human condition. Application of this idea to synthetic biology “in which new organisms are engineered, created, and manipulated to achieve very specific ends.” Two principles of synthetic biology: “must be undertaken with the goal of improving the condition of humanity”, “must not have the possibility of extremely adverse effects upon humanity or nature.”
  • Metzitzah Ba-Peh Under the Microscope: An Ancient Rite from a Modern Perspective by Daniel Poliak – A survey of rationales for metzitzah be-feh.
  • Prayer and the Terminally Ill Patient by R. Yehuda Turetsky – Debates over whether you may pray for a miracle or for someone to die.
  • Surgical Placebo in Jewish Law by Dr. Yehuda Salamon – A trial study requires a test group that receives a placebo. When testing the efficacy of a surgical procedure, can you perform fake surgery on someone or is it causing harm? Can a person choose to be part of such a study, allowing himself the potential of useless surgery? It seems, yes.
  • Eat, Drink, and be Merry, for Tomorrow We Die… Is there an Obligation to Maintain Good Health? by Jonathan Ziring – Yes, there is an obligation, although suggested sources vary and have been sometimes misunderstood.
  • Body Ownership and Non-Altruistic Organ Donation by Ari Friedman – Can you sell your organs? In life-saving circumstance, yes, if you also intend to save the recipient. In non-life-saving circumstace, debate. Suggests governments can regulate away an exploitative black market.
  • The Ownership and Market of Human Tissue by R. Dr. A. Yehuda Warburg – Can you sell your organs? No but ex post facto the sale is valid.
  • To Tell or Not to Tell: The Obligation to Disclose Information to a Potential Spouse by R. Netanel Wiederblank – What medical (and other) conditions must be disclosed and when? A review of some surprising views.
  • Donation After Cardiac Death: Myth or Reality? A Secular and Ethical Analysis by R. Yonah Bardos – Review of medical, ethical and legal literature regarding controlled and uncontrolled donation of organs after cardiac death. American medical community opposes DCD but Europe has seen success with it.
  • Donation After Cardiac Death: Halakhic Perspectives by R. Dr. David Shabtai – Is someone dead if his heart has stopped but can be revived? No. What if blood is artificially circulated through his body, as is done in the organ preservation techniques? No (“If one were to bang a corpse’s hands together, no one would claim that the corpse is clapping!”) Looking back, is time of death when the heart stops or when it passes the point of potential for resuscitation? Debate between Tzitz Eliezer and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. Since potential for resuscitation varies by time and place, does the point of death also? Debate between theories. Can someone whose heart has stopped but is not yet brain dead be prepared for organ donation according to those who follow the brain death definition? Yes. Can you remove treatment from a terminal patient for controlled DCD? No.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

One comment

  1. Ye’yasher kochakha to our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student.

    Regarding R. Shabtai’s article, I believe there is room for further consideration of the handclap analogy, with his kind permission. Namely, there is no question that RSZA agrees with R. Shabtai that artificial circulation of blood is worthless in establishing life. So writes Shulchan Shelomoh, Erkei Refu’ah II, p. 33, regarding a patient who undergoes open-heart surgery, and is unable to return to a spontaneous heartbeat at the end of the surgery. The patient is now dependent on the heart-lung machine for continued circulation, and RSZA rules that the patient is dead. Presumably, although not explicitly enunciated by RSZA, RSZA agrees with R. Shabtai’s handclap analogy.

    However, a different approach emerges from the R. J. David Bleich’s essay on artificial heart transplantation (available online at ). R. Bleich suggests, based on Chiddushei ha-Ran to Chullin 32b, that circulation of blood by a machine is no less a sign of life than circulation of blood by a patient’s own heart. And (le-havdil ani ha-katan) I would add the following thought experiment: if you suddenly took a heart from the local organ bank [-the heart having been harvested based upon R. Moshe Feinstein’s ruling (as orally reported by his family) that brain death is death, or the heart having been harvested based upon R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s ruling (as orally reported by R. Avraham Steinberg) that in the Diaspora Noahides are allowed to adjudicate the status of brain dead patients differently than normative Jewish law, or the heart having been harvested in violation of Halakhah] and implanted it into the patient whose brain & heart had already died and was being maintained on a heart-lung machine, and now this patient would have a new heart (with real cardiac cells) beating inside him, would we claim this was techiyat ha-metim ? So why should a heart-lung machine be worse than a transplanted lev bassar ?

    As for the handclap analogy, I would suggest a rejoinder based on Chiddushei R. Chaim Soloveitchik on Rambam, Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah ch. 5. R. Soloveitchik writes that if a Jew is thrown against his will on a baby, the Jew did not commit shefikhut damim, since the Jew is completely passive. On the other hand, R. Soloveitchik writes that if a Jewish lady is assaulted against her will, even if she is completely inert, she did commit gilui arayot. Although she was completely passive, the nature of gilui arayot is such that it does not depend on an active vs. passive dichotomy. I would suggest by analogy: even if I clap a corpse’s hands against the corpse’s will, the corpse is indeed dead. But if a machine can move a patient’s blood, then circulation is occurring, and one might possibly argue that a life process is occurring. Again, RSZA did not agree with this line of reasoning, but I can see room to question RSZA.

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