Friday, February 10, 2012

Jewish Bioethics: Abortion and congenital diseases (3 of 4)

Previously (see here) we explained that the modern rabbis have very different opinions on the issue of abortion, when facing a congenital disease. We presented three main schools and we also warned the readers that this information should be used just as educational material. If chas veshsalom a couple faces such a situation, they have to consult with a doctor and a rabbi.  

This consultation should consist of two steps:

First, seeing a specialist physician to examine the results. If he advices interrupting the pregnancy, it is highly recommended to have a second opinion. It might happen than a doctor, because of his philosophical leniency toward abortion, would not see necessary to do more than the standard studies. It is recommended then, unless this is a doctor you know and trust, to have an independent second opinion on such delicate matter. 

Second, if the medical opinion is in favor of interrupting the pregnancy, the couple should consult with a rabbi.  There are many rabbis that are experts in this type of issues who can assess the Halakhic aspects and also the medical and psychological aspects of the situation, each of which will become a factor in his final Halakhic ruling.

Illustration: When the expert rabbi makes the decision of what rabbinical opinion to follow, even if the rabbi would be inclined to follow the stricter opinion which compares abortion to murder, he might consider other extenuating circumstances. For example, the impact on the mental health of the mother, etc. This consideration will affect the rabbi's final ruling.  

Also, and primarily, the expert rabbi knows if the detected disease is a mortal disease, like Tay- Sachs or a different congenital disorder, like Down Syndrome, etc. and he will rule accordingly. 

Most times, an expert rabbi will meet with the couple's doctor to see all the angles before he arrives to his Halakhic ruling. 

(Adapted from Penine Halakha liqutim, B, 264-265).
Next week, BH, we will deal with the subject of genetic testing.  
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The 13 principles of Judaism: #5. Praying to God, the right way (2 of 2)

Previously, we've explained that we should pray exclusively and directly to God (see here ) and communicate with Him only by means of prayer. Sometimes, in their desperation to have their prayers answered, people would use tricks, amulets or formulas which, they think, will help to fulfill their needs and desires. The Tora, however, is not a book of magic written to teach us how to make God do what we want.  The ultimate objective of prayer is not forcing God to accept our will, but training us to accept His. 
What is the proper way to pray to haShem? 

I'm quoting the invaluable words of rabbi Hayim Pereira-Mendes on prayer:

 "Prayer means speaking to God. It may be Praise, Supplication or Thanksgiving. We should speak to God about what is most in our hearts, as a child speaks to its father. That is true prayer. We should place before God all our private wants, our sorrows and our perplexities. Nothing that troubles us in our daily lives is so unimportant that we need hesitate to speak to God about it in prayer."
"Prayer is of little use unless we are conscious of what we say and feel that we are actually speaking to God. After true prayer we feel that we have been near to God. The object of prayer is to bring us near to God." 
"Prayer without proper conduct is worse than useless. It is an insult to God. Our prophets condemn prayer, sacrifices, the observance of Sabbath and other Holy Days, and all religious ceremonies, unless our conduct is acceptable to God. Right conduct is everything. Religious forms without right conduct are useless. Unless prayer, Sabbath, Holy Days and all religious ceremonies or forms build up right character, they fail in their purpose.  We cannot expect that God will answer our prayers, unless we "do justly, love kindness and walk modestly before Him."

Not everything is lost in Great Britain  WATCH  Douglas Murray discussing Israel and Iran

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tu biShbat and Israel facing Iran


I would like to ask the readers of Halakha of the Day to watch this 5 minutes video  clip.  It is done by  Naftali Bennett, a former Chief of Staff to Benjamin Netanyahu, today a successful businessman, who very eloquently shares his assessment of the situation Israel will be facing with a nuclear Iran.   I would like to ask that after you watch this video, if you find it as important as I find it, please forward it to your friends. And if you live in America, please, contact your congressman or political representative and share this video and ideas with him/her.  

We can't stand still while so much is at stake. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tu Bishbat or ILANOT

Tonight BH we will celebrate the fifteenth day (in Hebrew= tu) of the month of Shebat, the new year - Rosh haShana- of the trees.  tu bishbat is considered the new year of the trees. In this date the trees (and more specifically, their fruits) are considered one year older, independently of when they were planted (See article below for details). This in an important fact for many Mitzvot connected to agriculture, for example, 'orla: the prohibition to eat the fruits from a new tree during the first three years, for which one needs to know the age of the tree (see more examples here ).

How do we celebrate the 15th of Shebat today?

In our community this festival is known as "ILANOT" (=trees). The custom in our community is to eat tonight from the seven fruits or species by which the Land of Israel is praised: "...a land of wheat and barley and grape and fig and pomegranate, a land of olives and honey (=dates)" (Debarim 8:8).

It is a special zekhut then to eat fruits which actually come from the Land of Israel and say berakha for them.

In Iran, our community used to say one berakha for each one of the seven fruits. The fruits were brought to the table in a covered tray, and the berakhot were said uncovering one fruit at a time. Mr. Nassim Bassalian told me that once in America the standard custom of our community is to say just one berakha for the fruits of the tree (ha'etz) and the correspondent berakha for whatever else is eaten from wheat and barley (normally, mezonot).

No special prayers are added to the regular services, and Tachanun is not recited. 

For more information about Tu-biShbat read this article  from

Monday, February 6, 2012


In the Tora it is written: (vayiqra 19:36) "You shall have just balances, just weights, a just epha, and a just hin; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt."  Ephaand hin are Biblical units of measurements (like pounds or ounces today).  The Tora instructs the seller to keep the scales balanced (=just) and well adjusted, so there is no dishonesty in trade and business transactions. If you sell tomatoes you need to maintain the scale clean and well adjusted. Otherwise, even that little dirt on the scale will affect the final weight, and the buyer will get less tomatoes than what he paid for.  

Our rabbi extended the scope of this pasuq and explained that the word 'hin' a liquid measure unit, is similar to 'hen' which in ancient Aramaic means YES. They explained that in the same way our scales need to be just, our words need to be just. When the seller is going to say YES, it has to be a just and honest YES.   

Illustration: If I sell cars and a client says that he wants the car at the end of this month, and I know that I will not get the car at the end of the month, I must tell the truth to my customer.  Even when I know that by saying NO he will go somewhere else to buy his car, and I will lose the sell. If I lie to my customer and I pronounce the dishonest YES, I will be transgressing the Mitzva of HIN TZEDEQ:  Keeping a right YES, and a right NO. 
Rabbi Eliezer Pappo in his book Pele Yo'etz assures us that although in the short term the seller might lose a good deal, in the long term, the right YES and the right NO is the smartest business decision. Because, he explains, there is no better advertisement for a seller than the fame of a good name and honesty. 

It's Your World  Taking responsibility for the environment, a message for tu bishbat, by