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Dec 30, 2010

Interesting Psak: No Non-Jewish Artificial Insemination

Let me start off by pointing out that I am far from an expert in fertility treatments and their relevant halachos. (it doest really need to be said, as I am not an expert on pretty much every topic I choose to write about.)

I also apologize in advance and feel it necessary to say that I have no intention to hurt anybody's feelings or sensitivities. I am writing the below from a halachic discussion and anybody in such a situation should consult with their own mentors and rabbis about what the proper course of action is and should find success.

I always understood that certain fertility treatments, such as artificial insemination and the like, are better of being done with a non-jewish donor. The reason being that if the donor was Jewish, the child would have a problem marrying when he or she grows up, as every other person might be a sibling or relative, as the donor might have gone on and had other children. With the donation coming from a non-Jew, there is no concern about siblings at any future point of marriage.

Rav Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba and one of the leading poskim in the Dati Leumi community, has paskened recently that one should avoid taking the donation from a non-Jew and when necessary it would be better to adopt Jewish orphans.

Rav Lior says the reason to avoid the donation of a non-Jew is because the qualities and behaviors of the person transfer from father to child. if the father is not Jewish his barbaric and cruel qualities and behaviors will transfer to the child. A Jewish child, Rav Lior says, contains qualities inherent within of kindness and mercy, and even if the child did not receive a proper education, genetically he still carries those traits.

Another interesting point discussed by Rav Lior is the phenomenon of single women, religious women who are getting on in years and have decided use fertility treatments to get pregnant and no longer wait until marriage. Rav Lior said this should not be done as we should not respond to her requests when they will cause harm to someone else. Rav Lior said doing so causes harm to the child, as he will grow up without a father to look up to and, as Rav Lior says. such a child cannot be 100% normal.

Rav Lior's opinion seems pretty extreme to me. He is writing off converts with his explanation by saying non-Jews are automatically cruel and barbaric - it is genetic. If converts are ok because a person qualities are dependant on environment, nurture and education, so such children being raised in a Jewish home should also be ok, at least as ok as anybody else. It seems Rav Lior is deciding in the famous debate of nature or nurture, that nature is the overwhelming determining factor and no matter what else is done, the genetics will always remain "bad" and the child will have bad qualities within his personality.

20 comments:

  1. So then, according to Rabbi Lior, by definition those who behave like barbarians in RBS B, and other such places, must not be Jewish.

    We're sinking fast...

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  2. While one may disagree, the "man is the child of the father" approach does have its roots in talmudic sources.

    The use of non-Jewish donors was prefered by some poskim so as to avoid mamzeirut and other issues.

    On the "normal" issue-R H Schachter said the same thing recently (I think it's in the audioroundup going up tonight.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  3. Maybe (not that I would agree to this non-rationalist approach) he would say that converts have hidden Jewish souls which is why they come and convert. Therefore a baby conceived from them will get an appropriately gentle soul. I am not sure he is contenting that this is genetic.

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  4. The issue of artificial insemination is indeed very complex and controversial. The biggest fight was between Rav Moshe, zt"l, and the Satmar Rebbe. The former permitted AIH - artificial insemination with the husband's sperm to avoid any halachic issues about relatives and inheritance. The latter forbid it completely in any form and actively tried to get Rav Moshe to change his p'sak.
    But this statement:
    > A Jewish child, Rav Lior says, contains qualities inherent within of kindness and mercy, and even if the child did not receive a proper education, genetically he still carries those traits.

    I'm sorry, but does this mean that RBS B and Meah Shearim folks are routinely using goyishe sperm to get pregnant?

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  5. funny points, Menachem and Garnel. OTOH, I dont think he was saying the reverse - that if you are brutal, cruel and barbaric you must come form a goy..

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  6. Rav Lior's opinion does not seem extreme to me.
    This idea is used by Shas Uposkim all the time based on the verse in Yehezkel 23:20 וְזִרְמַת סוּסִים זִרְמָתָם.

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  7. If the basis of Rav Lior's psak is genetic heritage, I think that is an approach we don't usually take nowadays. Not only converts - what about children born of intermarriage (only Satmar follows the opinion that it's mamzeirut)?

    Following the idea to its other areas of applications, means we should become quite an insular and intolerant society - and maybe that breeds its own form of cruelty, not accepting geirim properly etc.

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  8. The gmara clearly states that Jews are rachmanim, baishanim and gomlei chesed. As for those Jews who do not behave that way - the gmara (fourth perek of Kiddushin) says that their geneology must be questioned. So, yes Menachem, I think Chazal would council staying away from marrying those is RBS B because there behavior shows there lineage is uncertain.

    R' Lior is not necessarily deciding on the question of nurture vs. nature. It is pretty obvious that both play a role. If so, doesn't it make sense to go with the better nature (which R' Lior, based on the gmara, says is the Jewish father) if you have a choice? Are you really comfortable with Jewish women to go to Germany for artificial insemination?

    Some comments here are setting up straw men when it comes to issues of raising children without a father. Does anyone really think this is a good thing? Come on! Unfortunately, sometimes this is necessary (like if the husband passes away), but R' Lior is saying in this case there is a choice - so do not choose to purposely bring into the world a child without a father.

    Finally, I have always been bothered by suggestions that it is better to adopt a non-Jew than a Jew. How can we not take care of our own first? The issue of not knowing whether you'll marry a relative is no longer relevant since we have DNA testing...

    Elitzur

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  9. That's a good excuse for the barbaric behavior of Jews today -- they must be descended from Jewish kids from Europe who were born as a result of pogroms.

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  10. My comment was mostly tongue-in-cheek. It's very likely that certain behaviors and abilities have a genetic component.

    What bothers me is Rabbi Lior's apparent default assumption that non-Jews are cruel and barbaric. My RBS B comment just illustrates that non-Jews certainly haven't cornered the market on cruelty and barbarism.

    Maybe a more nuanced, less racially divisive approach might have been to suggest that people who are considering artificial insemination try to obtain some type of "pedigree" on the donor.

    But the very idea of nuance seems to be rapidly disappearing from our leadership.

    Said nuance is also missing from the attack on single mothers. While probably not ideal, can you imagine how a widow with young children would feel hearing those words from a respected religious leader.

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  11. Menachem some Peace Activists could rival those extremists also....

    It isn't clear to me if Rav Lior is saying use a Jewish donor, rather he's saying adopt. But he must not know that's very difficult within Israel - many couples are already too old to qualify, and there aren't that many available babies anyway.

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  12. in the article it quotes Rav Lior as saying the other optino is to adopt, not to use a jewish donor.

    While I can respect each side of a good halachic debate, his logic being the cruelty and barbarism passed through genes as his halachic source is what disturbs me. If that is the sole logic behind his halachis opinion I would personally pasken like his barei plugta who hold better to use a goy donor, as the argument of mamzeirus makes more sense to me than the argument of barbarism and cruelty. not all goyim are cruel and barbaric, and if such a child is raised by Jews with no non-Jewish influence (because it happened via insemination), I would say they could easily offset any genetics with proper parenting.

    I agree with anon as well that while raising a child without a father present is not ideal, and yes such broken homes (whether by divorce or by death) can lead to children who are disturbed or troubled, it doesnt have to necessarily be so. The mother can do a fine job raising the children, she just has to work that much harder. Or find a husband. And yes it might not be the ideal situation, but you deal with the hand you are dealt and try to do your best.
    But in general I dont thinkit is a good idea for single women to be adopting or going through fertility treatments, as I do agree that that should be for proper families and not for singles.

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  13. Menachem some Peace Activists could rival those extremists also....

    No question. Our greatest enemy today is fanaticism in general; be it Moslem, Jewish, Environmentalist, Feminist, Liberal, etc.

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  14. The article itself - and possibly the psak it is quoting - is very unfortunate. Because both situations, infertile couples and single women longing to express their maternal instincts, require much more sensitivity than just saying people in these situations can't raise 100% normal children.

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  15. But in general I dont thinkit is a good idea for single women to be adopting or going through fertility treatments

    Adoption? Really? There are a lot of children in this world who are floundering unwanted in orphanages. I know two single women who adopted a kid each from China and Russia. These kids have immeasurably better lives than what they would have had in their home countries. And they are being raised as Torah Jews to boot. (And, as far as I know they have not yet turned into cruel barbarians!)

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  16. Rafi,
    Would you allow a single parent to adopt? Are there married couples you wouldn't? I'm guessing that there is more than "how will the child grow up" involved in this decision (although it could be that there's a perception that in an overwhelming number of cases a single parent child is at a deep disadvantage and thus it's worth a general rule)

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  17. Rafi,
    Would you allow a single parent to adopt? Are there married couples you wouldn't? I'm guessing that there is more than "how will the child grow up" involved in this decision (although it could be that there's a perception that in an overwhelming number of cases a single parent child is at a deep disadvantage and thus it's worth a general rule)

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  18. would I allow it? I think I would, but I would suggest that the authorities considering such an adoption case might need to be much more discerning than with a traditionally married couple.

    Yes, even married couples can be wrong for adoption, and authorities should be discerning, but when single and adopting I think you need to be that much more careful. But sure it can be done.

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  19. I agree with Menachem - big difference between fertility treatments vs. adoption for single parent families. And since they're adopting from the countries that have scores of baby orphanages, they are doing the world quite a chessed provided they're up to the challenge.

    I also think that a child born (i.e. biologically) to a single mother has the disadvantage of growing up living under a stigma.

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  20. I don't quite understand your reactions. Maybe because I haven't seen the actual statement from Rav Lior. Is it a 'psak', or a strong opinion? How did he present it? The idea is not new, having been clearly put forth by rabbinic authorities before him going back decades. It is not a halachic argument; although it is one with practical consequences. And it is based on rabbinic sources in shas and the kabbalah.

    This whole issue is absolutely nothing new! Anyone who has followed fertility technologies in halacha knows this. From the very beginning there were rabbinic proponents of using Jewish sperm, using non Jewish sperm, and not doing this at all. It also made a difference if we were talking about artificial insemination directly introduced into the mother (I think not really done anymore) or IVF. English readers might want to look at section IV of Rav Dr. Mordechai Halperin's review article on IVF in Jewish Medical Ethics of May, 1988.

    So, can we get the facts straight before opining on the merits of Rav Lior's reputed statement?

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