Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two Guiness Records for Israel's 60th Birthday
by Hillel Fendel

( On the eve of Israel's 60th Independence Day, which will occur next week, Jewish communities around the world will unite in a first-ever event: Thousands of Jews singing Israel's national anthem simultaneously - and setting a Guiness world record to boot.

The specific record to be broken is for "most people singing an anthem simultaneously." The effort's internet headquarters are located at, and the Live Hatikva singing will be broadcast live from many locations across the globe on Israel's Channel 2, over the internet, on cellular phones, and on major newscasts worldwide. The global singing of Hatikva, the organizers stated, "will create a collage of Jews around world as they sing the Jewish anthem together."

Israel's 60th birthday has also led to the breaking of another Guiness record - the record for "largest national flag." The flag in question, an Israeli flag the size of two football stadiums, arrived in Israel last November from the Philippines, where it was sewn over the course of three weeks by six professional sewers under the direction of two designers and 40 volunteers. It was sewn as a gesture of friendly relations between Israel and the Philippines, and was accompanied by a slightly smaller flag of the Philippines.

The Israeli flag was originally unfurled near Massada, and was most recently placed across the fields near Kibbutz Shaalvim, visible from the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. It measures 18,847 square meters and weighs 5.2 metric tons, while the Philippines flag was only 18, 818 square meters. Both of them were significantly larger than the previous record-holder, a U.S. flag made in 1996 measuring nearly 12,000 square meters.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Majority of Kadima MKs Against Golan Withdrawal


This article reminds us, at the end, that the government ministers were against a withdrawal of Gush Katif once too, then they pulled out.

What the article doesn’t say is how that was accomplished. There was a huge disinformation campaign aimed at the settlers of Gush Katif in order to convince the general public that Israel would be better off without Gaza.

By the time I traveled to Israel, in 2002, the public was all mouthing the mantra:

“Gaza isn’t really part of historic Israel anyway. There are no important religious sites there. If we just got rid of Gaza, we wouldn’t be under constant attack. Just give them what they want, it will be easier.”

I heard that a thousand times, and after you hear it so many times it almost becomes believable—especially when you hear it from other settlers. Yes, my friends. I heard it constantly in Judea and Samaria when I was there—mouthed by the very same people who would be ashamed to have said it today, and upon whom the next expulsion will fall.

I never believed it, though.

Not one inch. Not one centimeter. Not one hair’s-breadth of Israel should go to anyone but Israel.

The only way we can have peace is to do what Hashm has demanded from the moment the Torah was written on Sinai: remove those who do not belong. We will not have peace until we have ALL of Biblical Israel restored to the Jewish people. It is our Heritage and our Homeland. Our strategy should not be to retreat, but to move forward.

Let us become the ones to whom the US and the EU try to convince to stop our hostilities. Let us be the ones who will accept concessions from our enemies, rather than making concessions. Let us be the aggressor, the one to fear.

Until that moment, we will live in constant fear and war.

Hashm has already given us a roadmap. Let’s stop making detours to disaster and grab our fair share. We have to want it more than they do, and we have to fight for it.


15 Kadima MKs Oppose Olmert's Golan Withdrawal Stance
by Hillel Fendel

( The majority of the Knesset faction of Kadima - Israel's largest party and political home of the Prime Minister and most of the more influential Cabinet ministers - opposes a giveaway of the Golan Heights.

The results of an internal party poll to this effect were published on the Kadima party website. The site emphasizes that the results are "fluid," as they are dependent on the precise nature of an agreement that might be signed with Syria.

Prime Minister Olmert has not denied reports of last week that he transmitted a message to Syria stating he would be willing to give up the entire Golan in exchange for peace with the North Korean ally.

"Do You Favor Significant Withdrawal?"
The party's 29 MKs were asked whether they would support a "significant withdrawal" from the Golan Heights. This term was defined as either the uprooting of all or most of the 33 Jewish towns there, or their transfer to Syrian sovereignty with a measure of Israeli autonomy.

Fifteen of the 29 MKs said they are totally against a "significant withdrawal." These included ten members of the Knesset Golan lobby - Ruchama Avraham Belila, Eli Aflalo, Tzachi HaNegbi, Yoel Hasson, David Tal, Marina Solodkin, Ze'ev Elkin, Ronit Tirosh, Michael Nudelman, and Shai Hermesh - as well as Yaakov Edry, Sha'ul Mofaz, Avraham Hirschson, Ze'ev Boim, and Otniel Shneller. This number includes four Cabinet ministers (Mofaz, Boim, Edry and Belila).

Transportation Minister Mofaz told reporters in Washington on Monday that surrendering the Golan to the Iranian ally would mean giving Iran control of the high ground overlooking much of northern Israel. The former Defense Minister, who met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, is visiting Washington as part of the American-Israeli strategic dialogue that takes place every six months.

The position of two Kadima MKs - Minister Gideon Ezra and Amira Dotan - is not clear. Ezra has gone on record as saying that there is no point in talking with Syria at present.

Twelve Kadima MKs say they favor a "significant withdrawal" from the Golan in exchange for peace with the country the US terms a "terrorism sponsor." They are Olmert, Ministers Livni, Dichter, Sheetrit, Ramon, and Bar-On, and Shlomo Mula, Dalia Itzik, Menachem Ben-Sasson, Yitzchak Ben-Yisrael, Yochanan Plesner, and Majli Whbee.

Syria Shelled Israel from the Golan
Syria controlled the Golan for 19 years, beginning in 1948, and used it to systematically shell and attack the Jewish towns towns below. 140 Israelis were killed in these attacks, many more were injured, and heavy property damage was also inflicted.

Israel liberated the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War, thus freeing northern Israel of the Syrian threat. Israel soon realized that the Golan was vital not only militarily, but also in terms of water, history, and more. The Golan was officially annexed to Israel in 1981, and over the years, 33 Jewish communities were built, including the full-fledged town of Katzrin. Today, over 17,000 Jewish residents live in the Golan and the slopes of strategically-vital Mt. Hermon. In addition, 19,000 Druze and 2,000 Muslims live there as well.

History to Repeat?
It is noteworthy that when Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert first floated the idea of a Disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Shomron, many of their Likud party members opposed it. As time passed and political circumstances changed, however, their opinions did as well.

Abbas's PA Sentences Man to Death for Fighting Terrorism


Before I begin this rant, I want the Peace Now sissies reading the teaser to know that Israel HAS NO DEATH PENALTY. Not so your beloved arab "government" in the "Palestinian territory."

This is supposed to be the "government" we are cooperating with, you know, the "moderate terrorists" of Fatah (the ones who have done the majority of suicide/homicide bombings, shootings,
knifings, fire bombs, etc.).

This is the group of people we are supposed to be trusting to "police" the
arabs outside of green line Israel.

This is the group that we have just given TONS of weapons and ammo along with armored personnel carriers, grenades and advanced military training.

They want to kill us. We are just helping them kill us more efficiently in a shorter period of time.

If you think for ONE MINUTE that Fatah is going to fight terrorism, you are dead wrong (with the accent on "dead.")

They are SENTENCING A MAN TO DEATH for trying to stop terrorists from killing Jews. This is not something the "Zionist Press" cooked up! This is their own government deciding their own priorities--and the priority is not to save Jewish lives--it is to kill Jews.

They are going to kill our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our sons, our fathers, our grandfathers, and our grandmothers.

They are going to kill our matronly aunts and our unmarried nephews.

They are going to kill our favorite uncles and our beautiful neices.

They are going to kill our dogs and our ducks and our chickens (I am adding this, just in case a PETA person who cares more for the lives of animals than the lives of Jews is reading this).

Fatah doesn't care. They have been
inculcated with hatred for us in their schools, in their mosques, in their families, in the streets, and on the television and radio.

We need to make war, not peace, with these people. They have already made war upon us. We must return the favor or die at the end of their swords.

This is not the time to negotiate, it is the time to take, seriously, our own lives and futures.

Condi Rice doesn't have to live in Israel (and I think she is taking money from the Arabs anyway), Olmert will leave Israel the moment it gets hot (his whole family is in France, remember?), and the rest of the coalition will leave like rats from a sinking ship the moment we start getting bombed (believe me, they will get all the airline tickets out and strand everyone else).

When will we wake up??

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

( A Palestinian Authority court in the city of Hevron sentenced a 25-year-old man to death Monday for giving Israel information that led to the elimination of four terrorists. The condemned man, Emad Saad, did not deny the charges.

Samih Staidi, a senior member of the PA's official armed militia, said Saad, himself a former member of the PA forces, would be executed by a firing squad. Staidi expressed satisfaction with the verdict, saying, “Let it be an example to those who sell their homeland and their people.”

The court that sentenced Saad is under the control of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah organization. Abbas is currently involved in negotiations with Israel over what is being promoted as a peace agreement; however, Israel has predicated implementation on a concerted PA effort to fight anti-Israel terrorism. Earlier this month, Abbas granted an official award to two Arab terrorists responsible for the deaths of 16 Jews.

The last time the PA officially executed an Arab resident under its jurisdiction for assisting Israel was in 2001; however, dozens of Arabs who were said to have been offering assistance to Israel have been killed by PA lynch mobs or by Fatah and Hamas terrorists in recent years.

'A Slap in the Face to Israel'
In reaction to news of the PA death sentence, the Land of Israel Legal Forum wrote an urgent letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak calling on them to take action to prevent the execution. The Forum's Chairman, Nachi Eyal, wrote that the IDF should be sent into the PA-controlled area of Hevron to forcibly free the condemned man if the PA refuses to lift the sentence.

"The State of Israel, which aids the Palestinian Authority in many varied ways, can make it clear to [Abbas] that this [death sentence] crosses a red line of incomprehensible cruelty and of uncultured behavior," Eyal wrote.

Noting that the execution of Arabs who assist Israel was characteristic of the rule of the late arch-terrorist and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Eyal added that it also proves that "whosoever gives the Palestinian Authority any credit and transfers weapons and armored vehicles to it behaves irresponsibly."

In March, the Israeli government implemented a series of "goodwill gestures" that included delivering dozens of APCs to Fatah-controlled PA militias in Judea and Samaria.

"Execution of someone for cooperating with the State of Israel is a stinging slap in the face to Israel," Eyal explained in his letter to Olmert and Barak, "It is your moral obligation to make it clear to [Abbas], in whose hands approval of the sentence rests, that authorization of the sentence will be be treated extremely seriously by Israel."

Abbas Rejects Meeting With Diplomats Who Honor Israel's Independence Day
Meanwhile, PA officials said Monday that Abbas would not meet with foreign leaders and diplomats who visit Israel in honor of the country’s 60th Independence Day. At that time, they said, the PA will be commemorating the "Nakba", or “Disaster,” as it refers to the creation of the modern state of Israel.

PA sources said visiting diplomats should “show sensitivity to the Palestinian people’s feelings” and realize that the PA will be mourning the creation of the state of Israel, not celebrating it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

69 Year Old Grandmother Faces Long Jail Term for Actions of Adult Daughter


A post from my dear friend Dina on behalf of an injustice in Israel. A grandmother has been convicted of helping her daughter and granddaughter to move to Russia in order to keep the child away from the child's father.

When the grandmother returned to Israel to care for her 94 year-old mother, she was arrested for conspiring to kidnap her granddaughter, and will spend 6 years in jail unless she can convince her daughter to return to Israel with the child.

This case is important because it holds an adult parent responsible for the actions of her adult child--which sets a legal precedent which is dangerous for all members of the public who have adult children.


Shalom to all,

In January I posted concerning a 69-yr. old grandmother who faces a long jail term. Below this message is a review of her story.

There will be a "Bagatz"/Supreme Court appeal against her sentence THIS COMING MONDAY 28 APRIL AT 9 A.M. I don't yet know the name of the judge(s) or which courtroom, but I am trying to get this info. from Eleonora Shifrin, and will post it as soon as I know.

This unfortunate dear soul needs all the support she can get against a system that has treated her horribly unfairly. Also please remember that she is also in frail health, but that didn't stop Judge Ayala Procaccia from delaying her jail sentence in the past.

PLEASE TRY TO SHOW UP EN MASSE THIS MONDAY AT 9 AM AT THE SUPREME COURT IN JERUSALEM, at least so she can see that she has a lot of support from caring people.

Tizku l'mitzvot, Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,


Dr. Isabella Belfer, MD PhD is a 69-year-old ophthalmologist with 35 years of experience in public service in Russia and 12 years in Israel. She has always been a loyal and honest person and citizen. She is a generous and kindhearted friend. She is a loving and sacrificing mother of two and a doting grandmother of four. She is the gentle and caring daughter of a 94-year-old mother.

Right now she is also the victim and scapegoat in a shameful case involving a prejudiced prosecutor and biased judge.

Just for trying to be a good mother and a good daughter, Isabella got sentenced to six years in prison as an accomplice to "kidnapping." To get a brief summary of this case, please take a look on the following link:

There is a reason why Isabella has been treated so unfairly and has been connected to the uninvestigated family conflict between her daughter Marina and Marina's ex-husband. Marina's ex-husband accused the State of Israel of "illegally providing legal permission" to his wife to leave the country together with his child and demanded 10 million shekels. Prosecution and the judge have therefore tried Isabella and found her guilty in an attempt to satisfy his desire for revenge in exchange of dropping these charges.

Isabella was accused for actions she never did. Her only "guilt" was that she couldn't influence or convince her daughter, a 30-year-old woman, to stay in Israel. How is this possible?? Since when parents are responsible for their adult children actions?? We all know that there has never been a case when the mother of a terrorist who killed lots of innocent people was convicted for not reporting her child‚s actions; never before has the mother of a criminal even been subjected to investigation for any potential involvement or cooperation. How come Isabella was convicted for "not reporting" or "cooperating" - and was sentenced to six years in prison?! She will not survive even one day in prison at her age and with her health conditions (which include heart disease and a recent stroke).

Here we are asking you to consider Isabella's case separately from the case of her daughter Marina, who was not accused or convicted as of today. Isabella left Israel in 2001 for a planned travel to support her other daughter in the US who was giving birth. Marina received legal permission to accompany her in this travel together with her child. The defense provided clear explanations for each action of Isabella that was described by the prosecution as her "cooperation in not returning the child to Israel" but this evidence was ignored by the judge.

This shocking verdict was made by the judge Oded Mudric who is heading to become Supreme Court Judge. Unfortunately, Isabella's fate and freedom were in the wrong hands. This person plasticizes double standards and discrimination in his judgment. For example, in 2001 he sentenced Israeli citizen Shmuel Akshoteh, 50, to 3.5 years in prison for abducting two Arab collaborators and turning one of them over to the Palestinian Authority for a payment of 5,000 shekel.

The same judge gave only 3.5 years of prison to a real kidnapper because of the "defendant's difficult financial situation." According to Mudric‚s judgment, it appears- quite ludicrously- that the crime of threatening the lives of two people and selling them for money was not as harsh as the "crime" of Isabella Belfer. Or maybe her heavy accent in Hebrew made her a "second class" citizen for judge Mudric? It‚s a pity that Isabella's destiny depended on the judgment and wisdom of only one person.

Many people in Israel, Russia and the US, including Isabella‚s former patients, work colleagues and friends, are shocked by the verdict and want to protest and support her. These voices must be heard. It's absolutely urgent to act now. According to the ruling, Isabella is expected to report to prison on January 27.

Please read the Petition in Support of Isabella Belfer and sign it if you want to lend a hand in her struggle for freedom. Your support will be sent to President Shimon Peres. Please get all of your friends to join as we voice our opinion to the President.

Several lives including Isabella‚s and her 94-years mother are in danger. Her four grandchildren cry for help!!!

Download petition to the President: ENG | RUS | HEB
Download petition to BAGATZ and Knesset: ENG | RUS | HEB

Two Israelis Dead in Terror Attack Near Netana


Thank G-d this was not worse, but it is very sad that we have lost two.

Pay a lot of attention to where this attack occurred--in the "peace" zone--a place where economic development is supposed to help both Israelis and arabs. However, the arabs don't want to participate in economic development--they just want to kill Jews.

Like a two-year-old child, who is not content to play with a pile of toys when another child has one of them, the arabs cannot content themselves with ANYTHING they get as long as we have one square inch of our homeland.

We could keep peeling off layers and layers of Israel until there is nothing left but a shred, and they would kill us because we had that shred. We cannot co-exist, and it isn't because we haven't tried. It is because they don't want to.

Now we have the families and friends of
Shimon Mizrachi, 53, of Bat Hefer, and Eli Muserman, 51, of Alfei Menashe to add to our national roll of terrorist's victims.

Shame on us. We need to stop caring more about arabs than we care about Jews.


by INN Staff

( Two Israeli security guards were found shot to death at a factory in a small city east of the Mediterranean coastline city of Netanya Friday morning.

The community of Nitzanei Oz is also almost adjacent to the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Tulkarm, to where security forces speculate the murderer(s) escaped following the shooting.

The two victims were identified as Shimon Mizrachi, 53, of Bat Hefer, and Eli Muserman, 51, of Alfei Menashe.

Around 7 AM Friday morning, the local Magen David Adom emergency services dispatcher received a report of gunshot injuries in the northern area of the town's industrial zone, the area closest to Tulkarm. When its crew arrived on the scene, the paramedics discovered that the two victims were already dead.

Security forces immediately threw a dragnet around the area in an attempt to capture the murderer. IDF forces entered Tulkarm to search for the terrorists as well. Islamic Jihad later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sources said the terrorists planned a mass murder at the factory, located in the city’s Nitzanei Shalom [Buds of Peace] industrial zone. After murdering the two men, however - one of whose guns was found in his car, instead of on his person - the terrorist entered the building only to discover that he was alone, as all the workers were on vacation for the Passover holiday.

Yesha Council Castigates Government
The Yesha Council (Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria) stated, "It is no coincidence that the attack occurred just a day after Israel announces it willingness to pardon more terrorists... These concessions and gestures tell our enemies that terrorism pays off... Palestinian terrorism must be defeated, not negotiated with."

Security sources said it is believed the terrorists came from Tulkarm, which the Israeli government transferred to PA control within the framework of the Oslo Accords.

On August 1, 2002, Shani Ladni, a truck driver who frequented the same industrial zone, was murdered there by terrorists. The attack was enabled by the Defense Ministry's removal of a curfew around Tulkarm as a confidence-building gesture to the PA shortly beforehand.

The Nitzanei Shalom Industrial Park was one of nine industrial zones established in 1995 to help provide work for Arabs in Judea and Samaria. Currently there are seven factories in Nitzanei Shalom, which produce cartons, plastic parts, exterminator sprays and other items. Some 700 Arabs are employed in the complex.

Judaism Used to be User Friendly. What happened??


Yes, yes, and yes. We need these voices out there. We have to bring Judiasm back to its intellectual and Torah-based core. Enough with the nutty wacko Chumrot-filled dark-age BS that is going on! This is Judaism we are talking about--you know, the religion of the Jews. NOT the religion of Puritans or the Amish or the Shakers. This is not a cult. This is a RELIGION. It is based on TORAH, and requires you use your BRAIN.

I realize we move slowly, and that is fine. But please--let us move. If we stop moving forward we become petrified and we die out. I realize some are Petrified with fear of change, but we should be Petrified by fear of our own demise if we become mired in the ridiculousness of what has become the mentality of many of these cultish "Rebbe" followers.

Please. Open a prayer book and READ it. Open a Torah and READ it. Open Tehillim and READ it. Don't just recite from it. If you don't understand Hebrew fluently--READ THE ENGLISH!! Understand what you are saying. These are not some magical incantations--they our our heritage and our soul.



Last update - 22:12 23/04/2008
A Torah expert faults the rabbis
By Yair Sheleg

"Jewish halakhic decisions," says Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, "tended throughout most of the generations to be user-friendly. There are impressive examples in halakhic history of the willingness of poskim (arbiters of Jewish law) to allow the taking of interest or to prevent the cancellation of debts in order to make economic life possible; to allow the sale of chametz on Pesach and a heter mechira (permission to sell land to a non-Jew) during the sabbatical year to prevent losses; even to impose severe sanctions on those who refused to grant a get (a religious divorce) or to release agunot (chained women, whose husbands cannot or will not grant them a divorce) under lenient conditions. Only in recent generations has pesika (issuing a halakhic ruling) become extreme and increasingly stringent."

This argument is not new, of course. For many years it was voiced by Conservative and Reform Jews, women's organizations and ordinary liberal religious Jews. The innovation lies in the speaker, his background and the knowledge that he brings to his argument. An Israel Prize laureate for his talmudic research, Sperber is president of the Institute of Advanced Torah Studies at Bar-Ilan University. A reknowned scholar of Jewish law and the Talmud, he also is the rabbi of a congregation the neighborhood where he lives in Jerusalem, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

In two books recently published in Hebrew by Reuben Mass "Darka shel Halakha" (The Path of Halakha) and "Netivot Pesika" (Modes of Decision), Sperber spells out his arguments against the halakhic decision-making of recent generations; he says it is characterized mainly by disregard for the personal situation of the person requesting the ruling and an absence of humane consideration for the applicant's suffering and dignity in favor of comprehensive decisions designed for a general public and tending to be stringent.

He traces the origin of the problem, as did many of his respected predecessors (chiefly historian Jacob Katz) to the extreme reaction of religious society in Europe to the phenomenon of Reform and the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment movement). Since Reform Jews wanted to innovate, traditional Jews had to refrain from any innovation. This extreme position was reflected symbolically by the famous statement by the Hatam Sofer, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox community in Hungary in the 19th century, who declared that hadash (the new) is "forbidden by the Torah." (This was a paraphrase of a Jewish law in Temple times forbidding the eating of the new grain crop before the ceremony marking the Counting of the Omer). In short, any attempt at innovation regarding a specific custom was enough to invalidate it, even if there is no halakhic prohibition.

The Hatam Sofer influenced poskim and communities all over Europe, and the situation reached the absurd, according to Sperber: "Recently a book was published about the customs of the Mattersdorf community [in Hungary- Y.S.] in the mid-19th century. And it turns out that in this community the rabbis refused to allow a heater into the study hall and consequently it was so cold that most members of the community refrained from coming to the synagogue in the winter, and there's evidence that those who came had icicles running down from their beards, only because 'our forefathers did not have heaters.' In that same community they also avoided placing benches in the synagogue, and elderly people were forced to stand during the entire prayer service, for the same reason that 'Hadash is forbidden by the Torah.'"

Even major poskim, experts in the halakhic tradition, avoided innovation to the point of absurdity. Sperber tells of the testimony of the son of the Hafetz Haim (Rabbi Yisrael Hacohen of Radin, the main Ashkenazi posek of modern times) regarding his father, who refrained from introducing electricity into the synagogue, even on weekdays, because of the innovation it represented.

Ivory tower phenomenon
The second and more recent cause of extremism, says Sperber, is the central role that the large yeshivas and their heads began to assume in the Ashkenazi (European) halakhic world: "In the past it was common for the pesika to be issued in each community by the local rabbi. The rabbi was familiar with the nature of the community, its ability to observe various stringencies and the needs of the people, and therefore the decisions suited the community. The moment that the yeshiva heads became the main poskim the rulings became 'academic,' issued from an ivory tower, unconnected to the actual situation of the public, and in any case also tending to be stringent."

Incidentally, he points out, because the two phenomena - Reform Judaism and the large yeshivas - were not found in Sephardic Judaism (in southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East), the phenomenon of halakhic extremism was avoided there.

In "Darka shel Halakha," Sperber deals particularly with what he considers a central example of "unfriendly" pesika: the subject of Torah reading by women. A priori, the Talmud determines that there is no problem with women being called up to the Torah, and only when it came to reading from the Torah "the Sages said that they shouldn't read because of the dignity of the public"; the most common interpretation of this explanation is that this could humiliate those men who didn't know how to read from the Torah.

For most of Jewish history the ruling did not even come up for discussion because the women didn't see themselves as candidates for reading from the Torah. But in recent decades feminism has also affected the desire of religious women to be full partners in religious life, including reading from the Torah. Sperber is convinced, and that is also what he rules, that they should be allowed to do so, adopting an approach of "friendly" pesika:

"First of all, today most religious men who come to the synagogue know how to read from the Torah, so, in any case, they should not be insulted by a woman reading. Second, just as there is concern for a public that is insulted when women read, another public can also "forgo its dignity' and decide that it is not insulted by this reading. And primarily - in contrast to the value of 'the dignity of the public' - preference should be given to the universal value of human dignity, because the moment women feel insulted by not being allowed to read, this insult is more important."

In the second book Sperber discusses another major problem that he sees as an obstacle to the poskim - the absence of sufficient scientific knowledge. He is referring mainly to their ignorance of the academic field of Jewish studies, which causes them to be unfamiliar with sources discovered in recent generations or differences of opinion between versions of various manuscripts, which could influence the pesika. As a basic example of that he mentions that Rabbi Yosef Caro, the compiler of the Shulkhan Arukh, which from the time it was written in the 16th century up to the present, has been considered the central book of halakha in the Jewish world, made his halakhic decisions by following the majority opinion in three previous books of halakha with which he was familiar: those of Maimonides, the Rif (Rabbi Yitzhak Alfasi) and the Rosh (Rabbi Asher ben Yehiel). "But in recent generations," says Sperber, "many halakhic sources that were totally unfamiliar to the author of the Shulkhan Arukh have been discovered, for example extensive halakhic literature from Provence. This literature could change the entire balance of majority and minority opinion in halakha, but the poskim will not allow any expression of that. The Hazon Ish [a central posek who lived in Israel in the 20th century -Y.S.] even said there is no need to take this literature into consideration, because apparently it was determined from above that this literature would not be discovered before the halakhic tradition was consolidated. Incidentally, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is actually willing to rely on the new literature, and in several places he rules contrary to the Shulkhan Arukh, in accordance with new sources that have been discovered."

Occasionally, it must be admitted, unfamiliarity with the various sources actually causes lenient halakhic rulings. For example, Sperber brings the famous case of the permission given by Rabbi Avraham Kook to sell the lands of the country during the sabbatical year. This permission was based, among other things, on previous poskim who ruled that there is no prohibition against selling land from Eretz Israel to goyim in our time, because the prohibition written in the Torah on this matter relates only to idol worshipers, and today's Arabs are not considered as such.

But manuscripts discovered in recent decades reveal that these quotes stemmed from censorship imposed by Christian rulers on the original pesika, which actually prohibited the sale of land from Eretz Israel to all the goyim, and not only to idol worshipers.

In the test of results, Sperber is not afraid of the practical significance of his discovery, "because there are enough other ways and reasons to allow the sale," but the basic principle is important.

Revolutionary Ideas to Bolster Religious-Zionist Camp


What “Revolutionary Ideas”? Do they mean, perhaps, supporting the Jews in Israel? Wow. Revolutionary!

Maybe if the Religious Zionist parties actually supported the issues important to Religious Zionists, the Religious Zionist parties would be successful. However, when they agree to give land to terrorists in exchange for some funding for schools or a bigger office, no one will support them.

We are talking about the passionate issue of OUR LAND here. We want to keep OUR LAND. O-U-R Land.

Orlev doesn't want to focus on "politics," he wants to make sure we have some nice educational institutions and some good social values . . . WHERE???? Hello Orlev! We are LOSING OUR LAND TO TERRORISTS. Can you PLEEEEEEZE get your priorities straight????

No one will trust NRP or UTJ again after Gush Katif. I agree with Rosenne. We need a new party. One that CARES ABOUT THE LAND OF ISRAEL.

Isn't that what "Zionist" means????


by Hillel Fendel

( Will the religious-Zionist Knesset camp continue to decline? Revolutionary ideas are being floated to ensure this does not happen.

In the 2003 elections, the National Religious Party (NRP) received six Knesset seats, and the National Union - comprised largely of former NRP members - received seven, for a total of 13. In 2006, the two parties merged into one list - and received a total of only nine Knesset mandates.

Widespread concern has been expressed throughout the religious-Zionist camp that the downward trend will continue, particularly in light of reports of lack of unity among some members of the Knesset faction.

Yeshiva high school seniors recently met with the entire NRP/NU faction, demanding unity as well as a new method of choosing the MKs that will give the public more say. In addition, the religious-Zionist press has been saturated of late with proposals to unify and revamp the political representation of the national-religious camp.

MK Hendel: Serious Talks Underway
MK Tzvi Hendel, of the National Union's Tekumah faction, told Tuli Pikarsh of the weekly HaTzofeh this week, "I can give you this scoop: We [MKs of the faction - ed.] are holding very serious talks to raise up the issue of unity several rungs. Not just minor rungs, but much more than that."

Hendel said that success is not certain: "Even when dealing with something very big, in the end there are people - this one is angry at the other one, etc., and in the end you have to come to compromises among all of them. Therefore we can't yet say what is happening... With G-d's help, we are making a great effort, and I pray that we will succeed."

Need for New Knesset Faces
Unity among the MKs, however, will solve only one problem. Another issue is the perception that Israel's national-religious camp - thousands of members of which support and vote for other parties - would like to see new faces in its Knesset representation before voting for it.

To this end, Dr. Asher Cohen of Bar Ilan University has proposed that an open primaries be held, inviting all those in the country who identify with the goals of the religious-nationalist camp to participate and choose the religious-Zionist party's future MKs.

Cohen's fields of expertise are listed on the Bar Ilan website as "Culture, Regime and Israeli Politics; the Struggle of Collective Identity; Religion, Society and Politics; Communications and Politics; Religious Zionist Movement in Israel."
Hendel: I believe that whoever does not have Torah in his soul, does not have enough inner strength to deal with the difficult struggles we face with the general Zionist ideology.

Hendel Opposes Open Primaries
His idea for open primaries has not been outspokenly opposed by the MKs, but neither is it expected to actually happen. MK Hendel explained, "I am very much in favor of opening the ranks, and I have worked for it. I went in the past with [Avigdor] Lieberman, with Michael Kleiner and Benny Begin [leaders of secular nationalist parties with which Hendel's Tekumah faction has joined up in the past - ed]. I learned some things from this - mainly, that we need not be embarrassed by our kippot [skullcaps]. The religious public leads in many ways - settlement, science, army. I don't want to open the ranks and give honor to those without a kippah simply because they are not religious; I do want to gather all those who define themselves as traditional..."

"I believe that whoever does not have Torah in his soul, does not have enough inner strength to deal with the difficult struggles we face with the general Zionist ideology, and will very quickly find excuses to accept whatever Olmert or Netanyahu tells him on political or educational matters... If everyone can vote in open primaries, then the non-religious Kibbutzim, for example, can get together to vote in our primaries and choose our party leader..."

Rabbi Proposes "Jewish State" Party
Rabbi Yisrael Rosenne of Gush Etzion has another idea. He heads the Zomet Institute for Torah and Science and is a regular columnist in the weekly Shabbat B'Shabato synagogue pamphlet, one of the main mouthpieces of religious-Zionism.

Rabbi Rosenne says it is impossible to find any proposal, whether it be "open primaries, half-primaries, registration drives, etc.," that will be able to democratically unite all the opinions and forces in the camp.

"Furthermore, primaries are suspect because of the role played by vote-contractors and the like, and because serious people won't want to degrade themselves by running after votes... In addition, the question of the platform will never be able to be solved," given the plethora of opinions within the religious-Zionist camp.

Rather, Rabbi Rosenne supports the "compiling of a united 'emergency list' under the name 'Jewish State.' "These two words are the entire platform, and its content will be determined in the future in accordance with the circumstances that develop. The 'Jewish State' list will make decisions in accordance with those two words, and will turn to the public at large, including those who do not consider themselves religious..."

The list of candidates will be determined, Rabbi Rosenne suggests, by a board of seven "icons" - highly-respected men and women, names of whom Rabbi Rosenne says he can propose if asked. At most, the public at large will be able to determine the order of the first ten candidates to be proposed, as well as that of the second ten. The chosen candidates will have to guarantee in some manner that they will not desert to another Knesset party. The board-of-seven will continue to guide and advise the elected representatives throughout their terms in office.

Orlev: Change Priorities
Yet another approach comes from MK Zevulun Orlev, head of the NRP, who does not favor a major change in the way the candidates are chosen. He says that the religious-Zionist political agenda should no longer concentrate on political arena: "We must have a new agenda with education at its helm, together with a struggle for the country's Jewish agenda and social values. I believe strongly that such an agenda, together with a united list of candidates who are able to carry it out, will determine the future of the State, including our hold on the Land of Israel."

New elections are currently not scheduled before 2010, but they could happen much earlier, if the Olmert government is toppled in any of various scenarios. Will the religious-Zionist camp be ready?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Israel First Stop for BLONDIE'S World Tour


Well dang! Who cares if Babs makes it to Israel when Blondie is coming??

Seriously, Blondie was at the CBGB with all the greats. It is easy to think of them as bubblegum because they hit the top 20--but the band seriously rocks.

I have been searching the internet for where you can get tickets--I can't find anything. If someone has a clue, please let me know.

Meanwhile, Blondie is going to be in Israel, it is the FIRST stop in the tour, and even at 62, I'm sure Blondie's Jewish lead singer, Debbie Harry can still rock with the best of them (a much better time than Babs, for sure!).

Here's a link for a youtube of her most popular hit:

Have fun! Wish I was home!!


Blondie to perform in Israel this summer,7340,L-3535307,00.html

Debbie Harry's legendary rock band to arrive in Israel in July as part of world tour marking 30 years since release of its first album

American rock band Blondie is coming to Israel this summer, and will perform at the Raanana Park Amphitheater on July 3 as part of a tour marking 30 years since the band's first album, "Parallel Lines", was released.

Debbie Harry's legendary band is being brought to Israel by veteran producer Shuky Weiss, who is also behind the planned arrivals of other nostalgic figures to Israel this summer, including Morrissey, Siouxsie Sioux and Bjork.

The group, which gained fame in the late seventies and disbanded several years later, began its comeback about a decade ago. Five years ago the band released its album "The Curse of the Blondie" and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Following the re-release of its first album, Harry (62) and her band launched a world tour that will begin in the US. Israel is scheduled to be Blondie's first stop in its European tour.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Man Arrested for Disrobing in Protest of the Hametz Ruling


Only in Israel!!

I hope he takes it to the supreme court!


by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

( A 27-year-old man who claims to be a yeshiva student almost completely disrobed in a Bat Yam branch of the non-kosher Tiv Taam supermarket chain Monday in an unusual protest against a Jerusalem Municipal Court ruling allowing the public sale of leavened products during Passover.

With the words "This is not public???" scrawled on his torso, and wearing nothing but a sock to cover his genitals, Arieh Yerushalmi did not resist arrest and may have called the police himself before disrobing near the bread section of the supermarket. He said his provocative act was designed to challenge the court's ruling that the law banning the sale of leavened products (hametz) in public places on Passover does not apply to supermarkets and restaurants, as they are not actually "public."

A Jerusalem Municipal Affairs Court judge ruled over two weeks ago that the sale of hametz inside places of business on Passover does not constitute a violation of the Festival of Matzot (Prohibition of Leaven) Law, 5746-1986, better known as the "Hametz Law". While the Hametz Law explicitly prohibits the display by "business owners" of specific leavened products "in public," Judge Tsaban ruled that "those places of business owned by the defendants - a grocery store, restaurants and a pizzeria – do not fall under the definition of a 'public' place." Therefore, according to the ruling, "their actions are not a violation" of the law.

When police arrived to arrest Yerushalmi for public indecency, he said, "You cannot try me in court because the court ruled this is not a public place."

Responding police officers were not convinced. After arrest, questioning and arraignment, the protest-flasher was sent home and will remain under house arrest for the time being. He may be forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation before trial.

On April 15, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz published his opinion on the Municipal Court's ruling. He affirmed that it is permissible to sell hametz in Israel on Passover, as long as the sale is not carried out in the public eye. The court ruling, he said, was correct in excluding the sale of leavened products inside stores and restaurants from the state ban on such public displays.

In his reaction to the ruling before the Passover holiday, now underway, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski made a public request to local store and restaurant owners not to sell hametz despite the court ruling. Lupolianski told store owners he believes in dialogue, not coercion. He called on businesses to refrain from selling hametz out of respect for Jewish sensitivity.

According to pre-holiday polls, most Israeli Jews, whether defining themselves "religious" or "secular," avoid hametz on Passover.

Seven Ancient Tehran Synagogues Razed; Neighbors Protest
by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

( In the once-Jewish neighborhood of Oudlajan in Tehran, seven ancient synagogues have been razed to the ground in recent weeks to make way for residential skyscrapers and other urban renovation. The municipality denies it is behind the destruction of the synagogues, several of which had previously been declared national cultural heritage sites by the Iranian government.

"These buildings, which were part of our cultural, artistic and architectural heritage were burnt to the ground," said Ahmad Mohit Tabatabaii, the director of the International Council of Museums' (ICOM) office in Tehran. He was quoted by the Adnrkonos website on April 15. "With the excuse of renovating this ancient quarter, they are erasing a part of our history," Tabatabaii added.

The ICOM director called for the government to intervene to stop the work, which he said was commissioned by the local authorities. Aside from the synagogues, developers also destroyed two historical mosques in the neighborhood.

In reaction to the large-scale renovations, which began three years ago, a group of residents of Oudjalan sent a letter to the mayor of Tehran asking him to put a halt to the work. Opponents of the work in the neighborhood include many of the remaining residents, Iranian cultural activists and environmentalists.

Although once a well-to-do Jewish neighborhood, Oudjalan lost almost all its Jewish population over the last 50 years. Today, the area is somewhat of an impoverished Tehran slum.

There are approximately between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews living in Iran today, making it the largest Jewish community in a Muslim country. The regime takes pains to show that it is not anti-Semitic, while at the same time regularly calling for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and aiding anti-Jewish terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.

Iran's capital, Tehran, has about 11 functioning synagogues, several Jewish schools and a Jewish library, as well as a Jewish old-age home, cemetery and hospital. The Iranian legislature, or Majlis, has a Deputy for Jewish Community Affairs, a position currently held by Morris Mo'tamed.

U.S. Says Retired Engineer, 83, Spied for Israel
by Gil Ronen

( U.S. authorities announced on Tuesday that an 83-year-old retired American engineer, Ben Ami Kadish, is suspected of passing military secrets to Israel between 1979 and 1985. These secrets are said to have involved nuclear weapons, fighter jets and the Patriot air defense missiles.

U.S. government sources said Kadish's Israeli handler, Yossi Yagur, was the same man who handled Jonathan Pollard, who has been languishing in U.S. jails for 23 years. After Pollard, a former naval analyst, was arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel, the handler left the United States and Kadish went underground, the sources said.

Agent for the Government of Israel
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and two FBI agents, in conjunction with the U.S. Army, announced Kadish was being held on charges that he participated in a conspiracy to disclose to the Government of Israel documents related to the national defense of the United States and, in connection with that unauthorized disclosure, that he participated in a conspiracy to act as an agent of the Government of Israel.

According to the charge sheet, Kadish, a citizen of the United States and a mechanical engineer living in Monroe county, NJ, was employed at the U.S. Army´s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey from 1979 to 1985. The Arsenal kept a library of documents with classified information related to the national defense of the United States.

On numerous occasions during this time period, Kadish borrowed classified documents from the library and took them to his residence in New Jersey. At the Residence, Kadish would then provide the documents to Yossi Yagur, the Consul for Science Affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in Manhattan,who would photograph them in the basement of the residence.

Charged with four counts
One of the classified documents that Kadish provided to Yagur contained information concerning nuclear weaponry and was classified as "Restricted Data," a specific designation by the U.S. Department of En
After Pollard was arrested, the handler left the US and Kadish went underground.
ergy, because the document contained atomic-related information. Another one of the documents that Kadish provided contained information concerning a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet that the United States had sold to another country. This document was classified by the Department of Defense as "secret" and was further restricted as "Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals."

Kadish is charged with one count of conspiring to disclose documents related to the national defense of the United States to the Government of Israel; one count of conspiring to act as an agent of the Government of Israel; one count of conspiring to hinder a communication to a law enforcement officer; and one count of conspiring to make a materially false statement to a law enforcement officer.

Kadish was scheduled to appear Tuesday afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Douglas F. Eaton in Manhattan federal court. The prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney´s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department´s National Security Division.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Some small things hints to follow before Shabbat/YomTov Hits. . .


OK, so we have Shabbat, then a seder immediately afterwards. UGH.

Here are some hints to make the holiday a bit less difficult after Shabbat is over . . .

  1. Leave radios and/or Televisions (in a cabinet) on, but turn down the volume. You can adjust the volume after Shabbat during Yom Tov (this is especially good if you have kids and you will be driven crazy with three days of no TV).
  2. Because we have an obligation to eat bread for Shabbat, but we must have our house ready for Pesach, use Pita Bread--it has fewer crumbs.
  3. If you have modern gas or electric appliances and your candle goes out (keeping you from lighting for Havdallah or Yom Tov), you can light from the flame in your hot water heater.
  4. Leave your electric stove on low so that you can turn it up and use it during the holiday. When it is on, make sure you don't turn it off!! (I put tape on the controls just to make sure that I don't forget every time I adjust it.)
  5. Put all the stuff for the seder plate, except the apples and Matza, in a bag together in the back of the refrigerator (they are Muksah on Shabbat). They will be convenient to set up the plate immediately after Shabbat.
  6. Make sure all Matza for the seder is out of the way on Shabbat, it is Muksah.
  7. As the seder should begin immediately after Havdallah, and because it would be impossible to get anything ready in time for it to start on time (as we can't prepare for Yom Tov on Shabbat), let the men STUDY THE MIDDLE PART of the Haggadah (Maggid) while the women and younger members of the family prepare the seder plate and put the food in the oven to heat. Then, when the table is set, the seder plate ready, and the wine is poured, the Seder can go quickly and smoothly --and much faster--and everyone has fulfilled their obligation.
Oh! And don't forget--Cigarettes are Hametz, and Pot Seeds are not Kosher for Pesach for Ashkenazim . . .

Have a great holiday! I'll write again during the intermediate days.


It's Not to Late to Help Needy Shomron Families!


I usually do not post requests for donations on my site, but this comes from a dear friend whom I know is legitimate and honest.


Dear friend,

Tomorrow night Jews around the world will sit down with their families and friends to celebrate the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. In the 32 towns of the Shomron there are many large families who could use our help to make this a happy and meaningful holiday.

Over the last weeks I have been a member of a team working under the social services department of the Shomron regional council that has united forces with other orginazation in order to reach each of the families in need and supply them with a gift package of kosher l'pesach products, inculding Matza, wine, oil etc.

We have reached every one of the Jewish towns in the Shomron regional council and the Hilltop settlements in the area.

Nearly a thousand packages valued at $180. and additional cash gifts have been distributed in a way that has brought no shame on the recipitants.

It is not to late, you can be part of this effort.

If you would like to make a donation to help the needy families in the Shomron please click the paypal link bellow.

Chag Pesach kaser v'samach,

B'ezrat HaShem next year we will meet at Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem.

David Ha'ivri

Click Here to Donate!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Halakhic Considerations in End-of-Life Situations

Of Woodchoppers, Respirators, and Flickering Flames
By Rabbi Aryeh Klapper
Dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership, member of the Boston Beth Din, and Instructor in Rabbinics at Gann Academy

“And G-d saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good” -

In the Torah of Rabbi Meir they found written: “And behold it was very good” – behold how good is death. (Bereshit Rabbah 9:5)


Human life is a central[1]but not the supreme[2] value in Judaism. This recognition challenges us to develop clear Jewish conceptions both of the value of life and of those values sometimes placed above it. Meeting this challenge is an urgent necessity in our time, when previously adequate halakhic formulations with regard to the value of human life have been overwhelmed by the astounding capacities of medical science. In particular:

a) a significant percentage of hospital deaths are now temporally volitional, that is to say medical intervention could delay them, however briefly, and

b) many patients can now be sustained for years in conditions that offer no hope of returning to any degree of consciousness, let alone physical autonomy.

These realities require us to rethink the goals of care.

A new set of halakhic formulations is necessary to meet these challenges.[3] Discussions of end-of-life halakha should not presume – although they may conclude - that maximally extending every patient’s life is necessary or even desirable. We need to seriously consider the relative weight of quality and quantity of life.

Talmudic Evidence - Narratives

One Talmudic legend, taken at face value, suggests that life can legitimately become an unwelcome burden simply because of old age. Luz, the Talmud tells us[4], was a city of potential immortals, as the Angel of Death was not permitted to enter its walls. But eventually its residents would tire of old age – “their minds would come to disgust them” – and they would go out, or as some texts have it, they would be brought out, to meet the Angel voluntarily. Similarly, a midrash[5] records that Rabbi Yose ben Halafta advised a very aged woman who sought death to end her life-sustaining practice of participating in communal prayer.

Two other stories seem to extend the rabbinic tolerance of thanatopsis to choosing death over agonizing pain. Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon, while being burnt at the stake for teaching Torah in public, promises his executioner a share in the World to Come in exchange for hastening his death[6]. The Maidservant of the House of Rebbe prays for his death when she sees the extent of his suffering from a diuretic disease, and her prayer overcomes the contrary prayer of a rabbinic assemblage[7]. The latter narrative suggests that third parties as well can make the decision that life is no longer worth living.

But the road from narrative to law is long and winding, and not infrequently goes nowhere. Modern decisors have found more or less plausible ways of denying legal significance to each of these narratives. Thus the Luzites are Gentiles, and perhaps their behavior is not rabbinically condoned; Rebbe’s maidservant is not a halakhic authority; Rabbi Yose ben Halafta ended a miracle rather than naturally causing death; and Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon acted on the basis of a case-specific suspension of the law (hora’at sha’ah).

Indeed, the case of Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon illustrates well the near-impossibility of conclusively deriving law from Talmudic narrative. The story in and of itself makes a problematic distinction, as just before making his deal with the executioner, Rabbi Hanina turns down his students’ suggestion that he open his mouth, and thereby die faster, with the dramatic statement that “Better that it (my life) be taken by the One Who gave it”. Many explanations have been offered for why he nonetheless then permitted the executioner to increase the flame and remove the water-soaked wool packed around his heart, but none is compelling.

But the even more striking issue is the story’s treatment by recent decisors. Rav Eliezer Waldenberg[8] suggested, as noted above, that Rabbi Hanina acted extralegally in permitting the executioner to hasten his death. In stark contrast, Rav Moshe Feinstein[9] suggested that Rabbi Hanina went beyond the letter of the law in refusing to open his mouth and hasten his own death.

Taken together, the approaches of Rav Waldenberg and Rav Feinstein to this story show that a Talmudic story cannot necessarily be legally demonstrative. Narratives can be pushed to the margin of halakhic discourse once one concedes that actions and decisions valorized in narrative may have no normative implications. So far as I can tell, there are no principles internal to Halakha for determining which/when narrative actions are normative and which/when not.[10]

At the same time, it seems clear to me that ad hoc legal distinctions, however reasonable they may be intellectually and literarily, and however consonant they may be with the norms of halakhic analysis, cannot obscure the overall sentiment of these narratives that life is not always a boon for the one living it. The question then is whether that sentiment generates halakhic outcomes, whether there are legally permitted ways of ending a life not worth living, or at least of allowing it to end without interference. In formal terms, the question is whether there exists a set of patients and methods such that the use of those methods to end those patients’ lives, or to allow those patients’ lives to end, does not violate the biblical prohibitions against manslaughter, murder, and standing idly by one’s fellow’s blood, or the positive injunction to preserve human life.

I need to emphasize here the problems inherent to saying that we require a set of patients and methods, rather than saying that we require either a set of patients or else a set of methods. The halakhic givens here are that human beings are not only prohibited from killing one another, under the rubrics of shefikhut damim[11] (bloodshedding) and retzihah[12] (murder), but are also obligated to save one another, under the rubrics of vahai bahem[13] (“and live by them”) and lo ta’amod al dam rei’ekha[14] (do not stand idly by your peer’s blood). Allowing action or inaction that results in death requires the halakhic determination either that the obligations to save (and perhaps even the prohibitions against murdering) do not apply to the patient in question, or that they have not been violated. If the former, we have to explain why some actions remain prohibited (especially if those actions cannot be considered shefikhut damim or retzihah). If the latter, we have to explain why these actions are not permitted for all patients.

Nonetheless, it seems clear to me that no responsible halakhist has ever considered simply permitting a particular means of causing death, and leaving it to the conscience of individuals to decide whose death to licitly cause. Halakhists were historically also very uncomfortable declaring that medical conditions could vacate all the halakhot that ordinarily prevent us from causing human death, although we shall discuss the possibility that this has changed recently.

History of the Halakhic Discussion

A. Talmud

Talmudic law records two categories of people whose physical condition might render them, if not legally dead, at least incompletely alive. These categories seem the most likely candidates to produce the result of vacating prohibitions against causing death. The first is the tereifah, a person with a vital organ that has been physically damaged in a manner that will probably kill him within a year. Killing a tereifah is not a violation of retzihah, but is still considered shefikhut damim[15], and to my knowledge no halakhist has suggested that there is no obligation to save a tereifah under ordinary circumstances. The category of tereifah accordingly has minimal practical implications for our study.

The second category is the goses. The etymology of the word is not entirely clear[16], and in any case halakhic literature uses it as a term of art. At first glance, it seems even less significant for our purposes, as the Talmudic discussion of the goses emphasizes repeatedly that he is fully alive, and that causing the death of a goses is at the least shefikhut damim and probably retzihah. Indeed, there is no Talmudic evidence whatever that the physical condition of a patient has any effect whatever on the halakhic obligation to save human life.

B. Sefer Hasidim[17]

However, Sefer Hasidim suggests that some methods for causing the death of a goses are not only permitted but mandated. This suggestion is first cited in a halakhic context by Shiltei Gibborim[18], then codified by Rabbi Moshe Isserles (RAMA)[19] in the Mapah, and to my knowledge its halakhic authority has not been directly challenged since. As we shall see however, its meaning may have changed dramatically even as its authority remained constant.

Sefer Hasidim 723-724 writes as follows:

One must not cause a person not to die rapidly.

For example, if someone was goses, and there was someone near to the house chopping wood, so that the neshamah was unable to leave, we remove the woodchopper from there.

One must not place salt on his tongue so that he won’t die,

If he is goses and says that he cannot die until they put him in a different place, they must not move him from where he is.

Even though they said that a person who is goses may not be moved from his place, if there is a fire he must not be left in the house, rather he must be taken out.

Sefer Hasidim offers the first halakhic formulation of a permission, even an obligation, to enable death under certain circumstances. He also clearly states that this obligation does not justify all means of enabling death. However, the distinction between permitted and forbidden means is unclear.

Sefer Hasidim mandates removing a woodchopper so as to enable death, and forbids placing salt on the tongue lest death be delayed, but forbids moving to a different room on request for the sake of death, and mandates removal from a house to save from fire. What principle or principles do these example instantiate? The obligation to remove the goses from a burning house seems to indicate that there is still an obligation to save the goses’ life, but if that is so, why is it permitted to cause his death, however indirectly, by removing the woodchopper?

Perhaps the obligation to remove the goses from the house is to save him from the pain of burning rather than from death. On that assumption, we could conclude that there is no obligation to save a goses, but that there remains a prohibition against causing his death directly. The last line of Sefer Hasidim would then make the statement that one may risk causing the goses’ immediate death to save him pain, or in halakhic terms, to risk hayyei sha’ah (short-term life) to avoid tza’ar. It would be difficult to generalize the case, however, as moving the goses also carries the chance that he will survive longer than he would have in the flames.

Another way to explain Sefer Hasidim is to say that he permits ‘removal of a prevention’, and a fortiori permits failure to place a prevention, but forbids even indirect action. This again requires the interpretation that one is obligated to remove the goses from a burning building to save him pain rather than to extend his life.

A third explanation of Sefer Hasidim is that he forbids causing death by means that require physical contact with the goses, but permits all means that don’t require physical contact. On the surface this explanation seems absurd – what halakhic significance does contact have? – but it is rooted in a longstanding understanding of the Talmudic evidence that deserves full presentation.

We begin with Mishnah Shabbat 23:5:

They perform all actions necessary for the dead (on Shabbat).

They anoint and rinse him

so long as they move none of his limbs.

They remove the cushion from underneath him

And place him on the sand so that he will delay (putrefying).

They tie the cheek

not so that it should rise but so that it should not further (sink),

and similarly, a beam that was broken (on Shabbat), they may support it with a bench or with bedstaves, not that it should rise but so that it should not further sink.

They do not close (the eyes) of the dead on Shabbat

nor during the week together with the departure of the nefesh,

and one who closes (the eyes) together with the departure of the nefesh is considered a bloodshedder.

Mishnah Shabbat 23:5 presents the law of the goses as a tangent. It begins with the general rule that one may do everything necessary to prepare a corpse for burial on Shabbat. One may, for example, wash the corpse or anoint it with oil. However, one must be careful not to move its limbs. The reason for this is that the corpse is muktzah, a category that inter alia bans Jews from moving objects that are not plausibly useful on Shabbat. One may nonetheless remove a cushion from underneath the corpse so as to slide it onto sand, if that will enable the corpse to last longer without rotting, as indirect movement is not forbidden. One may tie the cheekbones to preserve facial appearance but not to improve it (the same principal applies to supporting a splintered beam). One may furthermore not close the eyes of the corpse on Shabbat.

At this point the Mishnah has discussed only the already-dead, and how to treat them on Shabbat. It now shifts course and mentions that one may not close the eyes even during the week “with the departure of the nefesh”, and that anyone who does so “is committing bloodshed”. The Mishnah offers no explanation for this startling claim. The Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 151a), however, cites a beraita that offers an explanatory analogy.

“One who closes the eyes with the departure of the nefesh is committing bloodshed.

This can be compared to a candle that is going out. When a person puts his finger on it, it goes out immediately”.

The straightforward intent of the analogy is that closing the eyes hastens the death of the dying in the same way that snuffing out a flickering candle hastens its extinction. Apparently there was a custom of closing the eyes of the dead as soon after death as possible; very likely this custom reflected a view of the eyes as the “window of the soul”, and there was a fear that the soul would reenter if the window were not closed, causing long and agonizing death throes. People therefore tried their best to time the closing perfectly, and accordingly ran the risk of closing the eyes just slightly early. The Mishnah informs them that this is prohibited, that shortening any life even infinitesimally is tantamount to manslaughter.

A parallel text found in Masekhet Semahot (also known as Evel Rabati) takes a different route to the same end.

The goses, behold he is like one alive for all matters . . .

They must not tie his cheeks,

and they must not plug his orifices,

and they must not place a metal utensil or anything that cools on his abdomen,

until the time he dies.

They must not move him,

and they must not rinse him,

and they must not place him neither on sand nor on salt.

until the time he dies.

They must not close his eyes.

One who touches him and moves him – behold he is a bloodshedder.

Rabbi Meir would analogize him to a candle that is flickering – once a person touches it, he immediately extinguishes it.

This beraita’s opening general statement is that a goses is considered “like the living” for all purposes. Accordingly, one is forbidden to perform on the goses roughly those activities which the Mishnah in Shabbat permits one to perform on a corpse, including moving it, nor may one make funeral arrangements in the goses’ presence. Finally, one is forbidden to close the goses’s eyes “until the nefesh leaves”.

Here, however, the flickering flame in the analogy is not snuffed out, but rather simply touched. The associated prohibition accordingly is not to close the goses’ eyes, but rather to “touch him and move him” – whether this requires a touch that moves, or prohibits either touching without moving or moving without touching, is unclear. Closing the eyes here is only an example of touching/moving.

This alternate understanding of the analogy makes it superficially plausible to read Sefer Hasidim as distinguishing between modes of causing death that involve physical contact with the goses, i.e. touching, and those that don’t. Revisiting the issue, however, we recognize that the prohibition against touching is based entirely on the presumption that touching the goses kills him directly and actively, and would apply equally to every other direct and active means of causing death. There is therefore no basis for using such contact as the basis for halakhically distinguishing among modes of causing death.

There are furthermore three good reasons to reject the idea that it is forbidden to touch a goses. First of all, no contemporary medical condition corresponds to a state in which touching causes death, and thus maintaining the prohibition mythicizes the status of goses for no reason – goses in the Talmud seems a perfectly straightforward condition readily recognized by laypeople. Second, asserting such a prohibition potentially deprives dying patients of the comfort of the touch of their loved ones, who may be legitimately concerned lest their comforting touch be considered murderous by Halakha. Third, it seems likely to me that this prohibition stems from an erroneous text. As mentioned above, the analogy as cited in Tractate Shabbat refers exclusively to the act of closing the eyes, not to mere touch, or even of touch which moves the goses. That prohibition applies only on Shabbat, on the basis of muktzah. I suggest that the close parallels between the Mishnah regarding what may be done for a goses on Shabbat, and the beraita regarding what may be done for him during the week, eventually led to the transfer of the prohibition against even minor motion from one context to the other, and generated a misunderstanding of the analogy to the flickering candle. The version of the beraita preserved in “Beraitot Me’evel Rabbati in Masekhet Semakhot” preserves the analogy in what I believe to be its original form, and contains no prohibition against touching.

Such historical speculation has generally had limited influence on halakhic decision-making. In this case, however, studying the history of the texts yields a surprising result. Many decisors and commentators, beginning with Behag, simply cite both versions of the text, with the analogy relating to closing the eyes in one, and touching in the other, without comment. The only rishon[20] I can find whose published edition clearly preserves what I believe to be the original text of the beraita is Rabbi Yitzhak ibn Gayyat[21]. Nonetheless, both Tur and Shulhan Arukh cite the beraita in that form, and make no mention whatever of a prohibition to touch a goses. I see this absence, combined with the physical implausibility and pastoral inhumanity of banning touch, as sufficient ground for ruling that no such halakhic prohibition exists. [22]

It also seems to me that when Sefer Hasidim writes “even though they said ‘one may not move him from his place’”, this implies that he understood the beraita’s phrase “ein mezizin oto” as referring to moving the goses rather than to simply touching him. Thus Sefer Hasidim as well does not see touching/not touching as a relevant distinction between modes of enabling death. It follows that Sefer Hasidim can only be understood by assuming that the relevant distinction is either

a) between the obligation to save, which does not apply to a goses, and the prohibitions against causing death, which do, or

b) between removal of a prevention, which is not considered an action, and actions.

No adequate halakhic rationale, however, has ever been offered for this second distinction; surely it would be forbidden to remove something preventing the death of a healthy person[23]. Sefer Hasidim must therefore be understood as arguing that the obligation to preserve life is waived in the case of a goses. This is consistent with its prohibition in Sefer Hasidim 234 against screaming at the point of death, lest the soul be returned to the body, which also assumes that Halakha acknowledges that restoring someone’s life is not always doing them a favor.

C. Shiltei Gibborim

While this seems to me the correct reading of Sefer Hasidim, this text has a complex history of interpretation in halakhic tradition. It is first introduced into the halakhic mainstream by the 14th century work Shiltei Gibborim in his commentary to Talmud Moed Kattan 16b

From here it seemed right to forbid that which some people practice, when the met is goses and the neshamah is unable to depart, that they push the cushion out from underneath him so that he will die rapidly, for they say that there are in the bed feathers of birds that cause the nefesh not to depart.

Many times I yelled like a rooster to remove this evil practice, but I was not successful,

and my teachers disagreed with me,

and the Rav Rabbi Natan of Igra of Blessed Memory wrote to permit this.

After several years, I found in Sefer Hasidim 723 support for my words, for it is written there: “If he is goses and unable to die until they put him in a different place – they must not move him from there.”

It is true that the words of Sefer Hasidim require investigation, because initially he wrote that

“If a man was goses, and there was someone close to that house who was chopping wood, and the neshamah is unable to depart, we remove the chopper from there”,

but we can answer as follows and say

that certainly to do something that will cause the goses not to die rapidly is forbidden,

for example to chop wood there so that the neshamah will be delayed from departing,

or to place salt on his tongue so that he will not die rapidly – all this is forbidden, as is implied there by his language,

and in all similar cases it is permitted to remove such a cause

but to do something that will cause his death to occur more rapidly and the departure of his nefesh is forbidden.

Therefore it is forbidden to move a goses from his place and leave him in a different place so that his neshamah can depart,

and therefore it is also forbidden to put the key of bh”kn under the head of a goses so that he die rapidly, because this too speeds the departure of his nefesh.

According to this,

If there is something there that causes his nefesh not to depart, it is permitted to remove that cause, and this is not at all significant, as he is not placing his finger on the candle, and he is not doing an action,

but to place something on the goses, or to carry him from place to place so that his neshamah will depart rapidly, appears definitely forbidden, as he is placing his finger on the candle.

The progression of opinions in Shiltei Gibborim’s text is very complicated. For example, it is not clear whether he opposed the custom of removing the pad from underneath a goses because he shared the popular belief that the feathers served to prevent death, or rather because he believed that removing the cushion might cause death directly by jolting the goses. There is even some controversy among aharonim[24] as to whether his conclusion still opposes the custom of removing the pad! I read him as opposing the custom because the jolt might be fatal, and as opposing it even in his conclusion.

Shiltei Gibborim reads Sefer Hasidim as distinguishing between “hastening death” on the one hand, and “removing an obstacle to death” on the other. Thus he bans procedures that “hasten death” even if they involve no contact with the goses, such as leaving a key under his pillow[25], and presumes that all obligations to save and prohibitions against killing apply to a goses. Shiltei Gibborim offers no source other than Sefer Hasidim for the suggestion that “removing an obstacle to death” is legally permitted,, and offers no guide for distinguishing between methods that “hasten death” and those that “remove obstacles to death”. For example, he gives no explanation as to why providing the goses’ soul with a key is regarded as hastening his death rather than as removing the obstacle of a locked door, or as providing the goses with the means to remove that obstacle.

One might understand Shiltei Gibborim as positing that the obligations to save and not kill apply only when a person ought not yet have died, but when that point passes, they lapse as well. This logic would permit, for example, shooting the goses who has lived past his time in order to overcome the obstacle, for example the feathers. However, his emphasis that removal of an obstacle “is not an action” seems to falsify that understanding. This distinction between action and non-action is also not explained, however, and seems to fly in the face of his assertion, not found in Sefer Hasidim, that one may actually remove salt from the tongue of a goses to enable him to die. Perhaps he is trying to set up a set of patients and methods, but I don’t see the compelling argument for his particular combination.

Note that we also have the option of ruling against the author of Shiltei Gibborim and in favor of his teachers and Rabbi Nathan of Igra[26] that removing the cushion is permitted. Their position certainly does not distinguish between action and non-action, and on the surface contradicts the Mishnah’s prohibition against moving the goses. It is possible that they, like Sefer Hasidim, read the Mishnah only as banning moving the goses “from his place”. In that case they could be distinguishing between actions that cause death directly and those that cause it indirectly, although this again would be a novel halakhic conclusion. Alternatively, they may agree in principle with Shiltei Gibborim but hold that removing the cushion should be classified as ‘removing a prevention’, as they do not see the direct effect on the goses, but rather the removal of the feathers, as fatal.[27]


Rav Yosef Caro in Shulhan Arukh makes no mention of Sefer Hasidim or Shiltei Gibbotim, and presumably was aware of neither. Shulkhan Arukh writes merely that

The goses, behold he is like one alive for all his matters . . . and they may not close (his eyes) until his nefesh departs. And anyone who closes (his eyes) together with the departure of the nefesh, behold he is a bloodshedder

Shiltei Gibborim is cited by RAMA in Darkei Mosheh and subsequently codified in the Mapah[28] as follows:

But some say that one must not dig a grave for him, even though it is not with him in the house, until after he dies.

It is forbidden to dig any grave that will be open even though it is not with him in the house, until after he dies.

It is forbidden to dig any grave to be open until the next day if they will not bury the dead person that day, and there is danger in this matter.

And it is also forbidden to cause the dead to die rapidly,

as for example one who was goses for a long time and was unable to separate, it is forbidden to shove the cushion or bolster from underneath him, on the ground that they say that there are feathers from some birds that cause this.

and they must also not move him from his place,

and it is also forbidden to place the keys of the synagogue[29] under his head, so that he separate.

But if there is something there that causes a delay in the departure of the nefesh,

as for example if there is close to that house a pounding noise,

such as a woodchopper,

or if there is salt on his tongue,

and these prevent the departure of the nefesh,

it is permitted to remove it from there,

as this involves no action at all, rather he is removing the prevention.

RAMA’s citation in Darkei Moshe leaves out the issue of action/non-action[30], but his codification in Mappah restores it with the added claim that removing an obstruction is not an action “at all” because it merely “removes the prevention”. RAMA also rules explicitly against the practice of removing the cushion. The difference between removing the salt on a goses’ tongue on the one hand, and removing the cushion on the other, is explained by the assertion that the first merely removes a prevention.

It is important to emphasize that RAMA would certainly forbid removing necessary medicine from a patient’s tongue, and so his declaration that removing the salt is “not an action at all” cannot be an independently sufficient ground for permitting it. Rather, he must believe that a patient kept alive only by salt on the tongue is not, from a halakhic perspective, fully alive, or more technically, that there is no obligation to save the life of such a patient.[31] His reading is therefore congruent with what we have suggested is the formal halakhic reasoning of Sefer Hasidim.

But RAMA follows Shiltei Gibborim’s practical conclusion in applying Sefer Hasidim’s reasoning to allow removal of salt from the patient’s tongue. I suggest that this is not a necessary analogy to removing the woodchopper, and would have been opposed by Sefer Hasidim. Removal of the woodchopper is not an action; rather, it is the cessation of the woodchopper’s action, and can therefore be defined as “failing to act to save from death” rather than as “acting to cause death”, and is therefore easily compatible with the position that one has no obligation to save a goses. Removing the salt, however, seems clearly to be, in ordinary language, causing death; what defines it halakhically as “removal of a prevention” therefore is not the nature of one’s action, but rather the nature of the life it ends.

RAMA’s formulation therefore generates the conclusion that causing death for some patients is by definition merely the removal of an obstacle. It should therefore be permitted to directly kill those patients as well. In RAMA’s circumstance, however, this practical result was insignificant, as the only way one could legally know that patients had reached the condition in which one could legally kill them was by performing otherwise innocuous actions and seeing if they resulted in death.

Contemporary Applications

Both RAMA and Sefer Hasidim conclude that there exists a set of patients who may not be killed but nonetheless need not be saved. In Sefer Hasidim, that set may be limited to the set of those who are goses. As imminent and inevitable dying seems to be at least part of the definition of goses, Sefer Hasidim therefore has limited if any direct application to long-term vegetative cases and their ilk.

However, our reading of Sefer Hasidim also suggested removing a goses from a burning building is required not to save the goses’ life, but rather to spare him pain, and that this may stand for the proposition that one may risk short-term life for the sake of palliation, especially where there is a possibility that one may end up extending life as a result. This has direct implications for the very common question of whether one can give terminal patients morphine shots, as the morphine is addictive and requires increasing doses that will eventually repress respiration to the point of death, although in some cases the morphine at initial doses may extend life by easing respiration[32].

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Responsa Minhat Shlomoh 2: (2-3) 86) permits this practice as follows:

“since suffering is very difficult for a person and he cannot endure it, as our Sages said ‘Had they tortured Hananiah etc.’, it is a reasonable presumption that one needs to be merciful toward the sick and to lighten his burden and to somewhat quiet his pains, especially as it is also possible that strong pains weaken and damage a person more than the medications, but if the patient is aware it seems that they need to inform him of this if he otherwise knows his condition, but even if he does not know it we nonetheless find on Talmud Sanhedrin 84b and the Rashi thereupon that “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself – Jews were only cautioned from doing to their peers things they do not wish to do to themselves”. In the case before us, every sick person seeks and pleads for pain relief even by damaging means, and since this is the standard case, the court can constructively testify that he would prefer it. It is understood that all this is exclusively to relieve pain, so that the likelihood that this will bring his death nearer is like an inevitable but unwanted consequence (my reference to that legal construct is only illustrative). We have also found in the Talmud in several places about many things that are very nearly dangerous that nonetheless, since the general practice is to do them, we say “G-d guards the simple”, so since the way of all patients is to receive such pain relief, it is plausible that it is also relevant to apply that principle even in our case, and so one indeed needs to relieve the pain, and Hashem should have mercy.”

Rabbi Auerbach’s rationales are obscure and to some degree frightening, as he seems in principle to permit any generally practiced form of medical euthanasia so long as the practice has a formal palliative intent, even if it were inevitably fatal. With all due respect to his awesome scholarship and judgment, and knowing my relative insignificance, I would be deeply uncomfortable ruling on the basis of such a rationale. However, it seems to me that Sefer Hasidim provides a possible precedent with narrower implications, as it would permit only a risk rather than an inevitable death, and might require that there be a serious chance that life actually be extended.[33]

In contrast to Sefer Hasidim, RAMA does not necessarily limit the set of patients whom one need not save to those who are goses. Rather, RAMA creates a new category of “patients whose death is being prevented, rather than whose life is being continued”. This has both a narrowing and expanding effect on the set. It narrows in that not all those who are goses necessarily meet this requirement, and indeed RAMA’s formulation contains the novel phrase “One who has been goses for a long time”, although he gives no clue as to how long “a long time” is. But his formulation also raises the possibility that some patients who are not goses, and indeed whose death might be prevented for a very long time, nonetheless need not have their deaths prevented.

This possibility is seized upon by two great recent decisors, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg and Rabbi Hayyim David HaLevy, to address the question of withdrawing care from patients who are permanently unconscious (the precise degree of brain damage necessary to enable the halakhic determination that their unconsciousness is permanent is not specified) and who would die soon after being removed from artificial respiration.

Rabbi HaLevy[34] argues in a remarkable theological vein that G-d no longer desires these patients to be alive, and concludes that removing such patients from respirators is not only permitted but mandatory.

“Rather, it further seems to my impoverished intellect that even if the doctors wish to continue and keep them alive via the respirator, they are not permitted to do so, as indeed it has already been explained that it is forbidden to extend the life of a goses by artificial means, for example by placing salt on his tongue and chopping wood, when there is no longer hope for his life. While the Halakha discusses a goses who is alive owing to his own powers and who therefore has great agony, whereas in our case he feels no pain or suffering, nonetheless it seems to my impoverished intellect that not only is it permitted to detach him from the respirator, but even that there is an obligation to do so, for indeed the nefesh of a human being, which is the property of The Holy One Who is Blessed, has already been taken by The Holy One Who is Blessed from this human being, as behold he will die immediately once the machine has been removed. Quite the reverse – via this artificial respiration we are leaving the nefesh within him and causing it (the nefesh, not the goses) suffering, for it is not able to separate and return to its place of rest.

Therefore it seems to my impoverished intellect that is is permitted to you, when you have reached a clear conviction with no room for doubt or challenge that there is no longer hope for this human being to be healed, to detach him from the respirator, and you can do this without any pangs of conscience”.

Rabbi HaLevy provides no explanation beyond citing RAMA for distinguishing between removal from a respirator and directly causing death, and his notions of purely spiritual pain, and of souls that G-d has taken remaining within the body, are highly creative.

Rabbi Waldenberg[35] uses very strong rhetoric, and a very extreme case, to argue that doctors must withdraw care in some cases so as “to allow him to die a ‘mitah yafah’ – a death of dignity, and not to degrade him through his transformation, without purpose, into a figure with many tubes that destroys the tzelem Elokim within him.” This intuitive claim is then legally formalized as follows: “The foundational point is that when one removes a cause that it was forbidden to introduce, since it delays death, that status is a sign that this does not bring independent life to the goses, and therefore one can remove it, as its removal is not an action of interrupting his life, but rather the removal of an external cause that prevents the departure of his nefesh . .

It emerges from the above that even according to RAMA it would be permitted in our case to do something, even actively, so as to remove the respirator, since thereby one would just be interrupting the life force that comes to him from the outside, and they are doing “no deed at all” that involves interrupting independent life, as it has become clear that this is already interrupted.

We have also learned from the above that if they removed the respirator in order to clarify whether he is alive, or if it was interrupted for whatever reason, and it becomes clear that he no longer has independent life either from the brain or from the heart, that not only is it permitted to not reconnect him, but rather there is a prohibition to do so, since it is already clear that this will not bring him independent life but rather will only cause extension of the delay of the departure of the nefesh, and if they transgressed and connected him there is an obligation to disconnect him”.

The distinction between “independent life” and “externally provided life” that Rabbi Waldenberg makes here is to my mind unprecedented, and he provides no criteria for applying it in future cases that are not purely intuitive. Furthermore, as he explicitly allows actively causing death, it is entirely possible that he permits any painless form of euthanasia for such patients.

As may be clear from the above, I find the distinctions made respectively by Rabbi HaLevy and Rabbi Waldenberg deeply troubling. Rabbi HaLevy’s claim to know that G-d desires certain patients to be dead seems to assume facts that cannot possibly be in evidence, and Halakha is not generally decided on the basis of claims to direct knowledge of the Divine Will. Rabbi Waldenberg’s assertion that a body can lose its Tzelem Elokim because of medical intervention has a certain intuitive power but ultimately both reduces human beings to bodies and gives those bodies too much significance. The great paraplegic physicist Stephen Hawking retains his tzelem Elokim no matter how many machines are required to sustain his powerful intellect. Furthermore, Rabbi Waldenberg’s distinction between “externally sustained” and “independent life” seems entirely arbitrary – are scuba divers, for instance, artificially alive? Are patients undergoing surgery that requires them to be ventilated? Would it be perfectly legitimate halakhically to cut off divers’ and surgical patients’ respirators? Note further that Rabbi Waldenberg explicitly rejects the active/passive distinction, and implicitly the killing/lifesaving distinction; such patients have a life that it is a mitzvah to end. It seems to me that he would in fact endorse any means of painlessly euthanizing such patients.

But while the specific arguments each great decisor makes are, laaniyut daati, unconvincing and carry implications very difficult to countenance, they reflect an apparent intuitive consensus among great poskim that Halakha cannot in fact demand that society expend great sums[36] and effort to sustain the lives of patients who will never experience any quality of life. I suggest that this indicates that a viable halakhic formulation that permits withdrawal of care in such cases must be discoverable, although it has not yet been discovered. How halakhic decisions should be made in the interim is to my mind an extraordinarily complicated question.

Finally, I should note that a formulation along the lines of those of Rabbi Waldenberg and Rabbi HaLevy might have another interesting consequence. The controversy about whether “brain-stem death” is halakhic death is generated by the reality that effectively transplanting some organs currently requires them to be removed from a body with a beating heart, and Halakha views the removal of vital organs as murder. Under their formulations, however, it seems to me possible that such transplants might nonetheless be legitimate, as the prohibitions against taking life simply do not apply to patients such as these, and thus transplants might be permitted halakhically even from patients who do not meet the “Harvard criteria”. I leave it to others to decide whether this prospect argues for or against adopting a formulation along these lines.


Contemporary medical science presents Halakha with challenges that cannot be easily met simply by extending the rays of precedent. The capacity to indefinitely keep patients alive who have no quality of life by any available standard requires sober assessment of the purposes and effects of medical intervention[37]. I hope to have shown that contemporary poskim have utilized the resources of the masoret with great humanity and creativity to fashion immediate responses to some of these challenges. At the same time, I hope to have shown that accepting their formulations might bring us into uncharted and dangerous halakhic waters and that accordingly, much work remains to be done in the task of being developing a Halakhic medical end-of-life ethic that is both rigorous and relevant.

[1] Lifesaving mandates breaking the Sabbath and all laws other than those against idolatry and adultery, and if enough lives are involved, adultery too may be permitted. The Biblical injunction “Choose life!” resonates through the history of Jewish thought and practice, and gratitude for life is at the core of the Jewish sense of obligation to G-d.

[2] Jews may not commit idolatry or adultery to save life, nor take one life to save two others, and the Tosafists permitted Jews to choose death rather than commit any sin. Some authorities take literally the Talmudic statement that “Better for a person to throw himself into a burning furnace than to publicly humiliate someone else”, and the language of that statement valorizes suicide rather than merely allowing oneself to be killed. Jewish law also mandated some wars and legitimates others despite the inherent risk to life involved in war.

[3] I acknowledge here my indebtedness to a lecture by Rabbi Saul Berman many years ago that first made me aware of the weaknesses of the standard halakhic presentations in this area.

[4] Sotah 46b

[5] Yalkut Shim’oni Proverbs 943

[6] Avodah Zarah 17b

[7] Ketubot 104a

[8] Responsa Tzitz Eliezer 18:48

[9] Responsa Igrot Mosheh Hoshen Mishpat 2:73

[10] I except here narratives that are explicitly cited for the purpose of legal precedent, such as the legal maaseh, although the relationship of even that genre to law is at the least complicated.

[11] Genesis 9:6

[12] Exodus 21:14; Number 35:16-18

[13] Leviticus 18:5

[14] Leviticus 19:16

[15] Maimonides, Laws of Murder 2:8

[16] See Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew) 5:393-4

[17] Sefer Hasidim, traditionally ascribed to Rabbi Judah the Hasid of Regensburg (d.1217) but not entirely from his hand, is an eclectic combination of stories, halakhic statements, folklore, and other genres. It had significant influence on Ashkenazi Halakhah.

[18] a standard commentary on the Talmudic digest of Rabbi Isaac Alfasi, authored by the 16th Century Italian Rabbi Yehoshua Boaz ben Shimon Barukh.

[19] Rabbi Isserles lived in 16th Century Poland. His Mapah, or Tablecloth, added Ashkenazic halakhic traditions as glosses to Rabbi Yosef Caro’s Shulhan Arukh, and the combined work has been the standard codification of Jewish law ever since.

[20] medieval halakhic authority

[21] 11th century Spain

[22] It is worth mentioning a possibly significant implication of such a ruling. Some criteria for determining death have been deemed functionally irrelevant under Halakha because testing for them requires touching the dying person. If the argument above is correct such testing would of course be permitted.

[23] Nonetheless, it must be conceded that the mainstream of Halakha has followed and continues to follow this position. For example, Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, in accordance with the advice of many great halakhic decisors, places its respirators on timers that turn them off, absent human intervention, at regular intervals. If a decision is made not to continue the life of a patient, then, the medical staff need merely fail to restart the machine, rather than turning it off. For the reasons set forth throughout this essay, I find this a very unsatisfying result.

[24] post-medieval halakhic authorities

[25] The text of the printed Shiltei Giborim refers to mafteiach BhKn,= Beit haKnesset, or synagogue key. No explanation is given as to why a synagogue key would aid death by magical or other means. However, as will be discussed more extensively below, Darkei Moshe has only B”h, and I suggest that the original intent was Beit haKvarot, or graveyard, in which case the mechanism is obvious.

[26] as he reports their positions – we have no other source for their views

[27] Note that one version of the beraita but not the other explicitly forbids removal of cushions from underneath the goses.

[28] Shulhan Arukh and Beit Yosef seem unaware of Sefer Hasidim and Shiltei Gibborim. One might therefore conclude, although one cannot demonstrate, that they reject any distinctions and forbid contributing in any way to the death of a goses.

[29] In the printed text of Shiltei Gibborim the abbreviation here is BhK”n, or Beit HaKnesset. However, Mapah and Darkei Mosheh both have B”H, which could stand for Beit haKvarot, or cemetery, which seems a better fit for context. But I have no outside evidence for this emendation, and no record of an alternate edition of Shiltei Gibborim.

[30] “It is written in Hagahot Alfasi:

From that which we learned in a Mishnah: “One who closes the eyes with the departure of the nefesh is considered like a bloodshedder”, it seems correct to forbid that which some people practice, that when someone is goses and the neshomoh is unable to leave, that they shove the cushion from underneath him so that he will die rapidly, as they say that the bed contains feathers of birds that cause the nefesh not to depart.

But Rabbi Nathan of Igra wrote to permit this.

Afterward I found written in Sefer Hasidim a support for our words, for he wrote:

If someone was goses and unable to die until placed in another place, they must not move him.

And he wrote:

“If someone was goses, and there was someone near that house chopping wood, so that the neshomoh is unable to depart, we remove the woodchopper from there.

But his words do not contradict one another,

for certainly to do something that will cause him not to die rapidly is forbidden, as for example to chop wood there so the neshomoh will be prevented from leaving, or to place salt on his tongue so that he will not die rapidly, is certainly forbidden,

and everything similar it is permitted to remove,

but to do something that will cause his rapid death and the departure of his nefesh is forbidden,

and therefore it forbidden to move the goses from his place and leave him in a different place.

It is also forbidden to place the keys of a B”h[30] under the head of a goses so that he will die rapidly, because this also hastens the departure of the nefesh,

but it is permitted to remove something that delays the departure of the nefesh.”

[31] This formulation carries the implication that one would also have no obligation to save such a patient from other threats to his life, an implication that has no support in RAMO’s language, but I have no other way of translating his language into formal halakhic terms. I’ll return to this point at greater length below.

[32] Some recent research indicates that the concern that respiration will accidentally be fatally repressed does not apply to conscious patients.

[33] Dr. Ernest Mandel notes that, if one reads Minchat Shlomoh’s reference to pesik reisha (inevitable consequence) as pure exaggeration, he may also agree that palliation should be permitted only if it risks short-term life and not if it inevitably shortens life.

[34] Tehumin 2:297-305

[35] Responsa Tzitz Eliezer 13:89

[36] For the argument about costs see the end of Tzitz Eliezer 13:89.

[37] This capacity also raises challenges as to the appropriate allocation of societal resources, a topic beyond the scope of this paper. On that topic generally see Rabbi M.D. Tendler in Kavod HaRav, ed. Moshe Sherman, pp. 167-169 (Student Organization of Yeshiva, 1992).