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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 1:24 kind

… in the biblical ethos, only human individuals possess infinite value. In the account of the creation of plants, reptiles, or mammals, the Bible notes that they were created “according to their species.” [this verse] Significantly, there is no reference to the species in the biblical story depicting the creation of humanity. As the Mishnah declares, “Adam was created as a single individual…therefore, one who destroys a single human life is regarded as having destroyed the entire universe.”  Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5.  Bering the divine image, human beings transcend the realm of nature and enjoy a special status among creatures.  Although the Bible mandates compassion for all creatures, Judaism balks at the extreme formulations of reverence for all life that undergird the agenda of the animal rights movement.  The Jewish value-system insists that there is a radical difference between humans and animals.  Only human beings are so sacred that they must not be sacrificed even for the collective good.  Treatment of animals, on the other hand, is not subject to the overriding constraints of inviolable rights, but should be governed by utilitarian considerations.  Unlike the advocates of animal rights, who are so wary of inflicting pain upon animals that they even object to their use for medical research, Halakhah sanctions whatever experiments on animals are necessary to help humans in the battle against disease.  From a Jewish perspective, the imperative mandating the preservation of human life and the alleviation of suffering overrides the prohibition against torturing animals.  However, all possible measures must be taken to minimize the pain of animals, since cruelty to animals is strictly prohibited.  Experimentation on human beings, on the other hand, is subject to completely different standards.  The inviolability and sanctity of human life preclude sanctioning any form of intervention with the human body, even for eh purpose of finding a cure for a disease, unless it is believed that there is a real possibility that the patient subjected to the experimental procedure might directly benefit from it. Without such a possibility, even the expectation that a given procedure will contribute to medical progress, which will benefit humanity, cannot justify causing suffering to individuals, who, as creature being the image of G-d, are inviolable and must not be used as guinea pigs.  While there are halakhic opinions permitting a patient to have his consent to life-threatening procedures such as donation of a kidney on the ground that an individual may endanger his won life to save the life of another human being, it is questionable whether such permission may be granted in cases when the potential benefit accruing to others is merely a matter of speculation.  There is a crucial distinction to be drawn between permitting an individual to undergo risk procedures when there is a high probability hat it will redound to the benefit of another patient versus sanctioning experimentation when there is only a remote change that another person will actually derive benefit from it.  ETHRESP 60-61

GENESIS — 1:27 image

There are … compelling reasons for rejecting the hedonistic doctrine that ethics revolves exclusively around considerations of pleasure or pain. As the bearer of the image of G-d, each human being possesses irreducible dignity, sanctity, and inviolability. Quantitative or qualitative factors do not affect that status.  According to the Tanna Ben Azzai, this is the pivotal doctrine of the entire Torah. J. Nedarim 9:4. Concern for the sanctity of life always overrides considerations of social utility. It is categorically prohibited to commit suicide or to kill an innocent person, no matter how much such acts would contribute to the general welfare. “Active euthanasia,” however noble the motive, can never be condoned, even if intended solely for the purpose of ending the suffering of a patient. Because of the absolute sanctity of every human life, it is strictly forbidden to take one life in order to save another life, however valuable. Ohalot 7:6, Terumot 8:12. One may not sacrifice even one individual in order to save a large number of people.  Maimonides, M.T. Yesodei Hatorah 5:5.  The only exception to this rule is when dealing with an aggressor. Be it in self-defense or in defense of another person, if there is no other way to save the victim, Jewish law mandates that one should kill the aggressor. Similar considerations rule out accepting the offer of terminally ill persons to sacrifice their lives for the benefit of another individual. However hopeless their condition, they are not permitted to donate their organs for transplants, if the procedures will inevitably shorten their lives – even if only by a few minutes. Depriving an individual of chayei sha’ah (a minimal duration of life) represents an act of killing, which cannot be condoned. Yoreh Deah 339:1. Obviously, were our ethical norms solely based upon social utility, we would adopt an entirely different attitude.  But since the overriding concern for the sanctity of life is based upon the biblical doctrine that [this verse], it is totally irrelevant that the donor of the organ is anyhow on the verge of death, whereas the prospective recipient might yet make vital contributions to society.  As bearers of the image of G-d, both possess equal value. ETHRESP 59-60

GENESIS — 1:28 subdue

There is no justification to the accusation that the ecological crisis has its roots in attitudes engendered by the biblical doctrine that gives humanity dominion over the world of nature.  The Bible cannot be blamed for the damage caused to the environment by irresponsible employment of technology.  The charge “fill the earth and subdue it” [this verse] is counterbalanced in the next chapter with the observation that Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden “to work it and guard it.”  This implies that human beings are responsible not to nature but to G-d for proper stewardship of resources placed at their disposal. Although the bulk of ethical commandments address themselves to interpersonal relationships, the Torah also contains many laws designed to protect the animal world from unnecessary pain Deuteronomy 25:4 or extinction Nachmanides, Torah Commentary, Deuteronomy 22:6 and to prevent the wanton destruction of fruit trees. Deuteronomy 20:19-20. The Rabbis extended the prohibition to encompass all unnecessary destruction of propery and even to the wasting of materials.  ETHRESP 12

GENESIS — 6:9 blameless

Segments of the traditional community have frowned upon efforts to secure Jewish political rights on the ground that if G-d really wanted the amelioration of the abject conditions of the Jewish people, He could bring this about without requiring the assistance of Jewish political action. The historical record shows that Hungarian Orthodoxy, for example, was unequivocally opposed to any interventions with governmental authorizes designed to improve the sociopolitical or economic conditions of the Jewish community.  That this quietistic stance was not only prompted by the fear that better socioeconomic and political realities would expose the Jewish community to the spiritual hazards of assimilation, but also reflected a deeply ingrained and genuine aversion to any form of activism, can be gauged by a remarkable comment of R. Abraham Samuel Benjamin Sofer, the son and successor of the Hatam Sofer.  He notes that Noah is first described in [this verse] as a perfectly righteous individual, whereas subsequently Genesis 7:1, he is characterized merely as a righteous individual but not as a perfect one.  R. Sofer suggests that this diminution of Noah’s status occurred because, according to the Midrash, Noah’s invention of the plow paved the way for the development of agriculture. With the improved ability to grow food, people no longer felt completely dependent upon G-d. Thus, Noah contributed to the process of secularization. ETHRESP 108

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