Does a clone have a soul?

Does a clone have a soul? God creates human who have souls, but when people create people, do they have a soul? Where do they go when they die? If a clone is not considered to possess a soul, would it be permitted to clone a human being for merely its spare parts? Is Cloning permitted according to the Halacha?

A. Some years ago, the Israeli Chief Rabbi Lau offered an opinion on cloning. The Chief Rabbi said that although there is no specific prohibition in Jewish Law to utilize artificial genetics to reproduce a human being, it is entirely against basic Jewish conceptions to do so. “The Torah gave a specific dispensation for doctors to use their knowledge to cure, and even to lengthen life, but the formation of new life goes way beyond that. We have no permission to enter the domain of the Creator on questions of life and death.” He said that he does not know of one rabbi who permits genetic engineering in this manner.

The Chief Rabbi’s comments, although provocative, makes one wonder: Is the Halacha as obvious as the Chief Rabbi thinks? Perhaps the matter is not as simple as Rabbi Lau. Continue reading “Does a clone have a soul?”

Appreciating the Ecological Principles of Leviticus

Leviticus always gets a bad rap when it comes to the students of the Bible. Granted, it’s not as interesting as the opening chapters of Genesis, but Leviticus possesses a rich tapestry of symbolism that most Protestant theologians tend to completely overlook. The slaughter of animals has no context outside the realm of holiness—especially as mirrored through the practice of the Jewish dietary laws. According to the anthropologist Mary Douglas, the laws of cultic purity serve to help impose God’s order and control in the world of creation. On some level, the dietary laws remind us about the sanctity of all life which demands from us humane treatment.

Unclean is not a term of psychological horror and disgust, it is a technical term for the cult, as commentators have often pointed out. To import feelings into the translation falsifies, and creates more puzzles. The technique of delayed completion postpones the meanings until chapter 17. At that point Leviticus commands the people not to eat blood, not to eat an animal that has died an unconsecrated death, that is, an animal that has died of itself, or an animal torn by beasts, presumably with its blood still in it (Lev 17:8-16; see also Deut 14:21). The dietary laws thus support the law against unconsecrated killing. The Leviticus writer’s reverential attitude to life, animal and human, explains the animal corpse pollution rules. ‘Thou shalt not stand upon [profit from] another’s blood’ (Lev. 19:16). The case of the animal’s blood and the case of the human’s blood are parallel. Ritual impurity imposes God’s order on his creation.[1]

The fact is the Levitical laws protect the vast number of animals, limiting the permitted species to just a few species. The anthropologist, Mary Douglas writes in the introduction of her classic study on the dietary laws of Leviticus:

The religion of Leviticus turns out to be not very different from that of the prophets which demanded humble and contrite hearts, or from the psalmists’ love of the house of God. The main new feature of this interpretation is the attitude to animal life. In this new perspective, Leviticus has to be read in line with Psalm 145:8-9: the God of Israel has compassion for all that he made. His love for his animal creation lies behind his laws against eating and touching their corpses. The flocks and herds of the people of Israel are brought under the covenant that God made with their owners, and the other animals benefit from the promises he made in Genesis after the flood, that he would guarantee the regularity of the seasons and the fertility of the ground. The more closely the text is studied, the more clearly Leviticus reveals itself as a modern religion, legislating for justice between persons and persons, between God and his people, and between people and animals.[2]

The Bible frequently is accused of endorsing a theology of “dominion” and is blamed for all the ecological woes of our time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leviticus teaches us that we cannot act toward creation with indifference. Jewish exegetical history has a very strong pro-ecological attitude that contemporary scholars ought to seriously study before criticizing a religious tradition they know so little about.

[1] Leviticus as Literature (New York: Oxford UP, 2000), p. 151.

[2]Ibid., pp. 1-2.

Questions with regard to the afterlife.

Q My cousin said to me that when we pass away, we automatically go to heaven. I have searched the Talmud and cannot seem to find anything like that at all. Would you please tell me where I can find this or any reference to us going to heaven?

A It seems to me your grandfather was referring to a famous Mishnah found in the beginning of the 10th chapter of Sanhedrin, which states:

Continue reading “Questions with regard to the afterlife.”