Judaism

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Summary

Principle ideas

The Religion

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Summary

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Principle ideas

“the embryo is considered to be mere water until the fortieth day”

Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 69b

If a woman is in hard labor {and her life cannot otherwise be saved}, one cuts up the child within her womb and extracts it member by member, because her life comes before that of the child. But if the greater part {or the head} was delivered, one may not touch it, for one may not set aside one person’s life for the sake of another.

Talmud, Tohoroth II Oholoth 7:6

In Judaism as with all major religions there are varying opinions that can be called Orthodox, conservative and reform. Relevant basic principles from Judasim include:

a) healing is a required obligation

b) any activity that contributes to advancement in the world can not be considered contradicting God’s orders

c) God is the one who gave us the power to create new technology, and then we can use it

d) Each activity which has no reason to be prohibited is permitted without having to find a reason for its permissibility

e) The human fetus < 40 days of age and certainly the preimplantation embryo does not have full human status

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:28

The Tora states that Jews have an obligation to seek knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge. As such it can be argued that Jews have an imperative to strive for new ways to improve the world. That suggests that stem cell research is not only permissible but something to be actively pursued.

Pikuach nefesh is the obligation to preserve life.

Assisted reproduction is a relatively new phenomenon and as such issues arising from it have not been fully explored by many faiths so their positions are hard to define. Indeed positions can vary from different authorities within the same religion.

Some religions see life as given by God and so argue that it is his alone to give or take away. From that position it is possible to argue against human cloning, and depending on your definition of person, abortion and even contraception.

Creating life with ambiguous lineage is possibly troubling for Judaism. A recent UK legal ruling stated that for legal purposes, Jewishness could not be conferred simply by having a Jewish mother.

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The Religion

Judaism is the oldest of the three main Abrahamic faiths (the others being Christianity and Islam). It is a monothestic religion, originating in the middle-east about 3,500 years ago. The main religious document is the Torah, this is complemented by an oral interpretation, halakhah.

According to Jewish belief, there is only one God. God chose Abraham to be the leader of a group of people who would be special to God, and who would set an example of good behaviour and holiness for others to follow. God then helped the Jewish people through many troubles, and at the time of Moses he gave them a set of rules by which they should live, including the Ten Commandments.

God created the universe and everything in it. God continues to affect the world and the people in it, being both omnipresent and omnipotent. God is merciful, just and accessible to all. In return from his good work, Jews strive to keep his laws and bring holiness to all aspects of their lives. Life is structured around the family and community, worshipping in synagogues, lead by religious leaders, Rabbis.

The Sabbath is the Jewish holy day, it begins at nightfall on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday.

Traditionally a Jew is someone born to a Jewish mother.

Acting in a manner pleasing to God is effectively an act of worship.