Originally published in the Journal of Jewish Studies 30:2 (1979), pp. 253-4.
Ze’ev Falk and Aaron Kirschenbaum (eds.), Dine Israel: An Annual of Jewish Law and Israel’s Family Law, Vol. VII. Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv, 1976. English section, 166 pp., Hebrew section, 254 pp.
The majority of the papers in this seventh volume of the by now well-established Annual deal with some aspect of medical practice as this is affected by Jewish law. The following studies can be singled out as of special interest to the general reader. In the lengthy article (78 pages and no less than 310 detailed footnotes): ‘The “Good Samaritan” and Jewish Law’, Aaron Kirschenbaum surveys the vexed question of the extent one is obliged to go in order to assist the victim of an attack. For instance, is one required, and should he be required to lend assistance to another who is in danger? Must the passer-by who witnesses an assault intervene only when he can do so at no peril to himself or, perhaps, only when the peril to himself is less than the harm the victim will suffer or, perhaps, even at whatever the cost? The article lists and examines all the various treatments of this problem in Jewish literature from the biblical sources down to the theories of contemporary Halakhists. J. David Bleich: ‘Ethico-Halakhic Considerations in the Practice of Medicine’ studies medical ethics from the standpoint of the Halakhah and compares this with other systems. ‘Law and Medicine in Medieval Jewry’ by Ze’ev Falk considers briefly the question of how far the Halakhists relied on medical evidence, noting the Responsa on the subject by Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and Rabbi Solomon Ibn Adret. Shlomo Dichowsky’s article deals with the question of priorities for medical treatment, e.g. where only one kidney machine is available and there are a number of patients in need. Ya’akov Weinberger supplies a useful summary as well as a bibliography on the question of euthanasia in the Halakhah. Gad Navon writes on ‘The Rabbinic Attitude toward Fingerprints as a Source of Identifying Corpses’ (i.e. in order to permit the re-marriage of the wife). There are two articles by the Chief Rabbis of Israel: Rabbi Goren on ‘The Physician’s Responsibility for the Life of the Patient’ and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s Responsum permitting kidney transplants. Zerah Warhaftig’s ‘Should Civil Marriage be Instituted in the State of Israel’ replies decisively in the negative, chiefly on the grounds that to do so would create a split between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox and that there is little religious coercion involved in view of the tendency of the Rabbinic Courts to be permissive wherever possible.
Leo Baeck College, London