Torah Perspectives on Cloning- Part 2 by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


Last week, we introduced the topic of Halachah
and cloning. We discussed whether Halachah permits
cloning and whether a clone has the Halchic status of a
human being. This week, we shall conclude our
discussion of this topic by exploring some of the Halachic
ramifications of engaging in the process of cloning.
Does a Man fulfill his Mitzvah of Pru Urvu by cloning?
A major issue to be discussed is whether a man
fulfills his obligation of Pru Urvu by cloning. This issue
depends on whether on whether one’s clone is defined as
his child according to Halacha. We must clarify that
Halacha does not define parenthood solely based on
biology. For example, if a Jewish man fathers a child with
a Nochrit, he is not considered to be the Halachic father of
the child. In order to put this question in proper
perspective we must first examine the debate whether a
child produced either through artificial insemination or in
vitro fertilization (IVF) is defined as one’s child according to
The Chelkat Mechokeik (Even Haezer 1:8) raises
the question as to whether one is regarded as the Halachic
father if his child is not conceived by a sexual act. The
question is whether fatherhood is conferred by donating
the semen or is a sexual act also necessary to create a
paternal relationship. Rav J. David Bleich (in the Tradition
article we cited last week) concludes that the majority of
Poskim (including Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav
Ovadia Yosef) rule that the semen donor is the Halachic

father of the child. For an extensive list of Poskim who address
this issue see Rav J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halachic
Problems 4:240, footnote nine.
Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer 15:40)
argues that even those who rule that one who fathers a child by
artificial insemination is considered to be the Halachic father,
would agree that one who conceives a child by IVF is not
considered to be the child’s Halachic father. He believes that
one is defined as the father only when his semen is introduced
directly into the wife’s uterus and the fertilization occurs in the
uterus. The procedure of IVF, argues Rav Waldenberg, differs
too much from natural reproduction for Halacha to regard the
man as the father. However, Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl (Sefer
Assia 34:5) and Rav J. David Bleich (ad loc. p. 239) disagree
with Rav Waldenberg and believe that the man who donates the
sperm in the IVF procedure is considered the Halachic father
even though fertilization occurs outside the womb. Rav Gedalia
Orenstein (Techumin 24:156-159) presents a most convincing
rebuttal of Rav Waldenburg’s arguments.
Cloning, however, is different according to Rav Bleich.
Rav Bleich argues (in the aforementioned Tradition article) that a
man who donates body material for cloning is not considered the
Halachic father, even if the clone was created from body material
of both the husband and wife. Rav Bleich asserts that a man is
not defined as the father if he has not donated semen to produce
the child. Rav Bleich, though, notes that the Halacha might be
different if the child is cloned from a sperm cell.
Rav Yitzchak Sheilat (a leading Rebbe at Yeshivat
Maaleh Adumim, a major Yeshivat Hesder), on the other hand,
argues (Techumin 18:138-140) that a man who produces a child
by cloning is considered the child’s Halachic father. He cites the
Minchat Chinuch (Mitzvah 1) who argues that the Mitzvah of Pru
Urvu is fulfilled when one has children and not specifically by
engaging in marital relations. Thus, Rav Sheilat argues that just
as one fulfills the Mitzvah of Pru Urva even if he produces
children by artificial insemination or IVF, so too he fulfills this
Mitzvah by cloning. Rav Sheilat does not believe that Halacha
considers whether the child emerges from sperm cells or any
other body material. Nonetheless, the basis of Rav Sheilat’s
approach is debatable as many Acharonim disagree with the
Minchat Chinuch’s assertion, especially in light of the Rambam’s
comments in Hilchot Ishut 15:1. On the other hand, the majority
ruling that one fulfills Pru Urvu even with artificial insemination
seems to accord with the view of the Minchat Chinuch.
Husband – Wife Cloning to Produce a Child
Aside from ramifications regarding Yibbum and
Chalitzah, the dispute between Rav Bleich and Rav
Sheilat has profound implications. According to Rav
Sheilat, it is appropriate for an infertile couple to
produce a child by cloning. On the other hand, Rav
Bleich argues that it is not appropriate for an infertile
couple to produce a child by cloning.
Dr. Avraham Steinberg and Dr. John Loike (in
an essay that appears in the aforementioned issue of
Tradition) present a fascinating ramification of the dispute between Rav Bleich and Rav Sheilat. Drs.
Steinberg and Loike suggest that according to Rav
Bleich’s approach cloning might be a way for Mamzeirim to
produce children in a manner that will not pass the stain of
Mamzeirut to the next generation. If a man is not the
Halachic father of his clone, his Mamzeir status is not
passed to the next generation. This suggestion, Drs.
Steinberg and Loike argue, is analogous to Rabi Tarfon’s
advice to a Mamzeir to marry a Shifcha Kenaanit as he will
not be regarded as the Halachic father to their child
(Kiddushin 69a). Indeed, Rabi Tarfon’s ruling is codified in
the Shulchan Aruch as normative Halacha (Shulchan
Aruch Even Haezer 4:20).
Cloning of Single Individuals
Rav Sheilat, however, strenuously objects to a
single person cloning himself. Indeed, the Sefer
HaChinuch (Mitzvah 582) writes “Hashem wishes for
people to be born from the union of a male and a female
who unite in a kosher manner.” The Chinuch clearly
implies that Hashem does not want people to be created
from a single male or female. Similarly, Rav Shlomo
Zalman Auerbach (cited in Nishmat Avraham 4:E.H.1:3)
strongly objects to a single woman conceiving a child by
means of artificial insemination. In addition, Rav Yigal
Shafran (an authority in the area of medical Halacha)
writes (Techumin 20:351) that retrieving sperm from a
recently deceased man in order to artificially inseminate
his widow constitutes a severe violation of the spirit of
Halacha. The Torah wants a child to be raised by a
father and mother and it is offensive to produce a child
knowing in advance that it will be raised without the
benefit of being raised by both a mother and a father.
Accordingly, Rav Sheilat writes that cloning should be placed under government supervision to assure that
cloning should be performed only on behalf of infertile married couples and not on behalf of singles wishing to have
children asexually.
One of the great wonders of the modern age is the
application of the Halacha to modern circumstances, despite the
fact that we may not introduce new Halachot after the
compilation of the Talmud. Thus, every Halachic issue must be
adjudicated on the basis of a precedent in the Gemara and its
commentaries or based on an analysis of the principles
articulated and implied by the Gemara. It is profoundly
wondrous that Poskim consistently find a precedent in the
Gemara and its commentaries for every new issue that emerges
in modern times. In our case, it is particularly astonishing that
the Meiri (that we cited last week) explicitly addresses the
possibility of cloning. It appears that Hashem’s subtle
involvement in the Halachic process facilitates the existence of
precedents in the Gemara and its commentaries for every new
issue and challenge that arises.

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Torah Perspectives on Cloning by Rabbi Chaim Jachter