B’OR HA’TORAH JOURNAL OF SCIENCE, LIFE AND ART IN THE LIGHT OF THE TORAH
A peer-reviewed journal on the interrelationship of Judaism, science and technology, psychology, the arts, and social issues, B’Or Ha’Torah illuminates a range of topics from the cosmology and ecology of Genesis; the creation ex nihilo vs. evolution and faith vs. reason debates; the views of halakhah (Jewish law) on stem cell research and genetic engineering; and the soul-mind-brain-memory-body connection. Rabbis and religious Jews with no science background as well as professionals in all fields with no Torah background can enjoy this inspiring publication in hardcopy and digital formats.
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Rabbi Professor Avraham Steinberg, MD
Jews are not only allowed to intervene with nature to heal, they are required to do so. The new technologies that have been developed to avoid genetic diseases in babies before and after they are born fall into the category of healing.
New biotechnologies have been developed to reduce the incidence of genetic diseases such as Tay Sachs, cystic fibrosis, and Huntington’s disease. Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) in a family with a history of a genetic disease allows a couple to produce healthy children by selecting embryos that do not carry the genes responsible for those diseases. The theological and practical halakhic ramifications of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, genetic engineering, and genetic therapy will be discussed.
Professor John D. Loike
Genetic testing of a fetus is another method that can be used to help select for healthy babies, but the issue of pregnancy termination raises a halakhic barrier against using this technology among Torah-observant Jews. New genetic fetal testing technology is currently under development that may lead to the ability to screen a fetus for genetic diseases within the first forty days, when most halakhic authorities would allow termination. Using case studies, I shall discuss the newest scientific achievements in these areas within a halakhic framework.
Rabbi Professor Moshe D. Tendler
Is a person carrying a gene that predisposes him to aggression, addiction, or kleptomania responsible for his behavior? Although there are both halakhic and biological cases in which a person is not responsible for his behavior, God gave us free will and with it the power to overcome any genetic predisposition.
Professor Fred Rosner, MD, MACP
Who owns the genetic information obtained about a person’s health and health prospects from the family history or by direct genetic testing: the patients, the family, the laboratory that performed the testing, society, insurance companies, or some or all of the above?
Professor Isaac Elishakoff
In 1985 Robert Aumann and Michael Maschler published a paper using the mathematics of Game Theory to explain the enigmatic rulings in the mishnah of Ketubot, chap. 10, mishnah 4, about dividing an inadequate estate between the three wives of the same husband. (Aumann and Maschler 1985) This allocation of resources problem had puzzled sages and mathematicians for 2,000 years.
They showed that the reasoning in this mishnah is consistent with that used in the well-known contested garment mishnah (Bava Metsia, chap.1 mishnah 1), for each pair of wives separately.
In this paper I show that the reasoning is much more straightforward when we group the three wives into two “coalitions:” The problem of how to allocate the marriage contract rights to the three widows is directly reduced to the second ruling of the contested garment case. Furthermore, there is no need to postulate that “more than half is like the whole.” In this manner one can reconstruct systematically the thinking of the author of this mishnah.
Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer
The Jerusalem Talmud (Ketubot, chap. 10, halakhah 4) on the enigmatic ruling of the Mishnah regarding the allocations to marriage contracts of three wives, cites Shmuel’s opinion that this ruling can be explained by the third wife’s empowering the second wife to negotiate with the first wife. This approach has been discussed by Aumann and Maschler in their celebrated paper on the subject.
I suggest a broader understanding of Shmuel’s explanation as cited in the Jerusalem Talmud, which consists of a novel approach to the overall problem.
This discussion article presents an attempt to encourage honesty and reduce fraud and theft. It is is based on section 6 in "Linkage not Interest—Wages not Prices" and in "Interest Free Wage Linkage of Personal Loans and Mortgages" at http://homedir.jct.ac.il/~rafi, where other works of mine can be found.
Judith Sandra Bendheim Guedalia
In this paper, our focal points are the biblical scenarios in which Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son, acts in a way that indicates that unresolved Oedipal issues are very much alive in his adult psychic life. The story of Reuben highlights that winning the Oedipal war may cause a lifetime of complication and developmental paralysis. In Reuben’s case, his position as the leader of the Twelve Tribes by virtue of his firstborn status is seriously damaged. This wound seems to affect not only him, but also his descendants for a considerable period of Jewish history.
Through the application of psychological theory, along with an exegesis of biblical sources and commentaries, we try to understand the psychological dynamics underlying Reuben’s behavior, and his own attempts to resolve this unfortunate and painful dynamic.
Professor Vera Schwarcz
This essay explores a few key themes in the complex process through which Jews translated their creed and identity in the cultural setting of China. Building upon Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s vision of “sparks” abounding with treasure in nations and individuals alike, I trace Chinese naming practices as well as some turning points in Chinese-Jewish history from the Song dynasty through the twentieth century. Current interest in China about Jews and Jewish studies is placed in a larger quest for rooted modernity—the distinctive achievements of utterly modern Jews. The small yet path-breaking aliyah of the descendants of the Chinese Jews to Israel is shown to be part of a larger history that links backward in time to the lost tribes and forward to a redemptive vision of the ingathering of Jewish sparks from all over the world.
Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer
Professor Benjamin Fain (world-class chemist in the fields of quantum electronics, lasers, and condensed matter) shows that the world in which we live—including us human beings as a crucial and inseparable part of it—cannot be explained and understood within the limits and concepts of secularism. In order to reach this conclusion, the author explores the essential realms of human culture such as science, philosophy, ethics, cosmogony (the study of the formation of the universe), cosmology, and theories of the development of life and humankind by evolution. These and other topics are the object of meticulous scrutiny, which reveals the incompleteness and shortcomings of secularism as a worldview.
Yael Avi-Yonah was born in Jerusalem and graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art. Her father, Michael Avi-Yonah—the distinguished archaeologist and historian, and head of the Department of the History of Art at the Hebrew University—provided her with the rich background in art, archeology, and Bible which emanates from her works. Thousands of her prints and serigraphs on Jerusalem landscapes and biblical subjects have been sold throughout the world. Her series of oil portraits of fifteen major contemporary Israeli authors was exhibited at the Jerusalem International Book Fair in 1984 and abroad. In 1987 she completed a series of paintings on the Twelve Tribes for the Yad L’Mordekhai synagogue in Jerusalem. She has appeared in Who’s Who in Israel, and her works were given to the homes of the great kabbalistic master, Rabbi Yitshak Kadori, of blessed memory, and the Dalai Lama. Since 1988, she has been working in anaglyphic art. Her themes are inspired by Jewish mysticism and include the four angels of the Divine Chariot, and the four kabbalistic worlds, Jerusalem in the messianic age, and visions of the Third Temple. Recently, she has completed a series of collages on metal, which she calls hologramic energies. These works can be viewed in various ways: with or without special glasses that input to the right and left sides of the brain, or as a hologram. Her works are on display in the Jewish Museum in London, as well as galleries and museums in Israel and abroad. Just as her earlier work of archeological drawings and realistic portrait painting reflected her humanistic background, her current recondite work revealing energy patterns and spiritual truths reflects her now Torah-centered life. What caused the turn? At one point of her life, she says, “I decided to find out how the world is put together.”
Yael Avi-Yonah’s work can be seen on her website:
Professor Meier Schwarz
Methods of soilless cultivation of plants were developed by Meier Schwarz. His goal was to find an alternative way to raise crops in Israel that would enable observance of the Torah command of shmittah, every seventh year to let the land rest. These methods became widely adopted in Israel and throughout the world.
In this article, Part One relates Schwarz’s life story; Part Two describes his career in developing soilless agriculture; Part Three explains what hydroponics is; and the Appendix highlights some of his experiences as the Haganah commander of one of the ships forced to return to Germany with refugees from the ship Exodus. The text of all four parts was adapted by Ilana Attia from Mi’Dor L’Dor: Meier u’Miriam Schwarz, an autobiography written in Hebrew in 2005 for Schwarz’s children and grandchildren, and from Soilless Culture Management (1995:Berlin: Springer-Verlag), Schwarz’s summary of hydroponics.