Torah Tidbits

1 September 2014 / 6 Elul 5774
Issue 1033
Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim
February 07, 2013

"From Machon Puah"

The Value of Life

We continue this week reporting on the lecture given by the Israeli Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger at the recent 13th Annual Puah Rabbinic Conference in Jerusalem. While some say that no blessing should be made at the birth of a child with serious genetic abnormalities and others say that a Shehecheyanu should be combined with the blessing of Dayan HaEmet that is made on hearing bad news, Rabbi Metzger presented that he is of the opinion that the regular Shehecheyanu blessing should be made.
He explained that the blessing reflects the importance in Jewish thought and law of every life, even one that could be seen as imperfect, and maybe viewed as having less worth than others. Rabbi Metzger related a touching story of a couple that he had met in South America who had a child with a serious disability and he was invited to the child’s Bar Mitzva, which was an emotional time for the family and the entire community. Many people have experienced similar events that left them feeling inspired and uplifted by the power of the human spirit. It is impossible to judge the value of each life and therefore to make a blessing that expresses sadness and mourning is inappropriate for the birth of a child who will have potential and can become a good member of a family and the community.
In addition he questioned whether the blessing Dayan HaEmet should be made on such an occasion. This blessing is reserved for times when a person had something and lost it or it was taken away. A person who lost a loved one makes the blessing to express their pain at this loss, but it should not be made when nothing was lost. At the birth of a child who is ill there is no loss and therefore Dayan HaEmet is inappropriate.
It should be noted that this is the opinion of Rabbi David Abudirham (often called the Abudraham) the famous 14th century commentator on the Siddur. He writes that “one should not make a blessing of Dayan HaEmet on what God has not given him, rather for what He gave him and broke, was lost or died.” If this is the case then no such blessing can be made at the birth of a child even if they suffer from serious congenital disabilities.
However there are other opinions on this question. - More on this next week.

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman

The Puah Institute is based in Jerusalem and helps couples from all over the world who are experiencing fertility problems. Puah offers free counseling in five languages, halachic supervision, and educational programs. Offices in Jerusalem, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Contact: (02) 651-5050 (Isr).

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