by Steven Ertelt
December 24, 2007
Jerusalem, Israel (LifeNews.com) — The chief rabbinic council in Israel released a new opinion about abortion over the weekend confirming that abortions constitute a “grave sin” and saying they are delaying the coming of the Messiah. Their determination provides hope to pro-life Jews in the United States and elsewhere who battle abortion.
"The vast majority of abortions are unnecessary and strictly forbidden according to halacha because they are carried out even when the pregnancies do not endanger the mother’s health," the rabbis wrote.
They said those kinds of abortions for socioeconomic reasons or the mother not wanting the baby at the time are delaying the coming of the Messiah, who Jews believe was not represented by Jesus Christ.
Jews typically believe that the Messiah will not come until all of the children who could be born to Jewish mothers are born.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger — two leading Jewish figures in the nation — both supported the council’s decision.
The Rabbinic Council of Chief Rabbinate also said it would establish a new committee that would examine methods of reducing abortions in Israel.
According to a Ynet News report, the council made its decision after a presentation by Dr. Eli Schussheim, the head of the pro-life group Efrat. He presented the council rabbis with the latest information on abortions in Israel.
His showed them that 50,000 abortions happen there every year and about 20,000 of them are done within the confines of current law.
Ynet reported that the rabbis based their position on the Old Testament verse Genesis 9:6, which says those who shed blood will have their blood shed and saying God made mankind in His image.
Although sacred Jewish texts and traditions oppose abortion, most American Jewish groups have long supported the practice and pro-abortion lawmakers.
The Union for Reform Judaism and its Washington-based Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism agreed to be co-sponsors of the pro-abortion march that abortion advocacy groups sponsored in 2004. The American Jewish Congress’s commission for women’s equality, the Anti-Defamation League and Hadassah backed the march as well.
Nancy Kipnis, vice president of the National Council of Jewish Women said her group will also help organize the march.
"The strength of the April march in Washington will be in its numbers. The numbers will have to send a very strong message," Kipnis told Foreward magazine at the time.
She said the march would be important to show strong opposition to pro-life President George W. Bush
"For us, it’s a matter of freedom — personal and religious freedom. There is a lot on the line, and we can’t leave it all to elections. It’s the grassroots activism that occurs between elections that influences policy."
Former NARAL President Kate Michelman attended the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial convention to promote the pro-abortion event to its members.
She told convention-goers, "We are counting on groups like this — activists
like you — to pack the buses and come to Washington" for the pro-abortion march.
However, according to pro-life Jews, most American Jewish groups are out of step with religious teaching on abortion.
Rabbi Barry Freundel, a widely respected Jewish leader, said that, according to the Mishnah, a record of oral interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures, abortion is only permitted when a woman is in "hard travail" and her life is in danger.
He said the instances where a pregnancy poses a serious threat to the mother are very rare — so Jews should oppose most abortions.
Not even in the most lenient interpretations, Rabbi Freundel told a group at a National Right to Life convention, is there anything that allows abortion on demand.
Before Congress gave final approval to the first partial-birth abortion ban, he obtained more than 200 signatures of rabbis from Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox traditions on a statement supporting the pro-life bill.