Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, the chief rabbis in Israel, are calling on Israeli residents to fight the “abortion epidemic” they say is ravaging the country.
The two Jewish leaders sent a letter to all rabbis across the country, according to a CBN News report, citing a portion of the Torah from Exodus that relates the story of Hebrew midwives refusing an edict from Pharaoh to drown newborn children by throwing them in the Nile River.
Jews point to the teachings in the first chapter of the book of Exodus when Hebrew midwives Pu’ah and Shifra refuse to listen to the King of Egypt’s order to kill all male babies. “But the midwives feared God and did not as the king of Egypt commanded,” the scriptures say.
The pair called on religious teachers to inform citizens of Israel that “biblical prohibition to kill fetuses in their mothers’ wombs.”
They recalled their effort to form a committee to combat the approximately 50,000 abortions that take place in Israel annually and said Jewish law prohibits abortions except in the very rare circumstances of a pregnancy directly threatening the life of the mother.
“The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is appalled by this horrifying data, indicating that this is a true epidemic costing the lives of dozens of Jewish souls every year,” the chief rabbis wrote, according to CBN.
Last year, Metzger and Amar said that abortion kills thousands of Israeli babies a year and delays the coming of the Messiah and they promised to do more to promote pro-life and pregnancy help efforts. They said “the vast majority of abortions are unnecessary and Halacha severely prohibits them.”
They Jewish leaders also said abortions “delay the redemption” by postponing the coming of the Messiah and they based the teaching on the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Niddah which says each baby that is born brings the Jewish people closer to redemption.
“The redemption does not take place until all the souls are brought out of their storing place,” the Talmud states.
The letter goes on to condemn “the killing of fetuses in their mother’s womb.”
In December 2007, the chief rabbinic council in Israel released a new opinion confirming that abortions constitute a “grave sin” and saying they are delaying the coming of the Messiah.
“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.
Rabbi Barry Freundel, a widely respected Jewish leader in the U.S., says, 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.
In 2008, the oldest Orthodox Jewish Rabbinic organization in the country, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. and Canada, issued a historic declaration on voting and abortion. It said Jewish voters should not vote for candidates who support abortion, calling them “antithetical” to Jewish values.