Maintain Your Moral Compass
The Value of Life
The mishnah in Pirkei Avos 4:16, says that our life is merely a prozdor, a waiting room, for the “banquet hall” that is the Next World. Prepare yourselves in the waiting room, so that you may merit to enter the banquet hall, the mishnah instructs.
Our time in this world earns us eternal life in the next world. Therefore, every moment we spend in this world has a value that is unfathomable to us. As Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, eloquently expressed, Hachaim koneh nitzchius b’chol rega — Every moment that a person is alive, they acquire Eternity.
Life has an intrinsic sanctity and profound value that cannot be defined or diminished by anyone’s assessment of how much longer it will last or what its quality is.
According to Torah, a doctor is not permitted to help someone end their life, nor is a person allowed to end their own life, with or without outside assistance.
The reason is simple: Our bodies do not belong to us. Both body and soul are given to us by G-d, and we are obligated to care for them.
This is not to say that life must be extended at all costs and in all cases. End-of-life decisions are extremely complex, requiring a qualified rabbi to assess each situation according to its specifics.
It is important to remember that these Torah decisions are not based on the “quality” of the life in question as defined by society, or even by the individual themselves, but by the Torah’s definition of the sanctity of that life.
Euthanasia refers to actively ending a person’s life. The AMA has ruled that it is forbidden for a doctor to participate in euthanasia.
Physician-Assisted Suicide refers to providing a person with the means to end their own life.
1 Sign a halachic living will to protect ourselves in case of medical emergency and encourage everyone in our family to fill one out, as well.
2 Seek the guidance of a qualified rabbi in any case that involves life-and-death medical decision-making, or call Chayim Aruchim’s 24-hour hotline: 718-ARUCHIM (278-2446)
3 Read as many of the resources below in order to be aware of and appreciate the Torah’s view of life’s sanctity, and resist the cultural trend that assesses life by its quality.
Sanctity of Life & the Importance of a Halachic Living Will17:14
Interview with Dr Howard Lebowitz. Rabbonim explain the importance of having a halachic living will.
Dr Lebowitz is the chief medical officer of Specialty Hospital of Central Jersey in Lakewood, NJ, and serves on the Advisory Board of Agudath Israel’s Chayim Aruchim.
The Torah View of Life and Death56:28
Keynote address at the Institute for Jewish Ethics. An explication of the Torah view of life and death.
RABBI ELCHONON ZOHN
Rabbi Zohn is the director of the Chevra Kadisha of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens,
The Murder of Alta Fixsler: Coming to the US?1:27:51
AGUDATH ISRAEL CONVENTION, NOVEMBER 25, 2021
The answer to the question posed in the title: It’s already here. Referring only occasionally to the Alta Fixsler case,
this is a report from the trenches, communicated by those literally fighting to protect sanctity of life in America’s hospitals.
The Q&A portion, which starts at 1:05:07, includes important, potentially life-saving advice.
Presented by Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Vice President of Agudath Israel; Rabbi Benzion Leser and Mrs. Leah Horowitz, Chayim Aruchim coordinators; Rabbi Shloma Sperber, parent
The Value Of Every Moment Of Life: The Torah View31:57
RABBI ARYEH ZEV GINSBERG
Rabbi Ginzberg is rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center of Cedarhurst, the founding rabbi of Ohr Moshe Torah Institute in Hillcrest, Queens,
Sanctity of Life and Hospice: A Contradiction?1:05:05
Presented by Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, director of the Chevra Kadisha of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens and the founder and president of NASCK, the National Association of Chevra Kadisha; Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Rosh Kollel of RIETS, Rav of Young Israel of Riverdale;
Rabbi Rachmiel Rothberger, Jewish Community Liaison at Calvary Hospital and Calvary Hospice; Dr Christopher P. Comfort, Chief Operating Officer of Calvary Hospital; Saraa Adelson, Calvary Hospital Outreach Nurse
from Lubavitch International Magazine
A fascinating discussion of Jewish medical ethics, applied to triage, risk assessment, and the allocation of scarce resources.
Edward R Burns, MD
from The Journal of Halacha Volume LXIX
- The halachic question of providing hospice care
- The stages of end of life, including the concepts of goses, treifah, and medical futility
- Medical services required for a terminal patient
Rabbinic opinions regarding aggressive therapy for terminally ill patients
- Controversial issues in end-of-life care, including DNR, DNI, Blood transfusions, removal from a respirator, dialysis, chemotherapy, surgery, and narcotics for pain relief
- The definition of hospice and palliative care
- Home vs in-patient hospice
- The challenges of hospice
- The importance of hospice
- Caveats in defining halachically appropriate end-of-life care
Dr Burns is the Executive Dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
Darash Moshe, Parshas Mas'ei (in Hebrew)
Articles in english
By Abraham S. Abraham, MD
An invaluable introduction to the topic.
- Torah principles regarding life’s value
- Torah approach to considering whether to provide or withhold treatment
- Permissibility of praying for death
- Specific cases of extreme pain, dementia, and anencephaly
- Examples from the author’s practice of medicine, with piskei din given him by Rav Auerbach in specific circumstances
Dr. Abraham is a recognized authority in medicine and halacha
Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz
Rabbi Breitowitz graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and is a world-renowned lecturer and author.
By Abraham S. Abraham, MD from Nishmat Avraham
Medical halacha for doctors, nurses, healthcare personnel, and patients A halachic review of euthanasia and laws concerning a goses
By Rabbi Zev Schostak from Tradition
Discussion of the role and obligation of a Jewish owned nursing home in regards to end-of-life choices and care. Based on the responsa of R' Moshe Feinstein
- Summary of a meeting between the administrator of a Jewish nursing home and Rav Moshe Feinstein, ztz”l (reviewed and approved by Rav Feinstein)
- The patient’s role in requesting or refusing medical treatment
- The view of pain and suffering in halacha
- Convincing a patient to accept treatment, including nutrition and hydration
- The stages of terminal illness in halacha
- Decision-making by a healthcare proxy
By Rabbi Simcha Lefkowitz
Rabbi Lefkowitz is the Chief Rabbi of Congregation Anshei Chessed, and serves a departmental chaplain for the Nassau County Police Department
Yoreh Deah 2, 174:3, from Mishneh Halachos
from Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 2, 73
- Situations where a sick person should be allowed to die
- Whose treatment should be prioritized: someone who will certainly live a little longer, or someone who might live many years longer
- Not touching a goses
- The distinction between a treifah and a goses
- The permissibility of forcing someone to take medication
- Whether a doctor may ask permission from next-of-kin to perform an autopsy
- Whether one may remove ovaries and fallopian tubes if the womb is being removed
- Whether a doctor may perform an abortion
- Whether a doctor may prolong a patient’s life by a small amount by making them sterile
- Whether a doctor needs to tear kriah when one dies, if they already did so earlier
from Tzitz Eliezer
How much effort should a person exert in order to prevent the cremation?