275202 Medicine and Halacha

Course Director: Rabbi Shefran

Lecturer: Dr. Eitan Giat

Academic Credits: 1

Method of Teaching: Lectures

Course Abstract:

Course goals:

The goal of the course is to understand the confluence of medicine with the Jewish law, and gain familiarity with essential Halachic and ethical issues in the modern medical discourse.

Specific goals:

  1. Learning about the main issues related to both medical practice and Jewish law; for example: fertilization, embryonic stem cells, sexuality, and so forth.
  2. Understanding the mindset of various rabbinical authorities concerning medical issues; for example: genetic testing in the Haredi community, tests during pregnancy in the Hasidic community, and so forth.
  3. Providing doctors with tools to enable them to function in observant populations using knowledge of fundamental terms that affect patients; for example: gynecology in light of the Nida laws, etc..
  4. Studying the characteristics and interrelationships between medicine and Jewish law in the modern world; for example: transplants, determining death, and so forth.
  5. Understanding Jewish morality and ethics in medical issue from the practical halachic angle.


Lesson 1          Informing patient about his/her medical condition: determinism versus autonomy; educational aspects.

Lesson 2          Thomas Kuhn Theory on the Structure of Scientific Revolutions: differences between Kuhn and the Rambam.

Lesson 3          Kubler Ross Theory on the mental condition of the patient and its impact in light of the teachings of Rabbi Kook.

Lesson 4          Moral dilemmas concerning organ transplant: educational and halachic aspects.

Lesson 5          Prolonging life for the dying patient.

Lesson 6          The definition of death in order to determine death.

Lesson 7          Brain Death: 3 definitions and their implications.

Lesson 8          The ‘Sheep Experiment’ and its scientific and halachic significance.

Lesson 9          Medical, halachic and ethical doubts concerning the fertilizations process.

Lesson 10        Ethical, medical and halachic aspects of family planning.

Lesson 11        Surrogacy, egg donation and stem cell research: ethical, medical and halachic aspects.

Lesson 12        Genetic cloning.

Lesson 13        Identifying the priests’ (Cohen) gene and its halachic significance.

Lesson 14        Medical and halachic aspects of family structure.

Grading System:

Students are required to actively participate in class discussions and to come prepared to lectures (read the required course materials). A student’s grade will be determined as follows: attendance and participation: 50%; score on final exam: 50%.