LINK Kollel Holds “Yeshiva for a Half-Day” Program on Halachic Medical Ethics
By Rabbi Eli Stern
The LINK Kollel in Los Angeles held a very successful half-day, yeshiva-style learning program on the legal holiday of December 25th. The packed house spent three and a half hours delving into various halachic issues on the cutting edge of medical technology.
The first half of the program dealt with very important “end of life” issues as they pertain to contemporary medical procedures. The baal habatim first prepared for the shiurim by learning the sugyos inside the Gemara, the Rambam, and the Shulchan Aruch with members of the LINK Kollel. Then, Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar, LINK’s Rosh Kollel, gave a masterful halachic presentation delineating the views of contemporary poskim in the delicate issues of withdrawing life support (respirators and DNI orders), resuscitation of critically ill patients (DNR orders), pain management with morphine (which bear a risk of passive euthanasia), organ transplants, artificial hearts, and other subjects.
Rabbi Lebhar was followed by Rabbi Jason Weiner, the director of Pastoral Care at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in L.A. Rabbi Weiner related many stories that highlighted the dangers and risks of the medical establishment’s guidelines in these areas. He included several inspiring stories of how people who were given up for dead by the doctors survived and even become completely healthy again.
The last part of the program featured a fascinating shiur by the renowned philanthropist and m’chaber sefarim, Reb Zvika Ryzman. The topic was related to the recent medical “discovery” of a few women who actually have two wombs. Before turning to Jewish texts, renowned L.A. urologist, Dr. Ernest Agatstein—himself a well-known maggid shiur for Daf Yomi—offered a medical introduction. Next, Reb Zvika discussed the halachic ramifications of this discovery, in particular in relationship to the mitzvah of pidyon haben (which is applicable to the first male child that comes out of the womb). He brought a number of brilliant proofs from other areas of Shas for both sides of the argument.
It was indeed a most productive way of spending a day off from work, as well as educating people on the myriad of challenges confronting frum Jews in today’s medical climate.