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Friday, 13 June 2014

Cloning humans

Taanis 2

As science progresses at an unparalleled pace, man is increasingly beginning to think that he can control the universe.   In an effort to explain and have power over the the world, the ancients – who didn’t fathom the workings of nature – needed to turn to G-d.   But we, in our supreme wisdom, no longer need such archaic superstition.   We can control the universe.

We’ve already been able to clone a sheep.  One day soon, will we be able to clone human beings?

Rabbi Yochanan taught: The Almighty has three keys in His hand that were not handed to any messenger: The key of rain, the key of life, and the key of resurrection.

The key of rain, as the Torah states, “May G-d open his good treasure-house, the sky, for you, to give the rain of the land in its time.”
The key of life, how do we know?  As the Torah states, “G-d remembered Rachel and G-d listened to her and He opened her womb.”
The key of resurrection, how do we know?  As it is written in Scripture, “You shall know that I am Hashem as I open your graves.”

What do these keys represent and why does G-d have sole dominion over these three spheres?

Let’s begin with the key of resurrection.  Belief in techiyas hameisim – the resurrection – is one of the principles of Jewish faith.   Why wouldn’t someone believe in the notion of resurrection? 

The difficulty people have with such a belief is that they’ve never seen anything like it.  It completely defies the laws of nature.  It’s even more difficult to fathom than G-d or angels which are associated with spirituality.  Resurrection is bewildering because it is connected to nature and yet it is supernatural.  But if you believe that G-d can do anything then He can certainly raise the dead.  And thus, only G-d holds the key to resurrection.

Moving on to the key of rain.  International media pilloried Kim Jong Un of North Korea for his recent complaint to the country’s weather forecasters.  He told them that the economy was suffering because they kept giving bad reports.   Obviously he didn’t mean, as the media suggested, that they should give only good weather reports!  He wanted them to be more accurate in their forecasts.

But our ability to predict the weather is limited, let alone our ability to control the weather.  We can plant all the right seeds but if G-d doesn’t send the rain, we will not have food.  Only He controls the weather.  Unlike the sun and moon which appear every day like clockwork, the weather is very unpredictable.

That’s part of the reason for the heated debate over climate change.  People for whom science is a religion believe that we can ultimately achieve full control over nature.  And so if the weather patterns are changing then we are responsible.   Others who question man’s ability to master the universe are more skeptical of the notion of man-made climate change.  Of course, despite both sides’ entrenched polarized positions, the truth lies somewhere in between.  We must do whatever we can to protect the environment regardless.  But we know that ultimately the key is in the Almighty’s hand.

Finally, we have the key of life.  Once we accept that only G-d can raise the dead and only He has the ultimate say over the weather, it is easier to accept the fact that He holds the key to life.  Yes, we must do whatever we can, given the incredible advances of science, to assist those who are having difficulty conceiving.  After all, G-d granted us the wisdom of scientific discovery.  But at the end of the day, we recognize that He holds the key to life. 

We will never be able to create life.  Adam was a lifeless clod of earth until G-d “blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”  Our Sages explain that the meaning of this verse is that G-d gave Adam a soul.  Absent a soul, which only G-d can bestow, we could clone all the physical matter we want, but it will remain lifeless.  Only G-d holds the key to life.

The Talmudic Rabbis in the Land of Israel would add a fourth key, the key of parnassah – livelihood, as the verse states, “Open Your hand and satisfy all life according to Your will.”  When you acknowledge the Almighty as your true source of life and sustenance, He will bless you with health, wealth, good children and your ultimate reward at the End of Days!

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