Israel’s two chief rabbis issued a statement Tuesday condemning abortion, saying that terminating pregnancy is prohibited under Jewish law, except in the rare cases in which it may be granted rabbinic approval.
Chief Sefardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and his Ashkenazi counterpart, Rabbi David Lau, signed on to a letter published Tuesday morning warning Israelis that abortion is prohibited in Judaism as a form of bloodshed.
The letter notes this week’s Torah portion, Shemot (the first section of the Book of Exodus) deals with the Israelite midwives in Egypt who were pressured to kill newborn boys.
In the letter, the chief rabbis call on local rabbis to use their weekly synagogue address to raise awareness of the religious prohibition against abortion.
Rabbis Lau and Yosef also endorsed the pro-life group ‘Efrat’, and suggested local rabbis raise awareness of the group’s efforts, including their work to help financially struggling young women who are considering aborting their unborn children due to their fiscal concerns receive the support they need to carry their pregnancies to term.
“For many years, it was customary on the Sabbath day of the week corresponding to the Torah section of Shemot to publicly raise the issue of birth and the prohibition against terminating pregnancy without rabbinic approval,” the rabbis wrote. “The words of the holy Zohar are well known regarding this prohibition.”
“Unfortunately, in recent years, awareness of this prohibition has declined. Thus, it is imperative to highlight to the public the matter in its full seriousness, and to make clear that according to the Torah, the fetus must be treated as a living being. The rabbis read the verse ‘Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed’ as ‘Whoever sheds the blood of the person who is in a person.’ Who is the person within a person? The fetus in his mother’s womb.”