Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Risk/benefit analysis in Halacha

the discussion of metzitza b'feh involved the issue of balancing the risk of harm with the benefit of performing a mitzvah. I found the following opinion on a similar issue:

In 1772 the Duke of Mecklenburg ordered that burials could not be done until 3 days after death, in order to be absolutely sure that the person was really in fact dead. R. CHaim Yosef David Azulai wrote: "If one in several tens of thousands of buried persons turns out later to be alive, we should not see this as a basis for a prohibition(against prompt burial), for that was decreed upon him.. if they erred... this is Divine Will...." from Responsa Chayim Sh'al part 2, no. 25. Quoted by Rabbi/Dr. Abraham Steinberg in Medicine and Jewish Law, edited by Fred Rosner. I wonder if he would apply the same numbers to getting disease from metziza b'feh(ignoring the possibility that the halachic imperative for prompt burial may not be the same as for doing metziza b'feh). Also, are there any other t'shuvot that put a number out like this one does?

Also, note the acceptance of Divine Will as a rationale for accepting the error that may occur.

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