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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

The Religious Dance Over the Law

North Miami Beach, FL 03-26-2005
A.H. Schectman

There is much truth in the statement that death is a part of life but we are reluctant to allow death to take its natural course. We have the power to intervene and keep people alive who would be better off dead. We also have the power to kill people officially in peace and in war.

I sat through the sermon in our Temple last night and saw the difficulty our Rabbi had in coming to a decision for or against the removal of a feeding tube that had kept Terri Schiavo alive artificially for so many years. He examined Jewish law and kept finding conflicting decisions about what to do when a similar situation happened to a Jew. Of course Jewish Law has had nothing to do with the fighting between Catholic Christians over the extended or abbreviated life of one woman. It was own choice about how she looked that brought about the vegetative condition that does not even give the illusion of life despite the claims of her parents.  Her husband and her family are fighting not just about the death of this effigy of a person but about money and other issues.  The focus of the entire nation is on the ethical way of life and the ethical way of death because this woman was concerned with how she looked.

The Rabbi danced around the issues involved and never came up with a statement that was final. If he had more time I am sure he would still be introducing new arguments for or against. He examined Halakhic pronouncements going back hundreds of years and while he did not say so, what he said sounded like the old story of the Jewish way of looking at a problem.  First, there is a problem.  If you look at it there are two solutions.  If you choose either of the two you are left with two solutions and so on ad infinitum. In other words there is no solution. What we are dealing with is words and what the Schiavo case has come down to is deeds.

The secular legal solution has been a local phenomenon but escalated into a national and international brouhaha. The presidential family including the Governor of Florida came in on the side of Christian “charity”?  Just what has this dance around the body of a comatose woman brought us to? In the midst of war, hunger, disease and living human misery we take different sides about the death of one woman. After her death the dance will still go on.

I would hope that the proponents of putting that tube back despite the fact it kept her body functioning but not really alive, would see the macabre in the dance they are doing around her body. There is no one law for all of us.  We have as many laws as there are religions and I bet everyone is daily dancing to a different tune.



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