‘Perspectivism’ in The Halakhic Debate on Abortion Between Moshe Feinstein and Eliezer Waldenberg – Relations Between Jewish Medical Ethics and Socio-Cultural Contexts

Melanie Mordhorst-Mayer, Nitzan Rimon-Zarfaty, Mark Schweda


The controversy between the Ultra-Orthodox Halakhic decisors Moshe Feinstein (USA) and Eliezer Waldenberg (Israel) is still authoritative for the current debate about abortion in Jewish medical ethics. There are two major ways of explaining the differences: one rather referring to the Halakhic argumentation, the other to the social background of the decisors. This study combines these two approaches to develop a more balanced interpretation: First, the pro-life and pro-choice stances in the general public are described with reference to socio-empirical research. The results of this research hint at the influence of two perspectives, one focusing on the fetus, and the other rather on the woman. The analysis then concentrates on the Halakhic controversy to describe similar differences in this field. Finally, the decisors’ different situations in both states receive closer inspection. This sheds light on how their social situatedness could have affected their decisions. This interdisciplinary approach eventually contributes to a better understanding of both Jewish theology and social research.

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