"R. Ḥayyim Hirschensohn’s Beliefs about Death and Immortality as Tested by his Halakhic Decision Making” [in Hebrew]

Daat 83 (2017):337-359 (2017)
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This paper traces two contradicting beliefs about death and immortality in the writings of Rabbi Hayyim Hirschensohn, and examines these opposing beliefs in his Halakhic ruling, in the case of Autopsies. The paper opens by conceptualizing two possible attitudes regarding the relation between this-world and the ʽother-world’, and by analyzing two main beliefs regarding death and immortality in their relation to the body-spirit distinction (the naturalistic and the spiritualistic approach). It demonstrates how Hirschensohn was holding these two different views. The paper then moves to examine whether his halakhic ruling may help us in understanding which approach was Hirschensohn’s favorable belief, by investigating his halakhic ruling regarding autopsies. Hirschensohn permits to perform such surgeries, however subject to some halakhic limitations. The paper concludes that the naturalistic belief regarding death appears to be the more dominant one in his thought. Finally, I point out a few consequences of this paper, for addressing some contemporary ethical dilemmas regarding human corpses.

Author's Profile

Nadav S. Berman
University of Haifa


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