Rabbi, I Have a Prob­lem...

My son is a life­long veg­e­tar­ian but he has se­ri­ous di­ges­tive prob­lems and a doc­tor rec­om­mended med­i­ca­tion which hap­pens to con­tain a pork ex­tract. My son ob­jects to an an­i­mal prod­uct per se and he finds the idea of pork par­tic­u­larly re­pug­nant, but there s

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM -

IN THE first in­stance, it would be help­ful to es­tab­lish whether your son’s con­di­tion is life-threat­en­ing. If it is de­ter­mined by a doc­tor that this is in­deed the case, then not only is your son per­mit­ted to take the med­i­ca­tion but he would be ob­li­gated to do so.

This is be­cause Jewish law, with rare ex­cep­tion, puts the value of hu­man life above other re­li­gious con­sid­er­a­tions. The rare ex­cep­tions be­ing mur­der, in­cest and idol­a­try— which a Jew must avoid even on pain of death.

If your son’s con­di­tion is de­ter­mined to be non-life threat­en­ing it would not be per­mis­si­ble for him to con­sume pork or any other non-kosher food item for the pur­pose of al­le­vi­at­ing dis­com­fort.

How­ever, while non-kosher food it­self is pro­hib­ited, there is a strong body of opin­ion that holds that food which is ren­dered ined­i­ble loses its non-kosher sta­tus. In your son’s case, the pork ex­tract in the medicine is no longer recog­nis­able as food. So long as it can be demon­strated that on its own it is truly ined­i­ble, it may be in­gested as part of a medicine.

Yet some au­thor­i­ties ar­gue that if a per­son eats an oth­er­wise ined­i­ble item, he thereby demon­strates that he re­gards it highly enough to eat. This then brings the item back full cir­cle, con­fer­ring upon it the sta­tus of food.

How­ever this ar­gu­ment does not ap­ply to medicine for the fol­low­ing two rea­sons.

Firstly, the logic that by eat­ing some­thing one con­fers upon it the sta­tus of food only ap­plies if the ined­i­ble item is eaten alone. If it is mixed with ed­i­ble stuff, the ar­gu­ment falls away. Se­condly, the ar­gu­ment is in­ap­pli­ca­ble in re­la­tion to in­gest­ing medicine as a cure since it is clearly not one’s in­ten­tion to con­sume it as food.

In short, I would ad­vise your son in the first in­stance to try to find an al­ter­na­tive medicine that con­tains only kosher in­gre­di­ents. If this proves dif­fi­cult, he may use the medicine with the pork ex­tract if that is the only way to re­lieve his suf­fer­ing.

THE FIRST step is to dou­ble-check whether there is no al­ter­na­tive. If in­deed there is none, then the prin­ci­ple of pikuach ne­fesh/ sav­ing life takes prece­dence over the ban on pork. Some might ar­gue that a di­ges­tive prob­lem is thor­oughly un­pleas­ant but not life-threat­en­ing, but I think it fair to ex­tend the prin­ci­ple of pikuach ne­fesh to spar­ing suf­fer­ing. There is no Jewish merit to be­ing in pain when a means of avoid­ing it with­out harm­ing any­one else is avail­able.

An­other rul­ing is also rel­e­vant: if a non-kosher in­gre­di­ent ac­ci­den­tally falls into a kosher prod­uct, then that prod­uct is still ed­i­ble pro­vid­ing the treif el­e­ment is less than one six­ti­eth of the over­all vol­ume. This raises the ques­tion of per­cent­ages. Al­though the pork ex­tract in the med­i­ca­tion is a de­lib­er­ate ad­di­tion, it is a mi­nus­cule el­e­ment un­recog­nis­able to the eye or the palate. It is still non-kosher, but it is far re­moved from be­ing a pub­lic act of de­fi­ance or an at­tempt to cheat.

Tech­ni­cally, all non-kosher foods are as treif as each other, but pork does stand out in the pop­u­lar mind as be­ing much worse than any­thing else. This is partly be­cause it is the most com­mon non-kosher food in the high street (when did you last see bear or horse on sale?). It is also be­cause per­se­cu­tors have used it as a means of hu­mil­i­a­tion, try­ing to force Jews to eat pork, from the time of the Mac­cabees to the Nazi pe­riod. A Jew who vol­un­tar­ily eats pork, with­out any co­er­cion or med­i­cal need, is go­ing far be­yond break­ing a mitz­vah, but dis­re­gard­ing what has be­come a key as­pect of Jewish iden­tity fash­ioned by his­tory.

As for veg­e­tar­i­an­ism, al­though not a Jewish obli­ga­tion, it cer­tainly has a re­spectable role in Jewish tra­di­tion: it is sug­gested that Adam and Eve were veg­e­tar­ian in the Gar­den of Eden, and so will we be in the mes­sianic era.

Your son, there­fore, is to be com­mended on his prin­ci­ples, but in this in­stance, it may be ap­pro­pri­ate to make an ex­cep­tion with­out in the least negat­ing the rules that he still ap­plies to all foods.

If you have a prob­lem to put to our rab­bis, please ring 020 7415 1676 or email edi­to­rial@thejc.com with de­tails

Naf­tali Brawer is rabbi of Bore­ham­wood and El­stree Syn­a­gogue

Jonathan Ro­main is rabbi at Maiden­head (Re­form) Syn­a­gogue

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.