This morning I listened to a short segment of Dennis Prager’s radio show. He discussed a New York Times Magazine article on human cloning. The discussion sparked the following thought process.
There are a number of exceptionally bright and inventive scientists who are actively working toward the goal of being able to clone a human. The article stated that the main interest in human cloning comes from parents who have tragically suffered the loss of a child, and who are hoping that through the miracle of science their child will be restored to them. Mr. Prager analyzed the desire of these parents to restore their deceased child.
Life is fragile yet wonderful. Life can have profound moments of sadness and loss and also have equally profound moments of joy and accomplishment. Life is filled with celebrations and life is filled with remembrances. The unique quality of the human experience is the underlying sameness of the journey that is as varied as it is absolute. We all start the same way and we all end up the same way. From life to death and from birth to the grave; however, along the way the number of circumstances and challenges are as assorted and as many as there are people. It is the variables and “uniquenesses” of life that allow for excitement, anticipation, vision, dreams, sharing, individual growth and love. It was G-d’s intention that life’s journey is shared; otherwise, why would G-d have created two very different humans to start the human race? Obviously, as we journey through life, G-d intended that we share our differences in the realms of the physical, psychological, spiritual and intellectual.
The loss of a child is without doubt among the most life-altering and traumatic events that anyone can suffer. To all those who have suffered such a terrible loss, I extend my deepest heart-felt compassion and blessings. However, why cloning? Cloning is at best a recreation of the physical shell. Within the physical shell that we call “body” G-d placed a Neshama Tehora – a pure soul. It is not the physical body that makes the person. It is the Neshama Tehora that supplies the raw material for who and what the person is and will be. “The true dignity of the King’s daughter is internal” – not external! The uniqueness of each and every person is a reflection of their Neshama – not their physical selves.
Assuming that science will one-day successfully clone a human, the recreated person will not be the person that was. At best he or she will be the twin of the original, similar in appearance but very different in soul and personality. In fact, the chances are that the cloned double will be less alike than even a twin. Twins are usually raised together. They experience similar early-life circumstances and events. They have the same friends and the same schooling. They occupy the same place in the hierarchy of the family and have each other’s company and friendship for better and for worse. Their nature and nurture are more closely aligned than most single-birth children. However, in the tragic instance of a deceased child, the cloned “twin” would be as alone as the original child had been. Why would we assume that the cloned child would be just-like the deceased one? In fact, the fact that the cloned child would be “born” to two parents who had suffered the loss of a child would mean that he or she would be raised within different circumstances than the child who had died!
Dennis Prager rightfully concluded that if we can step away from the emotionality of such a situation it becomes clear that the desire of the parent to clone their dead child has little to do with the child and everything to do with themselves! If they truly understood why we love they would accept that who and what their child was – the Neshama of their child – could not be recreated! They might accomplish recreating the physical appearances and latent talents of their deceased child, but they could never recreate the challenges and circumstances that make each of us unique.
In this week’s Parsha we are presented with two attempts at cloning. First, the Bnai Yisroel attempt to clone Moshe. Fearing that Moshe had died and was not going to return from heaven, the Jews tragically attempt to recreate their leader. However, instead of Moshe, the Golden Calf emerged from the fires of their distrust and fear.
The second attempt was 80 days after the first Luchos had been shattered. It was the first day of the month of Ellul and G-d said to Moshe, “Cut for yourself two stone Luchos – like the first ones that you shattered.” Moshe ascended Sinai with the two humanly fashioned Luchos and returned 40 days later on Yom Kippur, 2449 with the second Luchos. The second attempt at cloning was a success.
What lesson can we derive from the miracles and limitations of today’s scientific revelations, the sin of the Golden Calf, and the successful “cloning” of the second Luchos?
The only difference between the first and the second Luchos is the fact that the first Luchos was constructed and written by G-d; whereas, the second Luchos was fashioned and written by Moshe. However, the words inscribed on the stone tablets were exactly the same on the second as they were on the first.
The word of G-d is immutable. Regardless of time and circumstance G-d’s law remains as it always was. The only thing that changes is the way we decide to relate to G-d’s word – G-d’s Torah. If we listen to the word of G-d as taught to us by Moshe, we ensure that those same words will be engraved on the walls of our hearts and the hearts of our children.
The second Luchos were fashioned by Moshe. They were different than the first that had been fashioned by G-d. Yet, the words were identical. Likewise, each of our children is uniquely different; yet, the Torah taught by Moshe can be successfully cloned into the souls of each of them.
However, if we tragically assume that time and circumstance necessitate new ideas and methods, instead of cloning the truths of the past and transferring our traditions to the next generation we will have created a generation of idol-worshippers. Their appearances might be the same as ours but their ways of worship will be false. Rather than cloning their souls in “the image of G-d” we will have fashioned for them a Golden Calf.
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA.