Human Reproductive Cloning: Science and Jewish Law

76 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2010 Last revised: 16 Jun 2014

See all articles by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Institute of World Politics; International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.

Date Written: August 25, 2010


Generally speaking, many, although not all Jewish Legal (halachic) authorities oppose human reproductive cloning, (HRC). However, many opinions opposing the practice provide a slew of exceptions, e.g. for momzerim (bastards) or for infertile couples, which dilute the force of the injunction. This paper suggests that current Halachic inquiry is self-limiting, ignoring considerations which would otherwise lead to its outright and absolute ban. Some considerations explored here indicate that HRC is in violation of the divine and natural order, a conclusion in accord with current scientific thinking as constituting a distinct biological threat to the survival of the human species.

Under traditional Jewish Law permissibility of human reproductive cloning has been formulated along four lines of inquiry: 1. whether it is permitted as being in furtherance of the Divine Plan (under the rubric of the biblical injunction V’Kivshuha – thou shall shepherd the Earth); 2. whether it is prohibited under the rubric of Kilayim (interbreeding, including prohibiting interference with the Divinely ordered propagation of a species, and preservation of inherent reproductive processes); 3. whether HRC is a mitzva, fulfilling the positive commandment of “Pru U’Rvu,” (i.e to be fruitful and multiply) overiding other concerns (essentially a risk-benefit analysis); and 4. considerations of whether the cloned organism is human, including ramifcations of secular legal obligations and responsibilities.

A didactic inquiry into these lines of inquiry is undertaken in this paper, first briefly discussing the basis on which proponents rely and then discussing five separate mega-doctrines under which prohibition would be based: Injunctions against Kilayim (interbreeding), Kishuf (Magic), Requirements of Safeguarding Human Dignity, Respect for the Divine, and Protecting Human Life. Finally, a risk-benefit discussion is undertaken, evaluating risks of human cloning if fails a benefit or utility test, i.e. a determination one cannot rely on cloning to fulfill the obligation to be fruitful and multiply.PART II of this paper undertakes a review of the topic from an exigetical Biblical and Kabbalistic perspective. It is proposed that arguments and the method of analysis discussed raised here may illuminate the inquiry as raised in the secular/legal world.

Keywords: cloning, human reproductive cloning, embryonic cells, embryos, embryonic stem cells, reproductive cloning, reproductive cloning, science, law

JEL Classification: O33, O32, O2, K32, J13, L12, L10, L18, H51, H42, D81, D63, D46, A13

Suggested Citation

Billauer, Barbara P., Human Reproductive Cloning: Science and Jewish Law (August 25, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Barbara P. Billauer (Contact Author)

Institute of World Politics ( email )

1521 16th St NW,
Washington, DC
United States
+1 202-462-2101 (Phone)

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto ( email )

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias
4200-464 Porto

Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc. ( email )

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Suite LL1
Washington, DC 20036
United States
972 54 344 6055 (Phone)

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