Halachic Infertility: Rabbis, Doctors, and the Struggle Over Professional Boundaries
University of Haifa - Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, Forthcoming
This article analyses a public controversy surrounding the hormonal treatment of infertility associated with observance of rabbinic law to illuminate the reach of rabbi-doctor relations in a local configuration of religion and bio-medicine that I call “kosher medicine.” I combine a historical perspective on the evolution of religious laws governing menstruation, and the rabbi-doctor relations with a contemporary ethnography of these relations and laws to illuminate the interplay of continuities, discontinuities, tradition and modernity and their uses and abuses in the contemporary mode of interpenetration between observant Judaism and bio-medicine. The controversy highlights asymmetric permeations into biomedical and rabbinic professional domains. Collaborations persist as long as doctors who declare their incompetence in rabbinic law accommodate to demands of rabbis who are expert in it and also claim competence to challenge medical decisions. Once a doctor demonstrates competence in rabbinic law to challenge rabbinic directives a crisis develops.
Keywords: assisted conception, biopolitics, Israel, professional authority, religion, halachic infertility
Date posted: August 15, 2012 ; Last revised: September 27, 2012