When Jews raise their glasses in celebration, they toast “l’chaim!” “to life!” Judaism’s belief in the inherent value of our time in this world permeates Jewish law and culture, and is perhaps most clearly seen in the principle that nearly every commandment is violated in order to save a life. But how far does this commitment extend? Does Judaism support any scientific and medical progress that promises to preserve and extend life? Or are there other Jewish commitments that ought to establish limits on what we do in our battle against death and disease? Could there even be a virtue in our mortality?
These are just some of the questions Leon Kass considers in his important essay, “L’Chaim and Its Limits.” Published in First Things in 2001, the piece explores the question of man’s mortality as it presents itself in Jewish sources and names the moral dilemmas posed by scientific advancement.
In his podcast, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik joins Tikvah’s Eric Cohen for a conversation about Kass’s essay. They discuss the reasons for Judaism’s concern with the value of human life; what rabbinic tradition teaches about body, soul, and afterlife; and how the family emerges as the most powerful Jewish answer to man’s mortality.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.
- Gil Student on the Journey into Orthodoxy
- Michael Makovsky on Churchill and the Jews
- Neil Rogachevsky on the Story Behind Oslo
- Mark Gottlieb on Jewish Education
- Mitchell Rocklin on Jewish-Christian Relations
- Liel Leibovitz on the Jewish Poetry of Leonard Cohen
- Ruth Wisse on Tevye the Dairyman
- Samuel Goldman on Religion, State, and the Jews
- Leon Kass on the Ten Commandments
- Ruth Wisse on Cynthia Ozick’s “Innovation and Redemption”
- Yossi Klein Halevi on Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s “The Iron Wall”
- Tevi Troy on the Politics of Tu B’Shvat
- Jay Lefkowitz & Mitchell Rocklin on the Jewish Vote
- Yuval Levin on the Long Way to Liberty
- Ruth Wisse on Sartre and Anti-Semitism
- Edward Rothstein on Jerusalem Syndrome at the Met
- Matthew Continetti on Irving Kristol’s Theological Politics
- Meir Soloveichik on King David
- R.R. Reno on “Faith in the Flesh”
- Arthur Herman on Why Everybody Loves Israel
- Peter Berkowitz on a Liberal Education and Its Betrayal
- Meir Soloveichik on Rembrandt, Tolkien, and the Jews
- Yoram Hazony on Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom
- Jason Bedrick on Jewish Day Schools and School Choice
- Allan Arkush on Ahad Ha’am and “The Jewish State and Jewish Problem”
- Bret Stephens on the Legacy of 1967 and the U.S.-Israel Relationship
- Jay Lefkowitz on Social Orthodoxy
- Norman Podhoretz on Jerusalem and Jewish Particularity
- Michael Doran on Western Elites and the Middle East
- Ruth Wisse on Campus Anti-Semitism
- Meir Soloveichik on “Confrontation”
- Yuval Levin on Religious Liberty
- Elliott Abrams on American Jews and Israel
More about: • The Jewish Family • Theology • Tikvah Podcasts
Sign up for our e-newsletter
Stay up to date on events, institutes, fellowships, and new digital content from the Tikvah Center.