Friday, May 12, 2006

Date night

Dovid and I went out tonight to see Bodies: the Exhibition in South Street Seaport. It was absolutely amazing. Completely fascinating. Check it out if you can. It's not at all gross and it really is a must-see. Schedule at least two hours for viewing. And call me 'cuz I can't wait to go again.


Irina Tsukerman said...

I agree completely. I saw it, and it was extremely fascinating. Shame they didn't let us take pictures. : ( But I learned so much from it!

Rebecca said...

that looks really interesting. I wish I had time to go!!
Anyone feel like writing a 20 page paper for me?

PsychoToddler said...

You romantic kids! Reminds me of when Mrs. B and I were newlyweds and I used to take her down to the gross anatomy lab late at night...

Good times, good times...

FrimFrom said...

When I heard about this exhibit at work, it struck a negative chord in terms of kavod hameis. I thought traditionally a corpse is only viewed for the purposes of preparation for burial. There are many halachos for the chevra kadisha to ensure the dignity of the meis etc. How did the exhibit jive with your religious views?

Chana said...

(TMI alert!!) (Too Much Information Alert) (I am warning you - although maybe you should be warned about what I saw in a lobby area if you are planning on bring kids - be sure to call ahead!) I wonder if this is that same exhibit that was at Cleveland's science center last June? We made a day trip not knowing the exhibit was there, and they had a...sliced body on view in a main body area. Maybe it wasn't real? (*ahem*) Anyhow, *I* found it disturbing, and I don't know that I would have viewed the exhibit even if I had known it was there, but to encounter even just that one "display" by surprise with my kids in tow??? Esp. my then-6 year old! The body should have been in an exhibit area so that I didn't have to rush her through. I did NOT want her seeing that!

Ayelet said...

Chana - Interesting that you feel that way. I'm considering taking my six-year-old to see the exhibit sometime this summer, G-d-willing. I think he would think it's totally fascinating and would really concretize a lot of what we talk about and he asks about all the time. I guess it depends on the person. I view it as an amazing lesson in biology and in the wonder of Hashem's creations.

Ayelet said...

FrimFrom - thanks for your patience. In all honesty, I did not think in those terms at all. I think I am so used to the notion of dissecting cadavers for science and education, that I have gotten quite desensitized to the matter. Your question got me thinking and I decided to "ask the rabbi" - literally. Aish has this great feature wherein you can ask any question (anonymously, if you prefer) and a rabbi will respond. Granted, you don't know the rabbi well but they are usually careful about quoting specific scholarly sources.

I asked:

I recently went to view "Bodies the Exhibition". it is a beautiful exhibit in which actual cadavers have been perserved and disected in order to show the inner workings of the human body. you get to see the complexity of the organs, the various systems, the skeleton and musculature, and how they all fit together. My question is as follows: What is the Jewish perspective on an exhibit like this in terms of kavod ha'mais? (These cadavers are from people who volunteered to have their bodies used in this exhibit.) And a related question: What is the Jewish perspective on disecting cadavers for
the purpose of advancing medical science and for use in medical training?

The response:

Dear A. May;

Thank you for sending your interesting question.

We should not display cadavers. For anatomy study, diagrams and videos can be used.

Donating or receiving organs for immediate transplant is saving a life, which overrides virtually all Mitzvot -(source: Talmud Pesachim 25a).

However, it is also very important to bury a person in complete form. If the body is donated to a medical school, which can have an ample supply if they buy the bodies from abroad, it is not considered saving a person. Even if there would be a shortage of cadavers, it would still be too indirect to consider medical study as a sure immediate saving of life. Moreover, bodies will stop being buried; they would all go to school - (source: "Noda B'Yehuda" II 210).

One may sign an organ donation card, provided that it stipulates that an orthodox rabbi has to approve the transplant. best is to specify which rabbis should be consulted. These rabbis should be well-versed in these intricate and important laws.

[skip message that is not related to question]

We hope this has been helpful. With blessings for success,

Rabbi P. Waldman

I wrote back:

Thank you for your answer. I found it quite enlightening. I was a bit unclear in my first question. I wanted to know what the Jewish perspective would be about viewing these cadavers, once they have already been preserved and put on display. (I'd like to recommend this exhibit to others and even bring my own son, but someone pointed out this possible issue which is partly why I'm asking)

He promptly replied:

You're welcome!

We should not have any benefits from a cadaver, even observation, unless it is for immediate medical purposes, to save someone's life - (source: "Code of Jewish Law" Y.D. 349:1; "Pitcei Teshuva" 1 there).

All the best,

Rabbi P. Waldman


Our "Ask the Rabbi" service involves considerable manpower and
research costs, and is generally only available to members.
To make a tax-deductible donation to help us continue to provide
this valuable service, please go to:

Ayelet said...

update: I heard that a local rabbi was asked and saw no problem with going to the exhibit. I have to check my sources before disclosing names.

And Shiffy, I expect a comment next time :)