Naomi, Ruth and

Surrogate Motherhood

by Rabbi Wayland

A.  ‘A baby was born to Naomi’, although clearly the baby was born to Ruth.

a. Two approaches that appear in classical sources say that Naomi adopted the baby, or the baby had the soul of her deceased son, and so she is considered the spiritual mother

b. Would there be room to say that Ruth is a surrogate mother?

 

1. ZOHAR CHADASH KI TETZEI

דמאן דאזיל מהאי עלמא בלא בנין דאתי זימנא אחריתי לעלמא הדין… ועוד ראיה אחרא יולד בן לנעמי. וכי לנעמי יולד והלא רות ילדתו

אלא ללמד שזה עובד הוא היה מחלון ומית בלא בנין

 

One who leaves this world without children comes back another time… A proof from this is that ‘a child was born to Naomi’. Naomi did not give birth, it was Ruth! Rather, it teaches us that this child Oved was really Machlon who died without children [Machlon was Naomi’s son who died at the beginning of the book]. Even though Ruth gave birth to him, as the soul of Machlon was reincarnated, he is referred to as being the son of Naomi.

 

2. SANHEDRIN 19B

שכל המגדל יתום בתוך ביתו - מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו ילדו. רבי חנינא אומר: מהכא ותקראנה לו השכנות שם לאמר יולד בן לנעמי. וכי נעמי ילדה? והלא רות ילדה, אלא: רות ילדה ונעמי גידלה, לפיכך נקרא על שמה

 

One who raises an orphan, it is as if he gave birth to him. Rabbi Chanina says a proof is from here: the women of the neighbourhood said a child is born to Naomi. Naomi did not give birth, Ruth did! Rather, because Ruth gave birth and Naomi raised him, it is called on her name.

 

B.   Surrogate motherhood – when one woman bears the eggs of another. Who is considered the mother in Judaism?

a. Midrashim suggest that Dinah was originally in the womb of Rachel, and then was swapped miraculously to the womb of Leah.

 

3. BEREISHIT 30.21

ואחר ילדה בת ו תקרא את שמה דינה

 

And after she gave birth to a girl and called her name Dinah

 

4. BAVLI BERAKHOT 60A

היתה אשתו מעוברת ואמר יהי רצון שתלד כו' הרי זו תפלת שוא:  ולא מהני רחמי מתיב רב יוסף ואחר ילדה בת ותקרא את שמה דינה מאי ואחר אמר רב לאחר שדנה לאה דין בעצמה ואמרה י"ב שבטים עתידין לצאת מיעקב ששה יצאו ממני וארבעה מן השפחות הרי עשרה אם זה זכר לא תהא אחותי רחל כאחת השפחות מיד נהפכה לבת שנא' ותקרא את שמה דינה אין מזכירין מעשה נסים ואיבעית אימא מעשה דלאה בתוך ארבעים יום הוה

 

“If one’s wife was pregnant and said, ‘May it be Your Will my child is a boy’ – this is wasted prayer. And doesn’t praying help – Rav Yosef challenged it from the verse, “amd after she gave birth to a girl and called her name Dinah”. What is  the implication of the word, “after”? Rav said, Leah made a judement. She said that 12 tribes are destined to be born, 6 will come from me, 4 from the maidservants, that makes 10. If my child is a boy then my sister Rachel will be inferior to the maidservants. Immediately it turned into a daughter, as it says, “She called her name Dinah”. This is different because it was miraculous, or because it was within 40 days.

 

5. YERUSHALMI BERAKHOT 9.3

ר' בשם דבית ינאי עיקור עיבור של דינה זכר היה.  מאחר שנתפללה רחל נעשית נקבה.

 

Rebbi in the name of Beit Yanai said the fetus was male, but after she prayed it become female.

 

6. TARGUM YONATAN BEREISHIT 30.21

וּמִן בָּתַר כְּדֵין יְלֵידַת בְּרַת וּקְרַת יַת שְׁמָהּ דִינָה אֲרוּם אַמְרַת דִין הוּא מִן קֳדָם יְיָ דִיהוֹן מִנִי פַּלְגוּת שִׁבְטַיָא בְּרַם מִן רָחֵל אַחֲתִי יִפְקוּן תְּרֵין שִׁבְטִין הֵיכְמָא דִנְפָקוּ מִן חָדָא מִן אַמְהָתָא וּשְׁמִיעַ מִן קֳדָם יְיָ צְלוּתָא דְלֵאָה וְאִיתְחַלְפוּ עוּבָּרַיָא בִּמְעֵיהוֹן וַהֲוָה יָהִיב יוֹסֵף בִּמְעָהָא דְרָחֵל וְדִינָא בִּמְעָהָא דְלֵאָה

 

...the foetus swapped, and Yosef went into the womb of Rachel, and Dinah into the womb of Leah.

 

b. Shimon married Dinah, despite being siblings. Rashi implies that this was a special dispensation, and implies they were considered true siblings, whereas the Tur says they were considered only paternal silbings and thus permitted to marry. This implies that conception and a significant part of pregnancy determine maternity.

 

7. BEREISHIT 46.10

ובני שמעון ימואל וימין ואהד ויכין וצחר ושאול בן הכנענית

 

The sons of Shimon: Yamuel, Yamin, Ahud, Yachin, Zachar and Shaul the son of the Canaanite

 

8. RASHI AD LOC

"בן הכנענית" - בן דינה שנבעלה לכנעני כשהרגו את שכם לא היתה דינה רוצה לצאת עד שנשבע לה שמעון שישאנה

 

Son of the Canaanite – because after they killed Shechem, Dinah would not leave until Shimon promised he would marry her

 

9. TUR AD LOC

ותימא איך נשא שמעון אחותו מן האם? ולפי המדרש אתי שפיר שעיקר הריון של דינה היה בבטן רחל.

 

How could Shimon marry his maternal sister? According to the Midrash, as the main part of pregnancy was in the womb of Rachel, there is no problem.

 

c. Rashi says that one can only be called a mother at birth

 

10. ESTHER 2.7

ויהי אמן את הדסה היא אסתר בת דדו כי אין לה אב ואם והנערה יפת תאר וטובת מראה ובמות אביה ואמה לקחה מרדכי לו לבת

 

And he raised Hadassah, who is Esther, his niece, because she had no mother or father, and the girl was beautiful of form and of good appearance, and with the death of her mother and father Mordachai took her as a daughter

 

11. MEGILLAH 13A

כי אין לה אב ואם ובמות אביה ואמה למה לי אמר רב אחא עיברתה מת אביה ילדתה מתה אמה

 

“Because she had no mother or father”, “with the death of her mother and father” – why the repetition? R Acha said because when her mother conceived, her father died, and when she was born her mother died

 

12. RASHI

בשעה שנתעברה אמה מת אביה. נמצא שלא היה לה אב משעה שנראה להקרות אב: וכשילדתה אמה מתה. ולא נראית לקרות אם

 

When she was conceived, her father died  - therefore she did not have a father from the time it is possible to be called a father; when she was born her mother died – and it was not possible for her to be called a mother

 

d. The soul enters the body at conception. Rabbi Shlomo Goren said that this proves conception is the determinate.

 

13. SANHEDRIN 91B

ואמר לו אנטונינוס לרבי: נשמה מאימתי ניתנה באדם, משעת פקידה או משעת יצירה? - אמר לו: משעת יצירה. - אמר לו: אפשר חתיכה של בשר עומדת שלשה ימים בלא מלח ואינה מסרחת? אלא, משעת פקידה. אמר רבי: דבר זה למדני אנטונינוס, ומקרא מסייעו, שנאמר ופקדתך שמרה רוחי

 

Antinonus said to Rebbi: when is the soul placed in man, from conception or formation? Rebbi said, from formation . Antinonus replied – is it possible for flesh to survive three days without rotting? Rather, from conception. Rebbi said, I learnt this from Antinonus, and a verse reflects this: “Your appointment protected my soul” (Job 10.12)

e. Conversion whilst pregnant – if the baby is considered Jewish-born, it would imply birth determines motherhood. If it is considered a converted child, then conception, or genetics, would determine maternity.

 

14. YEVAMOT 78A

דאמר רבא נכרית מעוברת שנתגיירה בנה אין צריך טבילה

 

Rava said a non-Jew who converts whilst pregnant, her son does not need ritual immersion

 

15. "THE ESTABLISHMENT OF MATERNITY & PATERNITY IN JEWISH AND AMERICAN LAW", MICHAEL BROYDE (WWW.JLAW.COM/ARTICLES/MATERNITY3.HTML)

 

There is a significant dispute among the commentators as to the reasons why such a child is born Jewish and does not require conversion. Most commentators adopt the intuitive explanation that the child is Jewish because it is born from a Jewish mother.143 Furthermore, they claim that this statement of Ravah is accepted by both sides of the dispute over whether or not a fetus is part of the mother.144 Thus, they claim the child is Jewish because at the time of birth its mother was Jewish, and not because it itself underwent a separate conversion. This is in harmony with the previous text quoted which also argues for birth as the key time in establishing motherhood when conception is not legally significant.

 

Nachmanides understands this talmudic section in a different way. He claims that the child is only Jewish because it, itself, underwent an immersion when its mother was immersed.

 

This author believes that this dispute is significant in establishing whether Jewish law considers birth as critical for motherhood. If one accepts the position of Nachmanides' opponents, then it follows that birth is definitive in establishing motherhood when conception is legally insignificant. According to these authorities, the birth mother is one's true parent. If one accepts the Nachmanides position, then birth is less significant than conception or even genetic relationships -- they are Jewish because they converted.

 

f. Could Judaism recognize dual maternity?

 

16. CHULLIN 70A

הדביק שני רחמים ויצא מזה ונכנס לזה מהו דידיה פטר דלאו דידיה לא פטר או דלמא דלאו דידיה נמי פטר תיקו

 

If one attached two wombs, and the animal was entered from one to the other, is it the first born of either? It is unresolved…

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