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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.



Monday,  11 Adar 5775 –  March 2, 2015             


            When the Megilla first introduces Ester, it describes her as an orphan girl who was adopted by her cousin, “ki ein lah av va-eim” – “because she had neither a father nor a mother” (2:7).  The Gemara (Megilla 13a) interprets this phrase to mean that Ester never had a father or mother: “When she was conceived, her father died, and when she was born, her mother died.”  Rashi explains this to mean that Ester’s father died immediately after he engaged in relations with Ester’s mother, before conception, and thus he cannot formally be termed a “father.”  And Ester’s mother, similarly, died during labor, before delivery, and thus she never attained the formal title of “mother.” 

            The Gemara’s comments may be significant with respect to the well-known question concerning the status of a child delivered by a surrogate mother, in whose uterus a fertilized egg from a different woman was implanted.  One might conclude based on the Gemara’s description of Ester that “motherhood” is established at the time of delivery, and not at the time of conception or at any point during the gestation period.  After all, Ester’s mother was not formally considered her “mother” because she was alive at the time of delivery.  As such, it would seem, in the case of a surrogate mother, it is the woman who delivered the child, and not the mother whose fertilized egg developed into the infant, who is considered the halakhic mother. 

            We may, however, refute this proof in light of the comments of the Maharal in his Or Chadash commentary (p. 112).  The Maharal explains the Gemara’s comment based on the well-known halakhic principle of “ubar yerekh imo” – a fetus is regarded as a “limb” of the mother.  The fetus is viewed not as an independent organism, but rather as a part of the mother’s body.  Therefore, a woman is not considered a “mother” until after the child exits the womb and becomes an independent entity.  Just as a woman is not the “mother” of her limbs or organs, she likewise is not the “mother” of her fetus before birth.  According to this explanation, the Gemara’s comments are not necessarily relevant to the question regarding a surrogate mother.  The Gemara establishes only that there is no such thing as “motherhood” until a fetus is born – which is different from saying that the woman who delivers the child is the halakhic mother.  According to the Maharal, the Gemara’s assumption is simply that there is no such thing as a “mother” of a fetus.  It is entirely possible, however, that if a fertilized egg is implanted within another woman, once the fetus is born we consider the baby the child of the woman whose egg was fertilized.  The fact that a fetus cannot have a mother before birth does not mean that motherhood is defined by delivery and not by conception; it means only that it begins only at delivery.  Therefore, the Gemara’s comment provides no proof to the argument that the woman who delivers a child conceived by another woman is considered the halakhic mother. 

(Based on Dovid Lichtenstein’s Headlines: Halachic Debates of Current Events, pp. 246-248) 

Rav David Silverberg       



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