Sumter Rabbi Josef Germaine: Issue of abortion belongs in medical, religious communities, not court


Reactions to my first article are not to be unexpected. We are living in a time when so many are afraid to voice an opinion, often intimidated into a state of fear of rejection or condemnation. We forget, at times, living in a country which not only guarantees freedom of expression but also guarantees protection against forces to deprive us of that freedom.

In my first article, on abortion, that word which causes many to retreat in utter horror, I never provided my own personal opinion. Instead, what I sought to do is provide access to sources considered by many of the Judeo-Christian community to be valid and relevant. I pointed out that this is both a moral and legal issue and was so illustrated and well defined.

In the religious community in which I was raised and educated, human life from conception is the property of God, to be protected, and any attempt to interfere or terminate that life is both immoral and a sin. As to the legal definition, I cited Exodus 21:22 as to when life legally begins. This is the same verse applied to a mother who may be in danger of losing her life during birth, takes precedence over the life of the yet unborn child. This entire issue does not belong in the court but rather in the religious and medical communities for sympathetic help and advice for any troubled mother. And yet, society fails to provide any recourse for, in particular, young teenagers in fear of punishment, abandonment and condemnation.

Unfortunately, we have in our midst clergy who make use of Biblical verses out of context, such as Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed thee, I knew thee ... " as a counter argument. I would have used God's messenger appearing to Mary predicting the birth of Jesus. But, alas, this is a historical pattern, the one who is most vociferous must be right. I'm not looking for right, I'm looking for understanding, whose main ingredient is love and sympathy. This verse from Jeremiah is a poetic way of expressing the omniscience of God, not to be confused with casuistic and apodictic laws of the Pentateuch. One has to do with prophecy, the other with case law such as the one cited, Exodus 21:22.

In closing, I would invite anyone for comment, please feel free to use my email address below.

Rabbi Josef Germaine is a professional lyric tenor who has been a concert recitalist, cantor, vocal coach and rabbi. He received his bachelor's in music and masters degree in Hebrew education. He lives in Sumter and is a member of Temple Sinai. Reach him at