Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Difficult Halachic problems

Over Pesach I was thinking about the places where halacha and my ethical intuitions clash - not in big abstract ways like the Amalekite baby problem, not in controversial ways like homosexuality issues, but the day to day problems that both halacha and I regard as settled, but where each of us have settled on contradictory answers.

One of the reasons I call myself 'traditionally observant' is that I tend (at least in the abstract) to act according to what the halacha dictates, even as I strongly feel I am doing the wrong thing. I don't have the ability to do polls, so here are some hand made ones:

1) Your cat is chas v'shalom hit by a car on Shabbat and needs the attention of a vet. None live within walking distance. Do you
a) drive your cat to the vet/phone the vet yourself
b) ask a non-Jewish neighbor to drive your cat to the vet/phone the vet
i) and stay behind yourself/don't talk with the vet
ii) and get in the back seat with the cat/talk once the call is in progress
c) stay beside your cat and comfort it as it dies
d) euthanize your cat to put it out of its pain

For the record I think 1.b.i is just over the border of not being defensible within halacha, 1.c is plainly ok, and all the others are plainly against halacha.

2)Imagine (may it not happen for 120 years) you are at the funeral of one of your in-laws and your spouse is completely bereft. They really need a hug or some other form of non-sexual physical support. Unfortunately, the niddah laws completely prohibit this at the moment. You don't think they will kill themselves without comfort, but at the moment they are unable to function except to wail their grief and beg for support. Do you
a) comfort your spouse physically,
b) abandon them for a moment to find a friend who can provide support
c) provide verbal comfort alone, while frantically looking for someone who can halachically touch them?