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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Our Secret

By Rabbi Sender Haber

I once attended an event sponsored by the Maimonides Society. The speaker was Dr. Howard Jones. One remarkable thing about Dr. Jones is that in 1978, at the age of 67, he was forced into retirement from Johns Hopkins University. He moved to Shirley Avenue in Norfolk where he soon founded the Jones institute and became one of the world pioneers in IVF and infertility treatment. Thirty-five years after Johns Hopkins forced him to retire, he was still going strong. He was103 years old when I met him and while he has not devoted his life to the study of Torah, he is clearly one of the Chachmei Umos Ha’olam – one of the scholars of the world.

In his address on Monday night, Dr, Jones told a story about the time that he was invited to the Vatican to discuss medical ethics as part of the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences. He met with some doctors and several cardinals and was supposed to meet with the pope on Thursday morning. When the pope did not come, he was led to understand that the meeting had gone the wrong way. Dr. Jones had persuaded all of the cardinals to his way of thinking and the pope did not want to hear about it. Needless to say, Dr. Jones was not very impressed with the pope.

I was later told by a member of the EVMS ethics committee that Dr. Jones shares this story on a regular basis because it made such an impact on his life and his view of religion.

After Dr. Jones told this story on Monday night somebody stood up with a question. He said, “I understand that you disagree with the pope on ethical matters, but what is your opinion? When does life begin? There needs to be some answer.”

Everyone was silent, waiting to hear what this eminent 103 year old scholar would have to say to this question.

Dr. Jones leaned forward into the mike. “There are many answers”, he said, “and I myself have sat on dozens of committees and just wrote a book on the subject. Nobody can know for sure. Still, I would have to say that the most cogent opinion is that of Rabbinic Judaism. They have an excellent system of law, they base their opinions on fact and they are faithful to the Bible”.


To be frank, I would not endorse Dr. Howard as the final word on Jewish Ethics. Still, it was a beautiful and proud moment. We have a Torah and we have a system of studying it and applying it to today’s issues. This is our secret weapon. This is our treasure. We need to cherish the Torah. Each and every one of us needs to study the Torah and apply it honestly to our lives.

In this way we will merit the awesome blessings associated with walking in way of Hashem and keeping his Mitzvos. We can teach the world about ethics and we can show the world how G-d wants us to live.

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