Torah For Today! This week: Womb transplants

Torah For Today! This week: Womb transplants

Rabbi Ariel Abel takes a look at the biblical response to a topical issue

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Pregnant woman looks at a scan
Pregnant woman looks at a scan

Doctors have announced that the first womb transplants in the UK will be carried out by the end of this year. What does the Torah say about this?

The single most important theme for our nation was its birth, scripturally described as the opening of the womb.

All four of our matriarch ancestors – Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah – had trouble conceiving.

God “remembered” Sarah as he had promised, and she became pregnant with Isaac.

Rebecca’s pregnancy followed a 20-year period of unviability.

Following Jacob’s marriage to Rachel, God saw that Leah was hated and so “opened her womb”, giving her seven children of her own and two more through her maidservant Zilpah.

During Leah’s birthing years, Rachel was unable to get pregnant, but God “remembered” her too and opened her womb and she gave birth to Joseph.

It is perhaps strange that our tradition chooses the blessing given to daughters to be “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah”.

However, giving birth against the odds stacked against them by nature is what constitutes the blessing.

Hannah, co-wife of Elkanah with Peninah, was “closed of womb”, and
after fervent prayer, God “remembered” her too, and she gave birth to
Samuel, the future prophet of Israel who anointed two kings, Saul
and David.

The wish to bring up a child is a great mitzvah, and should be encouraged wherever it can be.

Some cannot give birth, and whatever can be done to afford this privilege is accessory to this mitzvah.

Donating a womb is not forbidden, especially for a woman who has been assisted in fulfilling the mitzvah of having children of her own.

God “remembers” and blesses the fruit of the womb according to our efforts through science and voluntary goodwill to assist another to bear

May the Almighty remember and bless those who wish to have children.


  •  Rabbi Ariel Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to HM Armed Forces


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