Human Cloning & the Resurrection of the Dead
On the Shabbat of the intermediate days of the holiday of Passover, in tens of thousands of synagogues around the world, the reading of the Haftora is from the famous Biblical passage of the "Valley of Dry Bones."
In this passage, the prophet Ezekiel is brought into a valley filled with bones. He is commanded by G-d to prophesize concerning the bones that they should have sinews, flesh and skin, and ultimately come alive. Ezekiel does as he is told and a host of people are resurrected.
Though there is an opinion in the Talmud that this passage is only allegorical, the majority opinion is that the bones were actually resurrected into bodies. In fact, in the Talmud (Sanhedrin, 92b) there is a discussion concerning what happened to the bodies after they were resurrected.
Rabbi Yose HaGalili says that they went to the Land of Israel, married, and had children. "Then Rabbi Yehuda ben Besaira stood up and said, 'I am descended from them and these are the tefilin which my grandfather bequeathed to me from them.'"
Skeptical? That's O.K. You're not alone. In fact, sprinkled throughout the Talmud are interactions between our Sages and Jews and gentiles who questioned the possibility of the future resurrection of the dead after the coming of Moshiach -- a fundamental belief of Judaism:
"An emperor said to Rabban Gamliel: 'You maintain that the dead will live again; but they turn to dust -- and can dust come to life?!'
"The emperor's daughter answered her father: 'If glassware, made by the breath of mere flesh and blood, can be reconstituted when shattered, then how much more so man, who was created by the breath of the Holy One, blessed be He.'
"A sectarian said to Geviha ben Pesisa: 'Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain that the dead will revive! The living indeed die, but shall the dead live?!'
"Geviha replied: 'Woe to you, you wicked ones, who maintain the dead will not revive. If those who never lived, now live, surely those who have lived, will live again!'"
"Resh Lakish contrasted two verses: One verse promises, 'I will gather them in... among them will be the blind and the lame' Another verse, however, states: 'Then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing....' How [do we resolve the apparent contradiction]? The reply is: They shall rise with their defects and then be healed."
The Midrash (Koheles Rabba) describes the following interaction:
"Hadrian once asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, 'From what will G-d resurrect man in the future world?' Rabbi Yehoshua replied, 'From the luz bone in the spine.' Once G-d has softened this bone with the Dew of Resurrection, it will become as yeast is to the dough, and from it the body will be built. The same body that decomposed will be reconstructed.
At the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, the luz bone will be "soaked" in the tal hat'chiya -- the dew of resurrection -- and the body will grow from it. (Sadly, there is proof that not even fire can destroy the luz bone, for eyewitnesses saw these bones in the Nazi crematoriums even after the rest of the bodies of the holy martyrs had been consumed and turned to ash.)
Nevertheless, it is difficult for us to conceive that this might actually take place in the most literal sense.
Enter cloning. From one microscopic molecule, soaked in a special "soup," an entire sheep grows. Its DNA serves as the prototype for the development of the entire being.
Perhaps the development of cloning at this specific moment in time, is another clear indication of just how close we are to the times of Moshiach and the Resurrection of the Dead. For technology and science are affording us the opportunity to visualize that which, until now, has been a abstract belief.