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The Contemporary Use of Genetics in Jewish Law

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The Contemporary Use of Genetics in Jewish Law

A discussion regarding DNA testing in Rabbinical courts, including identifying someone as deceased, paternity testing, and proof of Jewish identity.
Rabbi Ofer Livnat - Genetics in Jewish Law  
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Halacha, Agunah, Genetics; DNA

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Boruch Fishman Tel Aviv December 1, 2020

Currently there are several families (including all male descendants of the Alter Rebbe) who have written lineages going back (male after male) to King David. Unfortunately, genetic testing of their Y chromosomes revealed that, according to experts, there are too many mutational differences between the Y chromosomes of the various lineages to believe, scientifically, that they came from the same Y chromosome 2500 years ago at the time of Zarubabbel. Rabbi Yosef Dayan who comes from one of these lineages has a complete privately published compendium of the lineages of the House of David. The list includes many famous Rabbis whose graves exist intact to this day. What does current halacha say about taking bone samples - or even DNA samples from burial shrouds - to compare and discover the genetic marker of the House of David? Based on current studies by Family Tree DNA doing enough cross comparisons could eventually lead to a determination that would be 99.9% certain. Reply

S United Kingdom November 15, 2017

Respectfully Rabbi Livnat,

How would the overt discouragement of DNA testing within a marriage be applied if the child to be born was a male child. The first born male, entitled to inheritance?

Also, the official request of a DNA test, casting doubt on the female fidelity, as this could be purely the husband's inappropriate thinking (Numbers 5), a false accusation?

Thank you. Reply

Ofer Livnat January 8, 2018
in response to S:

Despite the various monetary ramifications of who the father as, such as inheritance or alimony, the preference is to avoid the DNA testing in such cases so as not to risk damaging the child so severely by having him or her being deemed a mamzer. Similarly, accusations of fidelity should be dealt with by other means, that do not pose a danger to damaging the child's status. Reply

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