Halachah For the 22nd Century

The Fringes of Technology meet the Fringes of Halachah

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Monday, May 15, 2006


Hello out there, technopsak readers. I have been kindly invited to contribute to this blog, and hope that I can keep up with Mike's level of prolificness (is that a word) and quality.

Today, we will ponder the issue of cyronic suspension, commonly used in science fiction as a way of reviving people who may have died of diseases that were not curable at the time, or as a way of dealing with the time limitations of space travel.

First of all, would one wash negel vasser when awakening? According the sevara of negel vasser that holds that it stems from the tumah of sleeping i, which is akin to death, then the answer would obviously be yes. On the other hand, if we say that the obligation stems from "yadayim askaniyot haim"- the hands are busy and must have touched an impure part of the body in sleep, such reasoning would not apply in the case of cyronic suspension. Since we have no way of being machria between the opinions, I would advise to wash without making the bracha. The case is, however, interesting because it is one of the few nafka minot between the sevarot.

Moving on, let us discuss the issue of bentching gomel. Are you considered to have been in danger while frozen? If the freezing was for a space trip, then probably that would be a kal v'chomer from an across-ocean trip, although this may depend on the risks attendant to space flight in that particular society. If the person was awakening from death, then I would also tend towards prescribing the bracha- isn't being temporarily dead just like being dangerously ill, only more so?

A final question is whether the person would say shehechiyanu for things that happen after they awaken. If they ate a fruit the day before they were frozen, and awoke twenty years later, is this considered to have been a break of twenty years, or of one day? This is a very complicated issue, for which I think we must go back to the sevara behind shehechiyanu. Is it gratitude for living over a certain period of time, or an expression of gratitude when experiencing something that you have not had for a long time? I would lean towards the latter explanation, since it depends not on the time period, but on the experience. However, this would mean that the person might not say shehechiyanu even on a chag, if they were awake for less than a year in the interim, which seems odd halachically. However, lacking a way to resolve this doubt, I would advise against the bracha (since 'safek brachot l'hakel) and suggest that for a chag, the person eat something which they have not had for a week of awake time, or else purchase a new outfit.


Blogger Nemo said...

1} Either way, a person has a daily obligation to say Al Netilas Yadayim so I don't see any problem with it. I don't believe Yadayim Askoniyot is a reason for necessitating a brocho, for when one goes to the bathroom and washes Negel Vaser afterwards {as a Hiddur} they don't bless {and they're certainly Askaniyot in there}.

2} You would probably make a Mechayeh Meitim {lol}. Also, a person who travels in space would surely make a Hagomel regardless of the being frozen as they are surely crossing an ocean, warranting the Hagomel in any case.

3} I'm pretty sure that Shehechiyanu is a seasonal bracha.

I'm sure one could think of many more Halachik issues that would result from this and one would have to find a very good Hetter to put their life on the line like that. If they're "dead" they might need to be buried.

8:48 PM  

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