Does cloning usurp the Divine prerogatives? Probably no, since cloning is not playing God but using God-given material, even though not through “normal” methods of procreation.
What is the identity of the clone? Who is the father? Who is the mother? From the Jewish point of view, what is the status of the clone if a female clonor or gestational mother is non-Jewish? Will people put in their orders – blue-eyed, not brown-eyed children; girls, not boys; athletes, not academics? Will we end up, as Robert Silverberg puts it, with “a legion of parentless, quasisynthetic beings trained to serve the purposes of the state or its master”?
The cloning question is pertinent to this week’s sidra, which deals with evaluating persons. As a mark of devotion to God, you could set a valuation upon yourself or any of your family, and donate the money to the sanctuary (Lev. 27). But how can you set a monetary value on a person?
You can assess the value of their house, their car, their business. You can find what they have in the bank. Presumably this is how the “rich list” decides how much someone is worth.
But real worth transcends the financial. Indeed the person who is really worth the most may in monetary terms have the least. Real worth depends on character, personality and, above all, uniqueness: for every human being is and has a spark of the Divine.
In particular, none has a duplicate, a carbon copy, a clone. All have their own talent and capacity, their own distillation of life’s experience, their own emotional and intellectual depth, their own soul, spirit and person-ness. Every individual is a world of their own.
No wonder that when one sees a person who looks different, one has to bless God m’shanneh hab’riyyot – “He who varies His creatures”.
All this may have its implications for the ethicists who address the moral dimensions of cloning human beings. But in its own way it has a message for each of us, facing ordinary life in the uncloned here and now.
The manner in which we deal with other people inevitably raises the question of whether we adequately acknowledge their person-ness and uniqueness.
In so many situations we depersonalise people. Someone enters hospital: they become a patient. They board an aircraft: they become a passenger. They come into a shop: they are a customer. Everyone is and wants to be a somebody: in many situations we make them into a nobody.
Rule number one of being a human being is that each of us is a person. Take this away and it is almost as if you have committed murder; you have diminished man made in the image of God.