Q. Does a cloned human being have a soul?
A. Rabbi Moshe Botschko, a highly respected Rosh Yeshivah, has argued that “a creature born through genetic duplication is not considered human… it will be an animal that walks on two feet, no more”. He said that God gives man a soul at the moment when sperm meets ovum, but as this is not the way in which the cloning process works, the result, whatever others might call it, is not a human in the usual sense of the term.
Professor Michel Ravel, who actually was a former student of Rabbi Botschko’s Swiss yeshivah, asserted that on the contrary, human genetic cloning is a form of artificial fertilisation which does not deprive the newborn of its soul. “According to halachah and kabbalah, the stages of the soul (in its spiritual ascent) continue gradually through life”, Professor Ravel said. He asked, “Would a change in the technique of fertilisation, using the nucleus of a mature cell rather than a sperm cell, prevent the fetus from achieving and attaining a soul?” Affirming his original view, Rabbi Botschko admitted that the rabbis who are involved in this debate tend to be permissive.
The view of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, another famous yeshivah head, is that a cloned man is “a man in every sense because he has human intelligence and the power of speech”.
Apart from its academic and spiritual interest, the subject has a practical legal side: if one kills a cloned human being, is it murder? What has one killed – a human being or some other form of creature?