M.D.: To Be or Not to Be. A Halachic Perspective.
Rabbi Dr. Howard Apfel Gave a Lecture on What Jewish Law Has to Say About Becoming a Doctor
On Wednesday, the Lander College Bioethics Society held its inaugural lecture called “M.D.: To Be or Not to Be. A Halachic Perspective.” Rabbi Dr. Howard Apfel, a board certified pediatric cardiologist at Columbia University Medical Center and an expert in the field of medical ethics, spoke about whether a Jew is allowed to become a doctor. As Rabbi Apfel said at the beginning, it’s pretty obvious how he holds given that he’s a doctor, but the issue isn’t so cut and dry.
As Rabbi Apfel told the students and faculty that packed the classroom, many Jewish authorities appear to be of the opinion that studying and practicing medicine is a waste of time as it distracts from learning Torah. These views were more than a little nerve-wracking for the 10 or so students who said they were planning on pursuing a medical career, not to mention Jewish mothers everywhere, but their fears were quickly assuaged as Rabbi Apfel related the other side to the argument, as well as his own conclusion that becoming a doctor is 100 percent permissible.
“I had been nervous about going into medicine knowing the various obstacles that could conflict with my religious observance,” said Yossi Zanjirian, ’13. “Now, after hearing Rabbi Dr. Apfel and the insight he provided us, I feel confident that this is the right decision for me.”
Rabbi Sacks introduced Rabbi Apfel who was once his student. Rabbi Apfel is a maggid shiur in Israel at Yeshivat Torat Shraga and gives a shiur in medical Halacha at Yeshivat Sha’alvim. The Bioethics Society was created by second-year student Gavriel Apfel, son of Rabbi Apfel, and is planning on bringing in more speakers for students and the community.