Sunday, February 17, 2008


The other day, she and I went to the Bodies exhibittion in New York City. For those of you not familiar with the exhibit, Bodies illustrates how the human body - the musculature system, the skeletal system, the pulmonary, respiratory, et al. - works in an unusual yet innovative fashion: they use real cadavers.

All the bodies are Asian, and from what I understand, they were all executees.

The exhibit can take anywhere from one hour and on to go through, and we had an amazing time. Actual bodies are shown, the flesh peeled away, and - depending on what they are trying to point out - cross sectioned. In order to show the veins and arteries, for example, they inject them with a sort of latex material that solidifies once the veins are full, then take away everything else, leaving just the circulatory system standing alone.

It truly is amazing, and we had a blast.

For the record, I got the idea from her. She had been there as a requirement from school, and was fascinated with the display, and was more than willing to go again. At the end of the exhibit, near the exit, they have real preserved organs that patrons can touch.

Naturally, I hefted the human brain, and made a quip of "enjoying some nice Chianti." The guy behind the desk got it, and we shared a laugh. My date didn't get it, but didn't seem to mind, either.

Anyway, we had a very good time at the exhibit, but after I spoke with my father, I got to thinking...

My father thought that it might have been inappropriate to go to the exhibit, because of Nivul haMes (basically, desecrating the dead). To be honest, I hadn't really considered it - I thought about it briefly, but decided that since the bodies are most likely not Jewish, it's probably not an issue. However, my dad countered, we don't know for sure whether or not it applies to just Jews, or even gentiles, because we know that everything is created B'Tzelem Elokim (literally, in God's image). Thus, it's possible that the Bodies exhibit may not in fact be the best place for a nice Jewish boy to take a girl, let alone go himself.

After we hung up, I started thinking of the amazing dichtomy I was presented: on the one hand, we have this potential issue of doing something inappropriate, if not downright wrong. However, on the other hand, I can honestly say that this exhibit deepened my appreciation for the way God created us.

How often do we encounter such situations? We can rationalize everything, make it into something that we can channel towards service of God, but where is the line? At what point do we need to determine what is right, and good for us, and what isn't? I'm aware of this particular issue, but it was definitley raised again last week after the exhibit, and it lent towards some good thinking...

Any thoughts?


Moe said...

i must say i would tend to agree with your father for a couple of reasons first because you want to learn does not give you a right to do something if it is not the right thing and anyway i'm sure you can learn all of that stuff in a book. I'm sure it's not as cool but the dead bodies are not needed to get the information you need. by the way would love some more info on the date!!

Mom de Guerre said...

Consider what Rabbi Danny Schiff from Pittsburgh said:

Sunday Forum: BODIES - Don't go.

The BODIES exhibit presents death preserved indefinitely, stripped of all humanity, treated as spectacle. It is a disturbing commentary on our society, says says Rabbi DANNY SCHIFF

complete article at:

jjl said...

there is a halachik difference between using an cadaver for med school and as an art exihibit. as far as the informational side we can creaqte good enough copies for exhibit. Also there is a differeence btween those who left their bodies for science and those who just had the luck of being chosen to get killed for crimes.

jewmaican20 said...

Hey guys, I wasn't arguing whether or not it was wrong to go to the exhibit; after careful consideration and consultation, I've arrived at the conclusion that it was in fact wrong, and I'm trying to determine what the proper Tikkun would be.

However, what I wanted to discuss was this issue of being able to see things for what they are, aside from rationalization. This case illustrated that point perfectly. On the one hand, we have an exhibit that takes you into the depths of how the human body works (better than any textbook or The Magic School Bus could), and has the potential of deepening the appreciation for God's work. On the other hand, what we have here is something that is a gross disrespect for those same creations, due to the display.
How often are we presented with such cases?
Where is the line between impropriety and harmlessness?
How often do we allow our rationale to get in the way, and how do we exercise ourselves to the effect that we know the difference, and keep away from such issues.
It's not clear; there's no black and white way to decide...

jewmaican20 said...

By the way, Mom De Guerre, welcome to my blog!

The Dreamer said...

i agree with your dad.


jewmaican20 said...

It seems like everyone is missing the whole point of the post. C'mon guys!

Karma Dude Jr. said...

Hey! Mazel Tov!
May you build all kinds of wonderful stuff, yada yada... the whole bit.
Regards from the holy land.

(sorry bout the screen name bro, but i had to have Jewmaican know who I am, yet at the same time keep my anonymity)

Jeff said...

For some reason I tend to think of it simply in black and white. It is always wrong to do something good by way of a bad thing. Even if the bad thing is not "so" bad (i.e. rabbinical ordinance). Basically, the ends do not justify the means.

But then again I may be wrong.

P.S. Karma Dude Jr.: So much for the anonymity. Btw kudos on the correct spelling of "anonymity".

Bas~Melech said...

I'm with your dad.
Though I'm burning to go to that exhibit, too... the human body fascinates me. But since I'm not a medical student, I don't think it's appropriate. There are other ways of enhancing my appreciation of G-d's wonders.