Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar sent a letter yesterday to all of the state-employed Jewish rabbis saying they would "strengthen" the efforts of the pro-life council in the rabbinate to help reduce abortions.
The letter says "the vast majority of abortions are unnecessary and Halacha severely prohibits them" and says as many as 50,000 abortions are done annually in Israel.
They Jewish leaders also said abortions "delay the redemption" by postponing the coming of the Messiah.
The Jerusalem Post newspaper indicates the letter bases the statement on the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Niddah which says each baby that is born brings the Jewish people closer to redemption.
"The redemption does not take place until all the souls are brought out of their storing place," the Talmud states.
The letter goes on to condemn "the killing of fetuses in their mother's womb."
The Post indicated the rabbis' letter said they would encourage local Jewish teachers to do more to promote the pro-life ethic in their Shabbat sermons, passing out pro-life literature to couples seeking pre-marital counseling, and developing closer ties with the pro-life organization Efrat to change public opinion.
The letter, which has the support of the chief rabbis of the council, urges Jewish teachers to devote their January 9 Shabbat sermon to emphasizing the severe halachic prohibition against abortions.
Jews point to the teachings in the first chapter of the book of Exodus when Hebrew midwives Pu'ah and Shifra refuse to listen to the King of Egypt's order to kill all male babies.
"But the midwives feared God and did not as the king of Egypt commanded," the scriptures say.
The Jewish leaders say this should be a basis for an annual denunciation of abortion.
Chief Rabbi of Beersheba Yehuda Deri has headed up the pro-life council on the rabbinic council and Dr. Eli J. Schussheim is the head of the Efrat pro-life organization.
In December 2007, the chief rabbinic council in Israel released a new opinion confirming that abortions constitute a grave sin and saying they are delaying the coming of the Messiah.
"The vast majority of abortions are unnecessary and strictly forbidden according to halacha because they are carried out even when the pregnancies do not endanger the mother's health," the rabbis wrote.
They said those kinds of abortions for socioeconomic reasons or the mother not wanting the baby at the time are delaying the coming of the Messiah, who Jews believe was not represented by Jesus Christ.
Rabbi Barry Freundel, a widely respected Jewish leader in the U.S., says, according to the Mishnah, a record of oral interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures, abortion is only permitted when a woman is in "hard travail" and her life is in danger.
He said the instances where a pregnancy poses a serious threat to the mother are very rare -- so Jews should oppose most abortions.
Not even in the most lenient interpretations, Rabbi Freundel told a group at a National Right to Life convention, is there anything that allows abortion on demand.
Before Congress gave final approval to the first partial-birth abortion ban, he obtained more than 200 signatures of rabbis from Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox traditions on a statement supporting the pro-life bill.
Last year, the oldest Orthodox Jewish Rabbinic organization in the country, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. and Canada, issued a historic declaration on voting and abortion. It said Jewish voters should not vote for candidates who support abortion, calling them "antithetical" to Jewish values.