By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

JERUSALEM, January 5, 2009 ( – Israel’s two chief rabbis have stepped up a campaign against abortion they began two years ago, sending a letter to all rabbis on the government payroll that claims the deadly practice is delaying the coming of the messiah, according to Israeli news sources.

Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger state in their letter that abortion in Israel is “a real epidemic, as tens of thousands of Jewish souls are being lost each year … In addition to the enormity of the transgression, it is also delaying redemption.”

The rabbis base their claim on a passage of the Talmud, a multi-volume work of traditional teachings and legal rulings, which states, “The redemption does not take place until all the souls are brought out of their storing place.”

The letter states as well that “the vast majority of abortions are unnecessary, and Halacha (Jewish religious law) severely prohibits them.”

The letter was timed for the reading of the book of Exodus in the nation’s synagogues, which begins on January 9th. The book recounts the genocidal attack on the ancient Hebrews by the Egyptian pharaoh, who ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all male babies. Rabbis are encouraged in the letter to make the connection with the deaths of tens of thousands of Jewish children each year.

Out of an estimated 50,000 abortions that take place in Israel each year, only 20,000 are legal, according to the pro-life Jewish organization Efrat, which presented the figures to the rabbis last year. The rabbis are encouraging local synagogues to work with Efrat in their pro-life activities.

See related coverage:

Chief Rabbis of Israel Rule Abortion “a Grave Sin”