By Donald H.
SAN DIEGO—Liz Rosenberg’s The Laws of
Gravity, to be published this May, casts a full set of Jewish main
characters in a legal battle over cord blood in New York, making it a natural
source for reflections on Torah teachings that help us evaluate the book’s case
from a perspective beyond secular state law.
Click photo to download. Caption: Liz Rosenberg, author of “The Laws of Gravity.” Credit: Amazon.
The upcoming novel portrays
a protagonist, Ari, who is a protective older first cousin to Nicole. Ari,
fascinated by Nicole’s long red hair, is in love with his close relative but will
not admit it to anyone else. Never able to have her, he settles on a marriage
to her best friend who was plain but very funny, a regular stand-up comedian.
After Ari and Nicole marry their respective spouses, Mimi and Jay, they
continue to socialize. Practically brought up together on Long Island, Ari and
Mimi’s son, Julian, enjoys a loving relationship with Daisy, the daughter of
Nicole and Jay, seemingly replicating his father’s feelings for her mother.
But this picture goes out of focus after medical tests show that Nicole has
developed cancer and will probably die unless she can obtain cord blood from
the placenta that once nourished Julian as a fetus.
Ari had paid for the umbilical cord blood to be saved in case it was needed by
either of his children, Julian or Arianna. He now spreads the same
protectiveness he once had lavished on Nicole over his children. When Nicole
asks Ari to allow her to be treated with the cord blood, he reluctantly agrees.
But when Julian comes down temporarily with a sickness, alarm bells go off in
Ari’s head and he withdraws his agreement. He explains that the cord blood
really might be needed by Julian or Arianna, and that his child, not his cousin,
must be his first priority. Mimi disagrees.
This sets the stage for a trial in which Nicole sues her cousin to release the
cord blood— a trial that attracts national media attention and poses the
question of the sanctity of an individual’s body versus one’s obligation to
The case impacts not only the two litigating cousins, and their immediate
families, but also the retiring New York judge to whom the dispute is assigned.
A humanitarian, Judge Solomon Richter wants desperately to be able to find a
way to save Nicole’s life, but as a jurist who follows the law—rather than one
who makes it—he knows that most points and authorities are on Ari’s side of the
While the legal drama comprises a good portion of the novel, author Rosenberg
in turn examines the relationships between Nicole and Jay; Ari and Mimi; both
sets of parents and their children; Julian and Daisy, Judge Solomon Richter and
his wife, Sarah; and the Richter’s daughter, Abigail, and Rabbi Teddy Lewin,
who is instructing Sarah for her adult bat mitzvah.
Family, suggests the judge’s wife Sarah, is not of necessity a matter of blood
relation, but rather an aggregate of those to whom we are closely bound. “In
the world to come, we will find that we are all related, to the poor, the
needy, the stranger, the fatherless and the …read more