The Rabbis teach us that even the laws of Shabbat can be set aside in order to save a life. I need to ask you to do exactly that right now, in a very literal way. Without a dramatic or poetic build-up, we have 2 congregants right now who are in need of kidney transplants. Will you consider being tested to see if you’re a match?
Here’s what I know. You only really need one kidney, and live donors are better than dead. A 3-way transplant is possible, and helps assure that a transplant can happen sooner rather than later. (See this website to learn more.) As with most surgery, there are risks, and there is some pain. There is also the certainty that you’re doing everything in your power to save a live.
And this is what I know from a Jewish perspective. When organ transplantation was developed, many rabbis taught that we shouldn’t participate, and then that it was OK to receive but not donate, according to their analysis of Jewish law. Even among most Orthodox poskim (decision makers), this is NO LONGER THE CASE! As our understanding of the science, along with the development of better anti-rejection drugs, has evolved, we have moved beyond this. It’s time for us to do our part now. As Hillel said, with 2 people in our own congregation in need, “If not now, when?”
Perhaps you’re not in a position to donate right now. Have you checked the “organ donor” box on your drivers’ licenses? Have you joined the bone marrow donor bank? As we learned several years ago when we last did a bone marrow drive, because of common traits in the marrow, Jews rarely have to go without a transplant as so many Jews have been tested and registered. We might look at nurses, doctors, and first responders and marvel at the fact that they have the capacity to save lives. The reality is that we all have that ability.
In Sefer Va-Yikra, the Book of Leviticus in the Torah, we are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves. As the Rabbis tried to understand exactly what that meant, they suggested that it was about wanting for our neighbor exactly what we want for ourselves. Need I say more? And who are our neighbors? Other than family, can it be that our fellow congregants are among the closest “neighbors” we have?
In Sefer D’varim (Deueteronomy) we learn, “Choose life.” This is the opportunity we have before us today. Please let me know if you would be willing to learn more, and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.
For now, Shabbat Shalom u’m’vorach. Have a Shabbat of peace and of blessing.
Jack P. Paskoff,