From the Desk - Organ Donations
Shalom Friends! It’s been another great week at Beth Ora. On Sunday evening, Rebbetzin Carly hosted a great paint night for the teens and, last night, our members were privileged to hear an excellent presentation from Erica Kwizak Tzabari on mental health awareness. Following on from the wonderful success of our last Kehillah Shabbat, we are delighted to invite you to our next one on March 11th in which we will be honouring the women of our community! Carly will be speaking in the synagogue and the men will be serving the ladies at the Kiddush – put the date in the diary, especially if you’re a woman. And even if you’re a man, it promises to be another wonderful Shabbat at Beth Ora. You have the opportunity to give blood here at Beth Ora on Wednesday March 1st, between 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm. This is an important opportunity to save lives and I'd strongly encourage those who can donate blood to attend. To schedule an appointment, call 1-800-343-7264. Closer to Purim, we have all kinds of events planned. After Shabbat, on Saturday March 4th, we have a special event for young families, including a beautiful Havdallah ceremony and the opportunity for parents to learn about Purim together with their children before making special food packages (Mishloach Manot) to give to friends on Purim. Then, on Tuesday March 7th, we have more fun for the kids of age nine and older as they come to the synagogue to bake Hamantaschen for the shul and Purim carnival. And of course, we have amazing things planned for Purim as itself. Speaking of Purim, if you haven’t yet seen my video message on the mitzvot of Purim and the opportunity to create friendship, watch it now! After Purim, we'll give you a few days for your inebriation to dissipate before inviting you to our special Scotch Tasting Evening on March 16th. Please see all our posters or the Shabbat newsletter for details of all these amazing events. We are delighted to wish Mazel tov to Jacob Krackovitch and to his parents, Jasmine Ghoddoussi and Russel Krackovitch on the occasion of Jacob’s Bar Mitzvah. Jacob will be reading from the Torah and celebrating on Sunday morning. On a different note, we extend our condolences to Mendy Waxman on the passing of his brother, Dave, and to Earl Adler on the passing of his father, Aaron, a long standing member of Congregation Beth Ora.. May Hashem bless both families with comfort and may they only know happy occasions in the future. Last week in synagogue, I spoke about the Jewish ‘mission statement’ to be a ‘Kingdom of Priests’ and how it involves behaving in such a way to inspire those around us to be better people. You can read more about this idea and watch a video about Aaron Feurstein who I discussed in the sermon, here. We wish you all a wonderful Shabbat, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal With… Organ Donations? This question was asked by Vice-President Steve Tabac from his vacation in Florida. Saving a life is a fundamental imperative in Judaism. In the case of organ donations, we need to discuss whether there is any downside to donating that might outweigh the positives. There are some organs – a kidney for example – that can be taken from a living donor, who is taking little risk and remains healthy. The medical judgment needs to be made as to whether there is any great risk in this procedure. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg asserts that in a situation where a person will be in danger, he is forbidden from donating an organ. In a case that presents no danger, a person is permitted, although not obligated to donate an organ such as a kidney. One can assume this to be the case, he writes, if a group of reliable doctors decides that, in this case, no life-threatening danger exists. Some organ donations involve the organs being taken once the heart of the donor has ceased to function. This can be done in the case of corneas and, again, kidneys. It is possible to object to such donations because we are forbidden from desecrating the dead by removing body parts and from deriving benefit from the dead. We are also obligated to bury the dead and not to omit from interment any limb or organ of the body. Nevertheless, Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman permits such donations because of the supreme concern for saving a life which, he opines, overrides these other considerations. Similarly, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is lenient on the grounds that corneal transplants are considered to be not the normal way of deriving benefit from the dead. Regarding burial, he maintains that since the cornea is returned to its original function, there is no requirement of burial. He also argues that there is no problem here of ‘desecrating the dead’ because restoring vision to a blind individual (even if he is only blind in one eye) certainly cannot be considered wanton desecration. It is rather, he writes, a humanitarian undertaking. On the other hand, there are some authorities who are stringent regarding organ donations after death. Rabbi Waldenberg writes that there is no mitzvah involved in doing so because the dead are free of all obligations. Moreover, in his view, it is imperative that the body of the deceased be returned in its entirety to its ‘place of origin in accordance with God’s decree’. Rabbi Waldenberg believed that, were a person to donate his eyes after death, at the time of Resurrection he would be revivified without eyes. The most complicated halakhic issue involves heart donations. The dispute surrounds whether the allegedly deceased donor is actually dead. In 1968, a Harvard Medical School committee advocated “brain-stem death” as the proper definition of death. According to this criterion, someone is considered dead when his lungs no longer function spontaneously because of irreversible neurological damage in the brain stem, even if his heart continues to function through artificial respiration. The definition of death, however, is an ethical and legal issue, rather than a scientific one. So the question must be asked, ‘What is considered death from a halakhic point of view?” This issue is the key question when it comes to heart donations. Everyone would agree that you may not remove the vital organs of someone who is still alive to save someone else’s life. That would be committing murder. So we need to know if a person who is brain-stem dead but maintains cardio-respiratory activity is still alive. In 1976, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled that brain-stem death fulfills the halakhic criterion of death, even if the heart continues to beat from artificial respiration. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel subsequently endorsed this position. Accordingly, standard, non-experimental heart transplants constitute a great mitzvah. On the other hand, some authorities such as Rabbi Shmuel Wosner and Rabbi Waldenberg oppose the brain-stem death criterion. In their view, if the heart continues to function, the person is halakhically alive, and removing his organs constitutes nothing less than murder. As we can see, halakhic Judaism accommodates a diversity of views. Those deciding for themselves should discuss the issue with their rabbi!