Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Organ Donation

I doubt that this made the news anywhere, but I just read (on one of my e-lists) of an Orthodox congregation which recently refused to bury a woman – on the grounds that she was an organ donor.

I’ve often said that there are two things that everyone seems to know about Judaism, which are both absolutely false. One is that you can’t get buried in a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo. That’s not true – tattoos are forbidden in Judaism, but there is no connection between them an burial. The other factoid* is that Organ Donation is forbidden.

* did you know that “factoid” originally meant a non-fact which is repeated often enough, and authoritatively enough, that everyone starts to believe/assume that it’s true?

Nothing could be further from the truth. As Dr. Michael Chernick, my teacher in Rabbinical school (who happened to be an Orthodox Rabbi and an expert on Jewish legal texts) taught us, Organ Donation is not allowed in Judaism, it is required. It is in the most literal sense of the word, a mitzvah*. It’s a requirement of Jewish law.

* another factoid: mitzvah does not mean “good deed.” It means “commandment.”

I could go on and on about this, but I’m supposed to be doing other things right now, like working on sermons for the High Holy Days. Luckily, a couple of years ago, I gave a Yom Kippur sermon on this very topic – the mitzvah of Organ Donation. If you’re interested in learning more, it’s a decent place to start. Of course, there is plenty more to learn, as well.

But, if you’re looking for an executive summary, here it is: for God’s sake, register as an Organ Donor.


Rabbi Organ Donor


Anonymous said...

Rabbi, thank you for your excellent explanation and comments about organ donation. What a great sermon! We are adding it to our Facebook book at Martin Woolf, Communications Manager, New York Organ Donor Network

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Stephen B. said...

I'm pretty sure the organ referenced by the previous (spam) post is not eligible for donation.

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg said...

Stephen - I normally take those spam comments down when I see them, but I'm leaving it up, just so that I can leave yours up, too!