Saturday, September 30, 2006

Alone for a Shabbos

What a strange and solitary Shabbos I had.

The dorms were deserted, except for a few R.As (Resident Assistants) who were on duty. My flight is this Sunday (we bought the tickets very much in advance, and by the time I realized I could potentially leave Thursday night, it would not make sense to change them) so I spent Shabbos by myself.

Alone in my room.

It sounds sad, but it wasn't, not really. First off, it was my own choice. I didn't want to go away for Shabbos and face all the complications of getting back in time to pack and make sure I was up and awake at the ungodly hour I must be tomorrow.

There were meals with the Resident Assistants downstairs in the lobby (bring your own food) and the like, but I didn't really want to leave my room.

My Shabbos started in an interesting matter. It started with my mind battling me, my realization of this, and yet an overwhelming desire to succumb. And yet I didn't.

You see, my roommate has a microwave.

Oh yes, she has a microwave. But she asked that we keep it dairy.

Because she's vegetarian.

So I said yes.

But then comes this Shabbos. And this Shabbos I had cold Chinese takeout food I was keeping in the fridge. No matter what I had bought (kugel and chicken vs. Chinese food, etc), I would have had to eat it cold. And I didn't want to eat sandwiches in honor of Shabbos. So I bought these delicious potstickers and the like, thinking that I would warm them up before Shabbos.

And then, standing in front of the microwave, I remembered that I had promised to keep it dairy, and that I couldn't.

What made this all the more difficult is that I knew that she had started eating meat again, but I also knew that this was conditional- it was because if she didn't eat meat at Stern, she was only going to eat carbs.

And see, here I was, and I realized that she would never know. Because who would tell her? I'm the only one in this room. I could so easily eat warm food, warm tasty food, and she wouldn't know. And would she really care? I'll just make sure that nothing drips over or anything like that. All the food is covered.

My mind tried to talk me around in circles and I can't describe how much I just wanted to put the food in the microwave, warm it up, set it down, and begin my meal. It's a ridiculous thought- most people talk about temptations in terms of sexual desires- but this was my small temptation. Except that it loomed before me, and it really wasn't very small at all.

And a very strange thing gave me courage. And that was that I wouldn't have to bear it all alone. I could tell you, or my parents, or someone, and they would give me approbation and commend me on leaving it be and keeping my promise. But I don't think I could have done it without that. I needed someone to know.

It's so hard, to be all alone and realize you can do anything and nobody will ever know.

So I ate cold Chinese food this Shabbos. Which wasn't so fun.

And I stayed in my room this Shabbos. It was an experience for me, one that I wanted to undergo. I read five or six books, having left my light on. I did not speak aloud, merely concentrated.

And by the time it reached the third meal, I hungered for human contact. For voices. Because it was so eerily quiet.

And it made me think what it would be like to live alone.
I don't just mean in a single in the dorm. After all, in ordinary circumstances there would be a buzz or hum in the hallways, as opposed to the oppressing hush.

I mean really alone. Like a college student, living all alone in an apartment. Or a seperated husband and wife, also in different apartments.

Of course, there's email and telephone service (under ordinary circumstances) but just to experience this Shabbos, where I had absolutely no contact with anybody other than myself (by my own choice) until the third meal, when I went downstairs...really made me think.

And I think I understand now about why we give hospitality to others, and why it is necessary. Because to live in that silence day after day would be too unbearable, too frightening, too disquieting. Even with books.

To come home to nothing, to go out knowing that no one is waiting for you...what does that do to a person? All kinds of things, I would think. Of course, that's why some people stay away. They go to bars, or to restaurants; they spend time with people whenever they can.

I have a new understanding of what it means to be alone, as opposed to being lonely. One can be, as the Rav and many others have written, lonely in a crowd. It is an emotion, a feeling. But just to be alone, all alone, can potentially have strange effects upon someone.

I'm comfortable with myself. The silence was not terrible, and I was absorbed in my books.

But it would be a lie to tell you I didn't smile and give a sigh, almost of relief, when I turned on the radio.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Masculinity, a Sketch

Free Image Hosting at <a href=

Please click on the image so you can view it full-size.
Now tell me...who do you think it is based on?
Thanks! :)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Was the Torah applicable before it was given?

There's a question that's been bothering me for a while.

It hibernates in the back of my mind, and surfaces every once in a while.

And that's about the Torah, and when it became applicable.
Because I've heard- I'm sure you've all heard- this approach which suggests that the Torah was applicable before it was really given over at Har Sinai.

I've always been confused by this approach. First, because I don't see how that's consistent through all of Beraishis and much of Shmos, and secondly, because I don't know where the source for this idea is. So if anyone could help me out, I'd really appreciate it.

Laws, Ideas, and Judicial Systems prior to Matan Torah as I see it (literally speaking)

1. Genesis 2:16- 2:17 : Of every fruit in the garden you may eat, except from the Tree of Life for then you will die.

2. Genesis 2: 18: It is not good for man to be alone

3. Genesis 4: 7: If you improve yourself, you will be forgiven. If you do not improve yourself, sin rests at your door.

4. Genesis 4:10 The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me (murder.)

5. Genesis 4:15 Whomever slays Cain before the appointed time will be punished

6. Genesis 6:5 Men are wicked, and therefore must be punished.

11. Genesis 6:11 This wickedness is robbery. Robbery must be bad, therefore.

12. Genesis 6 throughout: Command of God to Noah to build an Ark, specific instructions as to keeping animals and people alive

13. Genesis 8:15 Go forth from the Ark

14. Genesis 9:1 Be fruitful and multiply.

15. Genesis 9: 3-4 Man may eat meat.

16. Genesis 9: 5-6 The concept of blood-debt is introduced. If you kill, you will be killed. God will demand the blood you shed from YOU.

17. Genesis 12: God commands Abram to leave his land and go in search of another that God will show him

18. Genesis 12: 13 One may lie to save one's life.

19. Genesis 12: 17 Adultery and maybe theft/ kidnapping? (on the man's part) is not allowed. (However, this is subject to debate, because you might claim that only in this instance is it not allowed.)

20. Genesis 14: 14 We are responsible for one another/ it is meritorious to be responsible for one another.

21. Genesis 15: 9 God commands Abraham to slaughter animals for Him. (Bris Bain Ha'Bsarim)

22. God does not command but neither does he negate the idea of having two wives. It is Sarai's suggestion, and Abram does as she asks. This can be viewed as neutral for the time being.

23. Genesis 17: 13 onward: Circumcision

24. Genesis 18: It is good/ meritorious to care for guests. Also, the verse states that Abraham took cream, milk and the calf to serve his guests. The idea of not eating meat and milk together is brought up in a medrish, but from the verse itself it seems like that doesn't apply.

25. Genesis 18:20 There is an outcry that has come before God (similar to by Cain and Hevel) about the wickedness of the people of Sodom and Gemorrah. They must be punished. We also see that it is meritorious to try to defend people, as Abraham does here.

26. Genesis 19: The protection of guests is sacred and binding, to the point where one relinquishes family members before them (not God's command, but possibly a custom of the time. Either way, shows it is meritorious to care for guests.)

27. Genesis 20: Adultery/ kidnapping is not allowed. HOWEVER, God judges people based on their intentions rather than acts (Avimelech is judged on the innocence of his heart.)

28. Genesis 20:11 Fear of God is necessary in a city before you trust to its inhabitants' kindness.

29. Genesis 20: 17 Prayer works!

30. Genesis 21: 12 Heed the voice of your wife (this might refer ONLY to Sarah, in this instance, or could be a law for everyone.)

31. Genesis 22: 1 Take your son and bring him as an offering (by the way, do you notice the verse doesn't say the words "Kill him?" Only "bring him as an offering." In hindsight, it's perfect phrasing.)

32. God helps Eliezer with the sign as to whom Rivka is. However, this is not considered a good thing by everybody, so we can't really learn from here that it's okay to make God perform signs for us.

33. Genesis 22: 57 The woman has to agree to travel with a man (potentially also has to agree to the marriage.)

34. Genesis 25: 31 We learn about legal binding sales- first, that one is ABLE to sell a birthright, and secondly that a legal sale involves some kind of agreement- here, it is food.

35. Genesis 26: 5 Abraham apparently obeyed God's "voice, safeguards, commandments, decrees and Torahs."

36. Lying to save lives/ taking women to sleep with kings motif again

37. Genesis 26: 25 Isaac builds an altar (sacrifices are good.)

38. Genesis 28: 20 Jacob decides to bargain with God. God will do X, Y, Z and I will tithe my wealth and give it over to Him.

39. Genesis 31: 3 God commands Jacob to return to Israel.

40. Monument-making motif appears again (first time was with Avimelech, this time with Laban)

41. Genesis 34: 7 Intermarriage is not okay/ He had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with a daughter of Jacob!

42. Genesis 35:1 Go make an altar.

43. Genesis 38: 9 Masturbation is not okay. (You know, in this context it actually seems that the spitefulness of what Onan was doing is the problem- he wasn't willing to build up his brother's house/ have children that would be the spiritual children of his brother. So how do we learn from this that masturbation on a whole is a problem? I guess it's probably learned from a different verse.)

44. Harlotry. It seems that men could consort with harlots, no problem, but Jewish women (or I guess, betrothed Jewish women? For Tamar was, after all, betrothed) could not be harlots, and moreover could not/ should not conceive through harlotry.

45. Genesis 39:10 Adultery is considered a sin against God.

46. Genesis 41: 38 One who foretells events accurately is considered to be a person in whom 'the spirit of God' resides.

47. Genesis 44: 4 It is considered evil to steal (granted, the brothers didn't really steal, but the word is used here.)

48. Genesis 46: 3 Do not fear descending to Egypt.

49. Blessings of Jacob: Impetuosity, rash anger, and rage are bad qualities to have.

50. Genesis 50: 17 What the brothers did- the sale of Joseph- is considered a sin.


All right. So by the time we've concluded Genesis, we've figured out some societal norms, alongside some specific laws God has given us. Circumcision, procreation, and not spilling one's seed (or perhaps, being spiteful) are all commands/ laws. We see through example that killing is bad (Cain and Hevel) and we also see that God will demand the blood we spill from us later on, by Noah. The idea of sacrifices and building altars is prevalent throughout Genesis.

As for relationships, however- God does not seem to intercede, doesn't seem to be pro or con- having many wives. He doesn't tell Abraham not to take Hagar, and we see that the Jewish people descends from all four of Jacob's wives, so it seems that there is some sort of implicit agreement that this is all right.

In many situations, we see deception and lies that seem to be all right (lying to save lives, lying to get the birthright), or at the very least, God doesn't become angry and rail at the perpetrators.

Intermarriage doesn't seem to work (Dinah and Shechem) and neither does harlotry (Tamar.) Men cannot sleep with married women (Joseph.) So there are certain key, cardinal ideas that are in place/ enforced.

However, the idea that is often brought down is that the forefathers were observant of the whole Torah. I don't see it. How is this possible? From where? And how does that work with circumstances like the meat-and-milk situation (which, as it is derived by the Sages, may not be such a strong example, however)?

In Chumash class, I learned that Phaorah had the ability to quote halakha to the midwives. Now, that really boggles my mind, especially as later on Pharoah claims that he does not know of this Hebrew God. To solve that problem, my Chumash teacher brought up the Tanchuma, which states that Phaorah began by claiming that he "did not know Joseph" (the key statement written about him) and went down a slippery slope, so that just as he did not show gratitude to Joseph and decided to forget him (because it's impossible he wouldn't have heard about him and how he saved all of Egypt), so too he reached a point where similarly, he "didn't know God."

Okay. That works, I suppose. But how can we really say that Phaorah had the ability to quote halakha to the midwives? If Pharoah knew the Torah so intimately that he was able to quote halakha to the midwives, wouldn't he have believed in God? Wouldn't he have known that it was inevitable that he lose this fight? Why would he have taken on such a strong God?

It's the Torah Temimah who states that Pharoah knew the halakha. He's writing about Exodus 1: 16

"What?" he begins. "The Pharoah needs to tell the midwives the signs of childbirth?" No, rather, the Pharoah was well aware that the midwives would not commit murder. Therefore, he explained to them that there was a way of killing before the infants exited into the atmosphere (were delivered from the mother.) There's an idea that a gentile who kills a baby before the baby's head protrudes from the mother's womb is found guilty/ may be put to death, but a Jew who does so is not put to death. So the question becomes, at that point in time (prior to the giving of the Torah) were we judged by the Noachide code or as full-blooded Jews?

This really, really confuses me. How would Pharoah possibly know this? And if he did know the halakha, doesn't it make sense that the midwives would know it, too- after all, this is their religion, isn't it? But most importantly, how is Pharoah quoting halakah before the Torah was given? And how does this idea of how we are judged- in accordance to the Noachide code or the Judaic code- even apply at all?

What is the source for this? I don't know the Torah Temimah well at all. Is this a common stance of his- this idea of the Torah and even the halakhot being practiced before it was officially given? And what is the source for this idea at all?

Moreover, why would the Torah have been practiced/ needed to have been practiced prior to its officially being given to us?

And how does the idea of Moshe marrying Tzipporah (who is the daughter of a Midianite priest, and therefore a Midianite) work at ALL if the people were already practicing the Torah? I thought that the whole defense of Moshe to Zimri ought to have been/ was that he, Moshe had married Tzipporah before the Torah and its laws applied, whereas Zimri wanted to sleep with Cosbi now, after the Torah had been given, and it was forbidden!

Anybody who knows, I'd really, really appreciate some explanations.

This is how I feel

This is how I feel.

I wish I could write a self-mocking post in which I parodied myself, made fun of the fact that I care about this at all. But I can't. I tell the truth, and the truth is that I'm upset- no, I'm pretty angry, which goes further than upset- about this.

As you may know, there are two newspapers published at Yeshiva University. One of them is pretty famous, The Commentator. The other one, The Observer, is not often read at all. As a result, The Observer wants controversy. Give us blood! Give us guts! Give us vim and venom, and we shall be happy.

Well, I can do controversy very well. But I don't do contoversy simply to stir-up shark-infested waters. I do it when I feel it's necessary, when I feel like I am telling the truth.

And honestly, the first article I wanted to write was going to be a highly angry, irritated one.

Except that my parents really didn't want me to start out that way, and preferred that the first article I wrote be nice. Polite. Kind. Just so I could start off on the right foot.

And since at the point in time when I wrote the article, nothing of great import had occurred (read- this was before the Darfur Rally, the Israel Rally, the Organ Donor Conference, etc,) I picked the first topic that came to mind- the first one that had any sort of impact on me. And I knew when I submitted it that it might not be okay, it might not be news-worthy, because it really wasn't news so much as an observation, something I thought and felt, an editorial type of piece. Perhaps it really didn't and doesn't belong in the newspaper.

But don't I deserve to be told it doesn't belong there?

Oughtn't I to be informed that the article was refused, cut, and so on and so forth? Firstly, because by that time things of import HAD occurred, and there's a pretty good chance I could have written some interesting things about the speeches and events I had attended which were news-worthy, and secondly so I wouldn't feel like a humiliated idiot, the way I do now.

Not that I went around telling the whole WORLD I was going to be published in the newspaper, but sure, I was pretty happy and did tell some people to expect a simple article from me.

And now I feel, as you can tell, humiliated. Embarrassed. And when I'm embarrassed, of course, I get angry as opposed to feeling contrite.

Now supposedly the chief editor informed the opinions editor that my article wasn't good. But she never followed up to make sure I was told, and she didn't CC me on the email. So I got the shock of my life when The Observer came out and I realized that all my friends and companions had published articles...while mine did not exist.

Now, I freely admit in retrospect that my article was really NOT an article. It wasn't about a news-worthy topic. It may not have belonged in a newspaper. I RESPECT THAT. But I also want to be TOLD about this in advance! I don't want to be made to feel like a bumbling incompetent idiot who can't even write well enough to be published by the no-good newspaper.

Nobody likes feeling inadequate, and I like it least of anyone. But this isn't even inadequacy....this is shame. Because I'm the one who is supposed to be good at English. Who is supposed to be good at this. And yet my article? Doesn't make it in.

Yeah, I'm not feeling too happy right now. I actually feel pretty lousy.

Here, by the way, is the article. And by the way? I really meant it when I wrote it. I still mean it. I don't write things to be a cutesy-nice good Jew. I write them because I think they're true. And I am willing to accept that this piece doesn't belong in the newspaper. It's not even really written in a journalistic style. Well, what do I know? This is my first time here! Just please, do me the favor of telling me first. So I'm not embarrassed in public. Like I am now.


The Invisible People
By Chana

There are people we ignore as we pass by, preoccupied with our schedules, our lives, the newest events taking place and affecting our loved ones. We do not ignore them out of malice, but simply because we cannot take the time to notice them, bogged down with work and exams the way we are. They are people we see everyday, people we might think of momentarily as we dance through our day, but they are not people we truly consider.

We do not consider their lives, their ideas, their philosophies, what it is that makes them special or makes them important. We do not even really see them; for all we know, they are wholly invisible. And this is sad, because these people are special, and we spend much of the day in their company.

These are the cafeteria workers.

Three meals a day (or contrived snacks, instead, for when one has no time). Three stops as we pass by these men and women, looking at them for a moment as we request our food, sometimes making faces at it or commenting upon its odd or intriguing appearance. We try to cajole them into giving us what we want; two sides of rice instead of the green beans, an extra fish patty instead of rice. We may joke with them for a moment but we promptly forget them, dancing along to our classes, chattering on our cell-phones, wandering about aimlessly in search of people we know so that we will not sit alone in the cafeteria.

What makes these people important to me? Why do I notice them? It is in their faces, their calm demeanor as frightening crowds of people rush against them, pushing against glass windows to stare at the contents concealed within. They have spoken to me, wished me a good day and told me that since I am sweet, they will be sweet with me. They have thanked me. They have acted as people in every sense of the world, people who are funny and sincere and fabulous, and yet, somehow, the majority of us treat them as living machines.

As I have previously mentioned, it is not done out of malice. I do not believe that those assembled here are cruel, and ignore our cafeteria personnel out of some snobbish sense of self-righteousness. It is simply because we want our food, and we are irritated when it does not come as it should come. We are upset when the sleeves for the hot cocoa or coffee are missing and we burn our fingers, annoyed when we run out of ketchup, tap our feet impatiently when there is no more ice.

And yet who do we think sets up this cafeteria for us? Little gnomes or elves who dash about in the mornings to make it pretty? There are people, real people, spending their time putting out forks so that there will be enough for all of us. Did you ever consider how many forks students use per one day? After two meals or so, everything has to be replaced. Continously replaced.

There are so many aspects to the cafeteria. In many ways, it is the main cultural center, the meeting-place, where we bump into friends, acquaintances, perhaps enemies, where we read signs posted merrily on walls in attempts to locate books we’d like to buy or events we’d like to attend. We stop by multicolored sprinkled cupcakes and hear about various clubs. Food and talk, this is the cafeteria, with the occasional reader or homework-doer sitting quietly as well.

But who is it that prepares our food? That serves it to us, listening to our complicated requests? Who replaces forks, knives, spoons, sets out sandwiches and yogurt each morning? Who pours the soup into the tureens, prepares the scrambled eggs, sits patiently at the register and swipes our cards? Who sees us at our best and worst, smiling as we thank them for our lunch or scowling fiercely as we yell at an unseen-person on the phone? The cafeteria workers have seen us at our best and worst, at our most insensitive and our most grateful. They bear silent witness to all that we are, and also what we are not.

How many of us wish them a good morning? Do we inquire after their health? Are they satisfied here? Are they happy with us? Not all of them are. For example, one worker stated that it is unfair that students treat them as though they are waiters and waitresses. If this were a restaurant, the waiters would indeed clean up after the students. Not so in college. “Your mother doesn’t work here,” a sign at Great Chicago, a hometown restaurant, used to say, “so clean up after yourself.” It is appalling to see the strewn cups, Styrofoam containers and condiments, lying scattered about tablecloths when there are about ten garbage containers specifically set aside for those contents. How hard is it for a student to pick up her Styrofoam bowl and throw it in the trashcan on her way out?

But we prioritize. We’re in a rush, or perhaps we assume the workers have nothing better to do than act as servants, hanging on our every beck and call. After all, we rationalize, they’ll have to clean up the tablecloths anyway. Who cares if I leave my mess everywhere? The fact is, they do, because you create large and unnecessary amounts of work for them when all they want to do, like us, is return home and conclude the end to a very long day.

So appreciate the cafeteria workers. Appreciate them for the insights they doubtless have about us, about our characters, about who we are and what we are. They know us very well, for they see us each day, three times a day. Do you notice them? Do you say hello? If you did, perhaps you might come to know them, too. You might come to realize the beautiful, wonderful job they do; the kindness that they have. The workers I have seen never fail to wish me a good day, to smile at me, even to tease me and claim that they’ll call my parents because I’m not eating my vegetables. These are people, people with a sense of humor, of justice, of values, real people who are just as good- if not better- than we are.

They are beautiful, beautiful people. And I thank them so much for all that they do, for their smiles, their buoyant comments, the way they are able to impact my day so positively…without even trying.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

V'Shavu Banim Speech- Speech from Family of Udi Goldwasser, Kidnapped Israeli Soldier


...this is run in conjunction with the Israeli Consoluate. We are joining together at the time of Rosh HaShana, doing teshuva (repentance), returning to ourselves, implementing our loving relationship with God, the postive way that things should be. We are gathered here tonight to hear from people who yearn, not just for the return of soldiers, but brothers, husbands, sons.


Thanks...this is an extraordinary program...the Israeli Committee has been working nonstop to be here. President Joel wanted very much to be here but had a prior engagement. He asked me to say a few words for him (he reads from a paper)

We are approaching Rosh HaShanah, yom hadin (the day of judgement)...Eihud Goldwasser to our community- all of us stand together in demanding the return of Eihud, Eldad and Gilad Shalit. We stand united for them to be released from captivity to freedom.

The UN General Assembly has opened, the world has ____, Muslim and Western World are at odds with each other. We want to remind the world and the UN of how this ordeal began...kidnappings. While things are thankfully quieter in Israel the situation is hardly resolved. Goldwasser, Regel and Shalit are still captives.



Tahnk you very much- thank you for coming out here- friends of the conslulate; when I called President Joel, I called knowing what the answer would be. We are approaching the Yamim Noraim (the High Holidays) and are already in the midst of Slichos and thoughts of teshuva (repentance.) Teshuva means to return, shav, shuv, the root of the word is to return, to come home. And we want to bring home, to return the captives, in as speedy possible a way, to unite the families once again, to correct a situation that needs immediate correction.

Goldwassers are here representing the Shalits and Regevs who are just arriving now and will be here tomorrow. We need to keep this on the front pages, on the political agenda; we need to keep this relevant until they (the soldiers) come home.

It is a privilege to be with these people (talking about the Goldwassers...) they are tremendous sources of strength, and will keep on going as long as they need to. We stand here today to show that we are one large united Jewish family- Eihud or Udi, when they are not with them, when he or Eldad or Gilad are not with them, they are not with us either, and we too feel their loss.

We have come here to hear from Karnit (Udi's wife) Shlomo (his father) and Mickey (or Nicky? I couldn't hear.)




I am Karnit, Udi's wife- here's Udi's father, and Udi's mother.

We came here to tell the story of Udi, Eldad and Gilad.

Udi and Gilad were kidnapped July 12th. On that day, Udi and me where in Israel. His parents were in _____. It was his last day in the reserves, a few hours before coming back home, he was packing his things, going to be back home- and then July, he was kidnapped.

There is a procedure when he comes back from the army- I cook for him his best food; the army's good, but the food is not so good (laughter). The day before we were discussing what I was going to make him for lunch.

So I was in the kitchen, preparing, this is what I did that morning- I turn on the radio, hear something bad happened near Zarit (did I hear wrong?) and I know his base is in Zarit. So I text him, I send him an SMS message and he doesn't answer. I start to call him and I start to be worried- at that time, we now know, he was already in Lebanon.

So all my friends are calling to find out whether I have heard from him, and I have not, so the geographically closest friend came over to stay with me.

It was at 3:30 that afternoon that officers came to announce Udi's missing. They said that 7 soldiers had been killed and 2 soldiers had been kidnapped.

We didn't know which one, till 11 PM- we were thinking maybe he's dead, maybe not- in my mind I thought he was dead, but my heart said he was not dead.

They told us at 11 PM that the last soldier was identified, and we see that Udi's not dead, just kidnapped. It was not joy but a kind of joy, a unique joy to know that Udi's just kidnapped- we can do things, we have the power to do things.

-So we made a phonecall. We called the Regev family- told them we're not going to sit, we're going to do soemthing, bring them back. And we called the Shalits, told them the same thing- he had been kidnapped 3 weeks earlier.

We became one big family.

We need your help- tomorrow there will be a big rally, we need your help to strengthen us; it is written on the UN resolution that they should be released.

All 3 of them celebrated their birthdays in captivity.
Gilad- August 16, he turned 26
Udi, July 18, 31 years old
(listed the other soldier as well)

My first anniversary is October 14. I want to celebrate it with my husband, both physically and emotionally. I got married 11 months ago. I have him in my veins; he is my soulmate. He is missing, but not in my mind.

Every night I write him a letter because I want to remember what I did each day to help him. Tongith I will write him what I did today- about you.

We heard rumors that they're injured, in which case this is not just "pidyon sh'vuyim" (rescuing captives) but saving lives.

This is about life. About family. I had a life. But now- every since July 12- I have not had a life. I do not count the days. They do not matter to me. I only want to see my soulmate, the love of my life again. I want to get back the love of my life.

For us, for our family- it is not going to be a happy Rosh Hashana. To be honest, I don't really care if I'm going to celebrate it, because he's not here.

I want to have children with my soulmate, with the love of my life.

I once promised I would bring him the moon. I want him to be back and to sit with me on a bench, and we will watch the moon, and will watch our children- I want to have children with him-to sit on a bench and to see that.

Thank you.


Karnit is very good in this and not in this only.

Udi was kidnapped. Udi and Eldad were kidnapped 68 days ago. Since then we had nothing of them.

The government declared war against those who kidnapped them, aiming to bring them back but we all know in Israel, especially in the northern part of Israel, we know that this war, the reasons fo rthis war, are not only to bring them back.

Exposed to intimidation of Hizbollah already 6 years, since we pulled out..there have been small intimidations, here and there...Israel relying on fulfilling the agreements, agreed in 2000 to pull out of Lebanon.

I remember other wars- I was participating in the 6 Days War- that war finished with a bang with a bomb, we called it, and since then lots of time passed and there's nothing like this anymore.

A couple days after the war our commander, (he pronounced it Gora-dEE-scho; I'm ashamed to say I have no idea who that is) said that this is the last war of Israel and his son won't go anymore to the army. One and a half years later there was another war.

Udi and Eldad were kidnapped 6 years after being pulled out of Lebanon. In those 6 years, Hizbollah armed themselves up to their necks with Katyusha missiles, 15,000 missiles with the help of Iran and Syria. And anyone who travels the border sees it's not such an easy thing- (implies that it was a long time coming/ happening.)

While they armed themselves, the Israeli side developed bed and breakfast and developed the tourism-wishful...(sighs) everyone wants peace.

The President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, says every now and then his goal is to finish Israel...we didn't believe him, after this war we see that his threat is true...after one or two years more, he could do it.

I'm not an expert, so I tell you what we are hearing in Israel from those coming back from the war. UN decided to put a buffer between Israel and Lebanon, a buffer without missiles- and we who live in the northern part of Israel are hoping it will succeed.

We are here now in New York to make sure 15 countries that participated and made resolution 17-01 will stand behind the resolution and see that not only Israel is fulfilling its responsibilities but that all the other countries fulfill.

Our sons were captured 68 days ago. They are mentioned in the resolution, paragraph 3, and are supposed to be released "unconditionally."

In the meantime Israel moved out, waived blockade on Beirut and fulfilling all its conditions.

We are here to raise our voice and hope someone will hear it.

Tomorrow there's going to be a big rally organized by Jewish community- one of our goals is to ____.

I hope that everyone will be there.

And I'm looking at you and I'm sure that you will be there.



Say just to reiterate the message of the rally...I know it's not just world leaders who hear you, or Jews, but also Gilad, Udi and Eldad.


GIRL: I saw you talked to Kofi Annan and he said he'd make every effort to bring them home. Was he in contact with the Italian Parliament person...?

SHLOMO (FATHER): Every effort and any effort, anyone whome we meet are singing...even our Prime Minister says we are doing anyting, everything, any effort, our real problem is that Nasrallah (and Hamas? I think he said Hamas) doesn't say it, if anyone knows how to make him say it, he will be blessed.

KARNIT: Secretary-General said he'd do anyting, and I believe it. Prime Minister said so. We want them to come back and bring back. There are two lives when you are captured- one life until someone comes to visit you and another from the moment someone comes to visit you. Udi will feel much better if someone will come to visit him.


DIFFERENT GIRL- She gave a beautiful speech which I can't possibly reproduce in which she indicated her deep, deep thanks to the Goldwassers- she said that they claim to thank us, when in truth we should be thanking them- it was very, very heartfelt.

KARNIT: In age, it doesn't matter who we speak to...We're coming to ask your help. You can say your words. This is the time to help us, to take the action, to say to the Red Cross, the United Nations, to say we the family, we the Jewish community are not alone...people should not just be kidnapped- this is the time to do the actions.


ANOTHER GIRL: Do you make a connection with family of soldiers kidnapped from before?

KARNIT: Yes, to soldiers from 2000 (she listed the family names) they came on their own when Udi was kidnapped...we met several people who had been kidnapped/ how it is to be in captivity, what they felt, what it was like which is what we now tell you.

SHLOMO: We met the pilot, the pilot who flew Karnit and her father here...he was also Syria...

KARNIT: There is a union called Irin Ba'Lailah (____ in the Night), a union of people who have been there, soldiers, reservitsts who've been there.

(someone asks about prisoner exchange)

Prisoner exchange...Chanan Tennenbaum was the last one but he wasn't a soldier, he was a businessman and before him was in the 80s...____Shai, reservist, married, his wife wasn't pregnant, 27 years old.

Thank you. (from SHLOMO and KARNIT)



...thanks to everyone, every student came to say we're with you (looks at Goldwassers) we're part of this.




STAR-SPANGLED BANNER (what was that about?)



Thanks a lot to the people involved in this-
Olivia from the Israeli Consulate
Dr. Dean Schwartz
Mr. Benjamin...... (who just left the room)
Aviva Horowitz, all the other students
All the students who are here

Reminder about the rally- it's at 12:00 tomorrow, 2nd Ave and 42 Street

Petition outside- is the YU Israel Club
And we're selling ties outside and collecting tzedaka for Israel from them

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur: Experience and Emotion

"...A Jew is not only supposed to know what Yahadut stands for and to have knowledge of Yahadut; he is also called upon to experience Yahadut, to live it, and to somehow engage in a romance with the Almighty. Knowing about Yahadut is not enough; it is a norm to be implemented and experienced. It is to be lived and enjoyed. It is a great drama which the yeled zekunim must act out after observing the av zaken.


But one trick I have not mastered. One thing I cannot do to perfection is to tell my students how I felt on Rosh Hashanah and Yom ha-Kippurim when I was their age. The emotions I experienced, and not what I knew about it. I knew a lot, and they know a lot. But what I felt on those days! How I lived it! I am unable to share with them what I experienced, for instance, when the shaliakh tzibbur [cantor] used to chant and sing: Veha-kohanim veha-am haomdim ba'azarah ["When the priests and the people who were standing in the Temple court"; from the Avodah, the procedure of the Temple service, which is recited as part of the Musaf of Yom Kippur, High Holiday Prayer Book, trans. Philip Birnbaum, p 816]. If you know the melody, you will agree that there is so much nostalgia, so much longing and melancholy in this tune, in the melody of Veha-kohanim veha-am haomdim ba-azarah. I felt as if I had been transferred in time and space into a different world. I felt that I was in the bet Hamikdash [Holy Temple]. How can I explain this to my students? I can tell them about it but I cannot pass on my experiences to them!

Or how can I pass on the emotion I felt on Kol Nidrei night when the congregation responded amen to the cfhanting of the Shehehyianu blessing. It is difficult to transfer experiences and not just concepts; to give over themes and not just numbers. To pass on feelings, to tell the story of both inner restlessness and serenity, to relate the narrative of joy and awe, of trepidation and at the same time equanimity in one's heart, one must not use words. Words cannot explain it. Instead an unusual medium must be utilized: silence. The melamed of old in my heder knew how to pass on his emotional acquisitions, his ecstatic experiences, and his mystical outlook on life. He knew how to pass this on to his pupils without saying a single word.

Of course these experiences can only be passed on in the fashion that one passes on a contagious illness. How do you communicate a disease? Through contact! And contact is the secret of passing on the experiences of Yahadut. The skill of somehow communicating with the soul of the person is not through the spoken word but through the art of silence.

However, it is very difficult. I have not entirely succeeded in passing on this part of Yahadut. But youre teachers in your highschool will. They will be more successful. They will arrange the rendezvous between the av zaken and the yeled zikunim.

~ Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik in 'The Rav: The World of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik' pages 178-179


Dear God,

This is a letter to describe to you my most personal and true feelings, the ideas that I cannot visualize when I am caught within the confines of four walls, when I am told that I should think about you, that I must envision you. It is at those times, when I stand in the synogague, that I am most apt to draw a blank, even though I try very hard to see you, the way I see you now, or during the moments when you are with me.

Whenever I am thinking, truly thinking, I think of you. My greatest flashes of inspiration are inspired by you; my appreciation of works, even works that deny your existence, is similarly inspired by you. You are in everything that is brilliant, that is thoughtful, that is damned and condemned. You are everywhere. There is nothing that is too small or too large for you, nothing over which you do not wield either power or feel compassion. You are aware of all things.

And when I see you, at the moment, when I see you as I type this, I imgaine you as someone loving, loving but judgmental. You expect things from me; you expect me to fulfill my potential, to be who I was born to be. You expect my submission, something which I have yet to give you. I hate the idea of submission. I like to resist. I like conflict, even. I hate to feel like my will is subservient to any other will, even mine.

The Rav writes of "absurd pride." He too suffered from it! Or so he writes. He claims that the way he was able to serve you was when he envisioned great masters like our forefathers, humbled and subservient before you. If such men could offer of themselves, cannot I? But I tell you that I have trouble doing it. I don't like to kneel; I don't like to be forced to bow.

And now is a time of self-assessment. Because now is the beginning of the year.

And I will tell you very plainly that I have not been entirely good. And that my sin stems from desire more than anything else, a great desire and lust for what I cannot have. And that at the same time that we are told to admit our sins before you I feel an urge to justify them, to explain myself, because I don't know if I would act differently in the same situation, and honestly, I cannot feel the regret and remorse that I ought to feel.

So let's not focus on what I should be feeling but on what I do feel.

I feel love. I feel love for you, God, and for my people, and really all the people that have touched my life. I'm thinking of my family, my friends, my teachers most especially (how I lament when I see what Rabbi Soloveitchik penned! How our teachers are supposed to convey the experience of Judaism, of walking with God, to us), my former classmates, the bloggers here in this community. Everyone.

I think beneath the masks we wear, the ways we act, the words we say, we are generally different. I know that I am. I am proud. I am infernally proud and very egotistical, and I've heard the stories asking what I have to be proud of and I pray you not to test me by taking accomplishments of mine away. But I know, I do know, that I am proud.

And I cannot feel regret for this pride, so I think that what you must want of me is to channel it, to use this confidence differently, to channel it in a direction that brings me close to you, to my own romance with the Almighty, as it were.

So God, if I were to walk with you, what would I say?

Would I tell you how beautiful I find the poems we read about you? About how we are glass in the hands of the glassblower, or clay in the hands of the potter? You are the artist, the craftsman, and we are your creations. While this ought to make us tremble, I also find it comforting, because, you see, I trust you, God.

It's scary to trust you. Because you can hurt me, and it seems like you have hurt us as a people so many times.

But I do trust you.

I wonder if it is a feeling that can be explained. Perhaps it is because of my family. Perhaps it is because of the books I read and the way they make me think, react, feel. I think it is because the highest form of man that I can envision is created by God but is partners with God, for it is our job, as it is Yours, to engage in creation. We are the Howard Roarks of our world, God, shunned by others but walking with you.

So what do I want to do? I want this letter to be my prayer.

Because I find it hard to pray in synogague.

Because when I am in synogague, all I can think about is how the air-conditioning is on too high, or what the person in front of me is doing. It's even more maddening when I know what I OUGHT to think about and what I should be thinking about.

And then there's the fact that Hebrew's really not my language. I don't feel like I can talk to you in Hebrew, like you can hear the words I want to say. I know English, and I want to talk to you in English, to praise you and speak to you and hear what you have to say to me.

So now it is a time for an evaluation of me and what I have done, and whether I deserve to live or die.

And I don't want to die.

It's not so much that I am scared of death, though perhaps that is wise, but because I feel like I am not finished yet. I have so much more to do. So many more tasks. I am not done, God, with the role you have given me to play, and until I have completed it, I cannot die.

Because we are all unique, and so what I have to say isn't the same as what anyone else has to say, and so I'm asking you God, no, I'm begging you to please let me live the next year through.

Because I don't want to die yet.

Not yet, not until I've done what I must.
And then, God, I will be fulfilled.

You know me, and you know that my intentions are good; my motives mostly pure. You know that I can be cross or irreverent or angry or irritated; that I can hate you and refuse to pray to you- as I have, as I still do-and that simultaneously I am involved with You, involved in a battle where I'm trying to fight you because I feel powerless before you. And I can't conceive of having no power.

And at the same time that I'm fighting you, I find you to be the most beautiful, irresistable force that is. Your Torah is perhaps the greatest gift you can give to us; your act of love. I delve into your words and I am enthralled, fascinated. I love the book you have given to me.

And yet I can't submit to you. I feel compelled to oppose you while I accept you, compelled to come near and draw back. Is this the dichotomy so often spoken of? I don't know. I think it is more like a war within me, until I can decide whether to humble myself and approach you, or to continue as I am.

But what I want you to know...what I think I'll be unable to say and express on Rosh HaShana and Yom how much I love you.

And that I wish you could give me, as you gave Solomon, a heart to know the difference between good and evil, a heart that would feel pain when I sinned, a heart that is akin to yours and attuned to your thoughts and feelings.

God, my God, my personal God and communal God, how can I express my love for you? How much I owe you. For the creation of the body you have given me, of my soul, of my love for English and for your own work, for everything that I am and all that is. I am indebted to you, God, and still I fight you. Perhaps one day it will become a joyous fight...

I want to stand before you in awe and trepidation, but I think, God, that my love wins out. Because when I view you it's almost like the Beauty and the Beast figure, the Beast who seems cruel and evil and awful but at the same time is truly the good figure. The one who is going to save Belle, save her even from her own bad decisions (like when she runs away from you, and is attacked by wolves.) And of course, the one who loves her.

We are compared to a bride and groom, God, united by love. And though you must separate from us in order to judge us on our merits and accomplishments, and inscribe us for life or death, I'm pleading with you to please remember us..and by that I mean all of us, and especially my classmates at North Shore Country Day, who have been kindest to your people, and your love, and to inscribe us all in the Book of Life.

Because you know that we all can change.

And because I believe in the future, a radiant golden future in which we do walk with you and in your paths and in your ways.

And if I must experience a frigid, freezing awe, a terrible fear of what is to come in order to reach that golden future...I will.

But I'd so much rather join hands with you and walk with you beneath the blossoms of our world, somewhere beyond the sun, somewhere beyond emotions; walk there in spirit because I do not want to die yet, but walk there all the same.

With you, God.
Because I love you.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Darfur Rally at Central Park in NYC on September 17th

Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

So I attended the Darfur rally today, the one held in Central Park in our very own New York City. The experience was euphoric. I am still thrilled, still feeling a thrumming kind of beauty tingling in my veins.

Now, you may ask (I know others did)- what's the good in a rally? After all, you're not REALLY helping, right? You're not giving money, the people aren't really benefiting, nothing is being done. But I think you have to understand the meaning behind the rally. The rally isn't the end-all-and-be-all of saving Darfur. The rally isn't the end; it's a means to an end. It's a way to unify and unite people in the face of a common cause, a common goal. To bring people together and say- hey, we all have our differences, but here is one way that we are all alike. We have different faiths, different beliefs, different religions, but we are all banding together today to say genocide is WRONG.

The fact is that this is a necessary message, a message we need to proclaim loud and clear, not just for Sudan, for Darfur, for the United Nations and the countries of our world, but for ourselves. We have to remind ourselves to care, to worry about what's going on, about the innocent people dying. We have to give of ourselves. It's not an easy thing, to be aware, especially when there are so many different important ideas tugging at one's mind, each vying for priority.

I think you also have to consider people's ages. The way people help is different based upon their age. Since I am seventeen, and in school, the way that I can help is by going to a rally, by listening to people and lending my support and saying, YES, I agree with all of you that genocide is WRONG; we recognize that fact and we stand together today to say that. That's my part and that's what I'm going to do.

I've heard other people complain about the ulterior motives many have in going to such rallies. For example, the girl who is wearing the trendy skirt with "Darfur" embroidered on it as a fashion statement. Or the YU students who go in order to socialize with one another (coed activities must all have something to do with marriage, I guess.)

But see, this is about me. This is about me, Chana, how I react and what I do. I don't care about other people's ulterior motives or what motivates them; it's not my problem. It does not impact me. What does impact me are my choices, my decisions, and that's what I have to care about. And I tell you that I went to that rally for Darfur today because I feel that anyone who is a Jew has an OBLIGATION to be present if it is feasible and possible; we must be present at anything that involves taking a stand against genocide.

Because what did the world do by us? Well, you've heard Elie Wiesel, you've heard them all. The world was silent. The world silently condemned us and damned us. The world did nothing, our leaders did the book While Six Million Died amply demonstrates. People stood idly by and watched others dying and they either didn't care because it wasn't affecting them, or they weren't willing to take a stand.

So if we truly believe- and I do- in the statement "Never Again," we have to take action. It is our obligation to do something, whether it be symbolic or an actual contribution of money, food, time, effort- our obligation to take a stand and show the world that we are AGAINST genocide, against the mass murder of innocents, that we stand with Darfur and Sudan and we are striving to protect the free world as opposed to the one where ethnic cleansing is allowed.
And those are my motives- they were my motives- today, as I stood at the rally in Central Park.

Now, all the Yeshiva University students gathered together with their signs at the top of a rolling hill, which didn't please me too much, because I want to be in the thick of things, part of the experience, out there talking and yelling and screaming and pretty much doing as much as I can to be involved. So I made my way down the hill and got to where I was standing pretty much in front of the stage, holding my banner proudly (it reads in blue and white- "Yeshiva University Students say "Never Again!") and listening to the speeches. Anyone who had pushed forward to the front was there for the right reasons. Everyone there was passionate, was involved, cared deeply about what was going on.

There were people wearing blue berets- to symbolize the need for UN Peacekeeping forces to be sent in. They handed out blue bandannas/ handkerchiefs; I was wearing one in my hair. I had a blue sticker on my shoulder saying INTERNATIONAL AMNESTY and the words UN PEACEKEEPING FOR DARFUR NOW. I was also wearing an orange sticker distributed by college students from Sacred Heart University. The orange sticker reads "I'm standing in for Darfur victim #204, 117 and then"

It was amazing, truly amazing to see the great mass of people there. I've never been prouder to be a Jew. Central Park was filled with Jews; Yeshiva University students, people affiliated with Hillel (holding special Hillel signs with green and red colors and Hebrew on them), the Women's Jewish group of some kind and just more Jews. Then there were Christians, Muslims...people of every religion, truly. All gathered together to protest against the evil that is going on, against genocide.

It's inspirational to be swept up with a tide of people who believe what you believe, who are reacting to speeches and shouting their approbation or hatred of certain principles as they are suggested. People who are red in the face from shouting, people who are passionate, people who care. The fact that it was a Global Rally made it all the more special- people in Montreal and all over the world were having rallies simultaneously.

Now, perhaps this rally won't accomplish anything. I sure hope it does but maybe it doesn't. So then you might ask, again, what is the point? So you went, you screamed, you shouted; what was truly accomplished? I think that in going we still accomplished something. We symbolically stated that we stand WITH Darfur, that we are unfraid of annoucing that fact to the world, that we want to STOP genocide and killings. We're making noise for Darfur. We're not being silent, and through being silent, acting complicit in their deaths. Their blood shall not be on our hands.

And this is necessary. I am an idealist and I don't go in for cynical, jaded, practical, realistic views of the world. I know there are people who laugh at this and who think, "Oh, so what. They screamed today; tomorrow they'll go back to work and forget all about it." But it's not true. We think about it, about what's going on, about the people dying; it presses upon us and bothers us and each of us do what we can. And maybe it will have no impact at all.

But at least we tried.
We bloody well tried.

And I think we damned well deserve credit for trying, for trying to do something, to change something, to confront evil instead of letting it have its way with us.

God bless the United States of America, our freedom of speech, and the people who care enough about other countries that they organize rallies like these. They are truly, truly worthwhile, if only to give us the courage to realize that we are together; we support one another, and that we can unite against cruelty, against injustice, against all that is awful and terrible in the world.

One thing I do have to wonder...why is it that the only Rabbi who spoke there is a Reconstructionist Rabbi? Where are the Orthodox people? Why aren't they affiliated? Or are they, and do I just not know it? Why aren't they speaking openly about this? How can they, or anyone who is Jewish, remain silent?

Why do we have Elie Wiesels and the Reconstructionist Rabbis speaking out, and not the Orthodox? Orthodox Jews out of all the Jews actually have an obligation to care, a mitzvah not to stand idly by and watch others die!

We have to care about other people because of our humanity. It is our humanity that compels us to heed the blood that boils beneath the Earth, the brother's cries to God. Zecharia and Hevel; these are our examples. We must listen. We have to care. Because the ramifications of our not caring are too great...they could destroy our world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

YU Receives 100 Million Dollar Gift

Check the New York Times' Metro section, everyone-

YU Receives 100 Million Dollar Gift which is, as quoted in the article "the largest single gift ever to support Jewish education in the United States."

After this, the sky's the limit. Now that Richard P. Stanton has set the precedent, who knows what is to follow?

It's amazing when philanthropists help their own. Joseph Aaron has commented frequently on the many Jewish philanthropists who will give to any cause except their own people lest they be deemed exclusive. Richard P. Stanton, on the other hand, is expressing support for all of us with this...

Huzzah Jews! Huzzah Judaic Studies! And pretty much, huzzah for people who are willing to demonstrate they care about their religion and its public.

Monday, September 11, 2006

YU Medical Ethics Society- Organ Donation: A Matter of Life and Death

YU Medical Ethics Society- Organ Donation: A Matter of Life and Death




Schedule of the Day
(my notes are divided up by the speeches, so do CTRL+F searches for the ones you are interested in by the person's name)

Opening remarks by Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman for the topic of ‘Living Organ Donation: At what Risk?’

First, he mentioned that organ donors and recipients are gathered here today. The Yeshiva University Medical Ethics Society is sponsoring this university-wide lecture series. Other topics to come over the year include abortion, etc. (He and the heads of the YU Medical Ethics Society thank all the sponsors.)

This is a topic of tremendous import, an extraordinary program, as evidenced by the fact that registration for today’s conference is over 400 people. There have been tremendous advances in many fields- cloning, treatments for infertility. There’s a story of a scientist who has the audacity to approach God, and says he can do anything, even create man. Oh? How do you go about that? inquires God. Get some dirt, mix in some enzymes, it’ll be great. God says, show me. So the scientist bends down to reach for some dirt, and God says- wait- get your own dirt!

The Torah can approach the most important cutting-edge issues of Torah and science. Yeshiva University today is proud/ privileged to host such wonderful speakers. In fact, the majority of the speakers today are members of the faculty, products of YU, or are affiliated with YU. There is a tradition of Torah umada (science.)

Last night I checked the organ sharing network website to see how many people are awaiting organs. There are 92, 905 people waiting for organs. This morning at 7:00 AM I checked, and there were 92, 903 people waiting for organs. 2 less than before. Why two less? Well, either two people received transplants, or there is the much sadder reality that these two people died while tragically awaiting organs.

To demonstrate how relevant this conference is to us as a whole, I direct you to the Jewish Press. We put an add in the Jewish Press on September 1, and right next to it there are two ads for kidney transplants- and we will be discussing these very important halakhos right now, for the next 4-6 hours.

The time between the harvesting of a heart and its viability is 4-6 hours. Think about that as we sit here for the next 4-6 hours.

(He introduces the various speeches that will be given. They should all be up on the YU website, as scheduled.)

Here’s something to think about- a fascinating Halakhic case. So fascinating that an entire book called Kliyos Ya’azot is published about it and the answer to the question. It speaks of a member of Knesset who needed a kidney transplant- a living-donor transplant. He has 5 sons. One son finds out the father needs the transplant, goes to the hospital to see if he’s a match and finds out that he is. When he returns there stand the four other sons, barring his way to the door. They say that THEY want the right to donate the kidney to their father. Then the b’chor (firstborn) comes and calls his rights into question..they’re all fighting to determine which would be the organ donor. At the end of the day, I’ll give the answer to this statement. [Did he ever answer this?]

Let me introduce the first speaker- Adinah Raskas from St. Louis, a kidney recipient. She will be telling us about her personal experiences as a kidney recipient. Then Dr. Stuart Greenstein will speak, and R’ Willig will round out the session with a discussion of halakhic issues.

Adina Raskas’ speech


I’m Adinah Raskas and I’m from St. Louis, Missouri. I’m sure you think I’m an out of towner, but really I’m the in-towner; it’s all of you who are the out-of-towners. Anyway, people always want to know a little bit about the background of the speaker, so here’s my story.

My parents were born in Vienna- a very Yekki home. I began my education in dayschool (the only one there) and by the time I graduated I decided I wanted to go to Israel for college to Hebrew University. I went to my father and said it would only cost one hundred dollars, and that just for transportation! But he wasn’t sending any dollars to Israel when I was at the age of seventeen. Instead I went to college in St. Louis, got married to a boy from Boston, went to Boston University- I was the only pregnant person in the entire university- and then we decided we wanted to move back to St. Louis. We felt it was important to grow up with grandparents and grandchildren. So we decided to live there, had five children; the first two were born in Boston, the rest in St. Louis.

My husband was the director of cancer- research center/ professor at Washington University, until my father went to him and said he would have to sell the family business, the Raskas Dairy, so my husband became the head of the business.

I have an APD- I never got to finish my thesis. It was titled “In Loco Parentis in the Day School Movement.” I feel it is as relevant today as it was then.

I was very involved in the community- president of the day school, lots of history there, very entrenched in St Louis, Missouri.

So now, I know you’re wondering, why am I introducing this program?

I am going to talk about what it’s like to NEED a transplant, how it feels, the quality of life before getting one and afterwards. When my doctor tried to convince me I needed dialysis I couldn’t accept the verdict, said no, did everything so nobody knew I was sick and tried to deny it.

I was teaching, active in the community, but had very low kidney function. You are here to learn from Rabbis, professionals, about halakha, but I am here to tell you my story about the emotions in play here.

The consequences of renal failure are terrible- my legs blow up, my face blows up, my stamina is next to nothing, walking is difficult and walking against the wind is impossible, your color is bad and especially your diet- everything changes. I didn’t want ANYONE to know about my issues- which was virtually impossible; I always felt exposed in the doctor’s office when they called my name. So I complained for virtually two years and now there are privacy measures in place- you’re called by a number to come in.

Anyway, before you even get on a list for any kind of transplants, you have to take a whole lot of medical tests, which take at least 6 months. You have to do them yearly, and there’s very little time left for anything else. It was June 7, 2003 when I got worse- the only people who knew then were my husband and children. I want to tell you that I wouldn’t have made it without him (husband.) I swore my five kids to secrecy; if people approached them and asked them about me, they tried to make up reasons.

Now, I think it’s hard for doctors to understand what life is truly like for the patient- more emotional care would be better. I waited till the last second, for better or for worse, to go on dialysis. I had some small residual kidney function when I started- but it’s hard to convey the experience of dialysis. You’re there 3 times a week, the whole process takes 5 hours each time. For me and most people the trauma of needles going into you- it’s just unbelievable. It’s not the most pleasant experience.

I had to have it in my right hand because they couldn’t find the veins in my left hand…There’s uncertainty about each treatment- will your blood pressure drop? Is the machine not working? If it’s not, then you’ll be delayed 4 hours, and that pushes everyone else off- it’s traumatic.

After treatment ends, you still feel lousy- I tried to think that I was okay, that I was normal, and I managed pretty good, but you’re toxic- and by Sunday you’re really toxic. You know those dinners on Sunday night that people go to for various events? So you don’t want to be sitting there and eating that while you feel so sick.

There’s a very restrictive diet; when it comes to fluids, you can only have 4 cups of a liquid per day, and than includes all the medication you take, liquids, jellos- none of which is easy when you see someone coming down the street carrying a Starbucks coffee and you say, “Oh, that’s what I really want.”

What you’re basically doing is using 3 treatments a week and liquid/ diet control to replace kidneys.

People don’t think about their kidneys, about how they can walk, about anything because it is natural, normal to them. But you need to think about it and realize how it is a gift.

The bracha (blessing) of Asher Yatzar becomes much more meaningful after this.

It was Shabbos Shuva of 2003 when all my problems began. Friday night 2003 and I was in very severe pain, and after Yom Kippur I developed a very high fever; that didn’t deter me from fasting on Yom Kippur or walking to shul, though. Anyway, I had an infection in my kidney, which spread to my bloodstream. That led to the removal of my kidneys and an unplanned removal of parts of my colin- then there were some more immediate surgeries to try to repair the colin, so I was in serious condition with many great complications at the age of sixty.

I was septic, bedridden, too weak even to pick up a Kleenex.

I was completely incapacitated. What saved me were the prayers; my Rabbi (Rabbi Berman) changed my name, there were tefillot being said in the USA and in Israel for me. And I still meet people who recognize me based on my name and say Tehillim for me- just so realize how important it is.

The other thing is about visitors- I had visitors from all over the place, different states; this too is important. I really thought about those people, especially when you’re lying in a bed 24 hours a day, you really have time to think. I used to look at people walking down the street and say to my kids and husband, “Do you think I’ll ever walk like that?” I went from bed to being strong enough to be carried to a chair, then to a wheelchair, then to walk, and I am here today.

On dialysis, trying to recover, you realize that the problems you think you have don’t exist- shul politics, school politics simply don’t matter anymore. LIFE is what matters.

Getting a transplant is unbelievable- I received mine in February about 7 months ago. Someone in the community named Cathy called me and offered me her kidney- I didn’t even know her, but her son and my son (or grandson? Probably grandson) were best friends in dayschool. She saved another person’s life, my life- you can’t even imagine what it feels like to be offered a kidney- it’s the highest form of chesed, kindness, a second chance at life, liberated from diet restrictions….min ha’shamayim (from God.) I’ll have to take medicine forever but it’s SO much better- I hope that others will be encouraged from this story to do the same, to donate.

I call Cathy every week or so to update her on the status of how her kidney is doing- I am so grateful to the global Jewish community who embraced me. I aggressively try to help others who are sick, and there are many who have told me I have helped them or view me as an inspiration, and I treasure that. I hope my story encourages others to be donors.

Dr. Stuart Greenstein’s Speech

(He was introduced; his bio is up at the YU Medical Ethics website, so skipping that part…)

…problems of kidney failure, moral aspect of it. There are two days a year when I get semicha; I’m suddenly a Rabbi- that’s by Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur when all my patients call me to ask whether they should fast.

Simple things in terms of Halakha- let’s start with kidneys versus livers, because risks are greater by the liver.

Today 25% of all patients who wait for transplants have diabetes. 8% of those patients (maybe? I’m not sure I got this down right) will die waiting for transplants.

There are two options for people suffering from kidney disease.

1. Someone who has kidney failure should stay on dialysis
2. Get a transplant
a. Get a deceased-donor (formerly called a “cadaver” donor)
b. Get a live-donor transplant

Transplantation as a field is not that old. December 25, 1954 is when it first started, on Christmas Day. There were twins, and the doctors actually had to make sure they were identical; they fingerprinted them so down to the fingerprints they were identical.

Now, 50% of all transplants done in the USA are live-donor transplants (the donor is a living person, as opposed to being deceased.)


• Over 18, because otherwise you have to go through the court system, and a smart court system is not going to give its consent to you
• Should not have diabetes. (This is not absolute, but it is much better to follow.)
• Should not have kidney disease (because the main principle behind live-donor is DNH= DO NO HARM. If the donor has kidney disease, they might need this other kidney themselves at some point.)
• No lung disease- COPD.
• No cardiovascular disease.
• Not markedly overweight because this is, after all, a major operation, again the idea of DO NO HARM
• HIV/ Hepatitis negative
• In the past, the idea was for the person to be a relative/ spouse and have emotional ties. Nowadays, we find that even a solicited donor who is no relation to the recipient is capable of doing this!
• Blood type and cross-match compatible (An A kidney can only go to another A. By the way, I’ve noticed there are more AB bloodtypes in the Chassidic world. A cross-match is where you take blood from the donor and from the recipient, mix it together in a test-tube and see how it reacts. Obviously, if they don’t work together, that’d be bad.)


• Federal law bans the sale of organs, but does allow solicited transplants. If I know you’re buying an organ, I will NOT do the transplant, because I don’t want to go to federal prison. You can go to a third-world country to buy organs, but if you do that, remember that you get what you pay for.
• All conversations between the donor and the transplant team and the results of medical testing are kept confidential, even though the donor is not really a patient. Hippa laws which (he laughs) I love to violate, but don’t tell anyone…
• The costs of live-donor evaluation, testing, surgery, are generally paid for by the recipient’s insurance.


• Complete history and physical examination and psychosocial examination (because this is a major operation. We don’t want you to be a little off, take your kidney and watch you fall apart.)
• Routine lab tests
• Tests to determine compatability
• Tests to confirm two good kidney
• X-rays to determine blood vessels (basically, which kidney to take for the recipient. This has to do with railroad-tracks, whatever I find to be better…)


• Better matching/ better results, and the kidney begins working immediately
• The date can be planned, which means there’s better preparation for the recipient- he/she can be in optimal condition (as opposed to a deceased person’s organ, which has to be taken soon thereafter)
• Shorter hospital stay
• Lower dosage of medicine
• Tremendous psychological lift to donor- a “love match/ story” between the donor and recipients. Some say they shouldn’t get to know each other, but I personally believe they (donor and recipient) SHOULD get to know each other. It’s really like a love story.


• No free lunch (as opposed to YU, which gave us free lunch today)
• Healthy person has a major operation
• There are no guarantees the transplant will work. It may fail (in the recipient) and there are no “backsies,” i.e. you can’t put that organ back into the body of the donor.


• Open vs. inside (Open nephrectomy vs laporoscopic)
• The doctor and the transplant team makes the decision as to what method will be better, and it is based on anatomical reasons
• Differences in donor pain and length of stay post operative (based on type of surgery)


• 2-3 hospital day stay
• 2-6 weeks before work (less if it’s laporoscopic surgery)
• All medical bills to go to recipient’s insurance
• Major surgical complications are less than 2%
• Minor complications are less than 10%
• Mortality is 0.03%


• No physical risks to donor
• Life insurance premium is not increased (and that, if anything, should prove this is really not a risky operation. Otherwise insurance people would definitely raise it.)
• Adults with one kidney live normally but should avoid sports that involve high risks of heavy contact= NO BULL FIGHTING
• No harm to remaining kidney
• No increased risks for childbearing purposes

Actually, a lot of us- of you- are walking around with just one kidney and don’t even know it. You’ll find out if you go into the military…


• Donors who need a transplant- of more than 75,000 live-donor transplants since 1987 only 119 patients have been listed on UNOS for deceased-donor transplant
• These patients go to the top of the list


• 1 year graft survival is 95% (that just refers to whether the kidney is still working one year after the surgery)
• Cadaver kidneys are 10-15% less in terms of still working
• There is no significant difference between living UNRELATED donors and living RELATED donors (like a daughter to a father)

Live transplantation was unheard of in the orthodox world for a long time, till about the last 5 years. There are now ads in the Jewish Press, however, all the time.

People who donate to others- it’s really a love match, a love story- we, the Orthodox community can only grow through and from this.

While a live-donor is better than a cadaver, the differences are really only in the first year (points to graph on slide-show) after that the lines are parallel.

Rabbi Willig’s Speech

I’ve brought a prop (holds out cutout from the Hamodia newspaper) it says “Newly-wed woman, 23 years old, very desperate for kidneys A or O.”

I’m going to try to cover the basics of a very complex topic in as brief a way as possible.

The most important statistic is the very low mortality rate associated with kidney transplants.

Now, the question I want to address is- is donating a kidney fulfilling a positive commandment, or is it a chiyuv, an obligation?

We have the mitzvah of “vahasheivoso lo,” the restorative commandment. There’s a Gemara in Sanhedrin addressing this. Now, if one is required to restore a lost object, how much more so to restore an almost-lost life, one might say!

Lo ta’amod al dam re’eicha/ Do not stand over your brother’s blood- This is a verse meaning that you can’t stand idly by and watch as someone is drowned, or attacked by bandits, bears, whatever it may be, because it’s like you killed him (unless, a Chana insert here, you yourself can’t swim, etc.)

Now, R’ Ovadiah Yosef (Yechaveh Daat 3:84) seems to say that such an obligation exists. He quotes the Radbaz saying that one goes back to the paradigm- someone is in danger, drowning in a river/ attacked by bandits, whatever it may be. I am taking a risk in rescuing that person. Therefore, by definition in the process of saving someone’s life, the assumption the Gemara makes is that one must take a small risk. (Since there is more than 99% survival in kidney-donation, might be similar!)

The Me’iri, in contrast, says there has to be no risk at all.

How to resolve the two? To say that there may be an element of some small risk, and that is acceptable.

Nonetheless, a careful look at the Yechaveh Da’as shows he changed the expression. When it comes to the drowning example of ‘Lo Ta’amod,’ he says “Chiyuv,” meaning obligation. However, here he refers to the word “mitzvah”- as R’ Ovadiah Yosef does as well. [Note: R. Ovadiah Yosef and the Yechaveh Da’as are the same.]

There is a difference between a chiyuv and a mitzvah. No one I know of says it’s an absolute obligation to donate a kidney. If it were a chiyuv, after all, an obligation, the question becomes- why don’t we all just run off and go do it immediately?

A potential argument might bet hat there’s pain involved, and one is not obligated to suffer pain in order to rescue another. The Magen Avraham, however, states that one is obligated to undergo pain. The Netziv says so as well, and both of them cite a Talmudic reference to explain.

The Magen Avraham cites an idea that you can’t betray a Jew who is hiding in the Beis Midrash when the Romans are looking for him, or otherwise his blood is on your head. However, that is an ACTIVE example- if you tell the Romans where he is hiding, you are actively killing him by speaking. But not to give someone a kidney seems to be passive! So this is not a perfect comparison.

The Netziv says (here I get confused. I think I heard something about having to hire workers?) and have to spend a lot of money, undergo tircha (work) which is Rashi’s expression as well.

The Taz in Yoreh De’ah, alternatively, agrees with the position that you don’t have to undergo pain to save someone’s life. Then again, a side-point is that not all pain is created equal.

Even if one assumes that one IS required to undergo pain to save a life- bone marrow transplants in my opinion one is obligated to undergo, for example…is this the same?

This issue is very relevant to my community (tells some Riverdale stories about his shul, and how just recently a husband sponsored a Kiddush in honor of his wife who donated her kidney to him.)

Now, let us look to the Gedolei Ha’Torah- the classical answer is from R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah Chelek Beis Siman 174 Anaf 4) , referencing Yoreh De’ah, KN’Z (kuf nun zayin.)

A person is NOT required/ has no chiyuv, absolutely NO obligation to donate an organ to save somebody’s life. Laudatory, encouraged definitely, but not an absolute obligation to do so. A person has to give all his money not to violate a lo ta’aseh, and there R’ Moshe says “Money yes, organ, no.” He draws a distinctive between ACTIVE and PASSIVE as well- perhaps actively we may not violate things for the sake of an organ. Organs might be equivalent of money by Shabbos, but for saving a life an organ might not be the equivalent of money.

The Tzitz Eliezer 9:45 adds a phrase to this idea- “Darcheha Derachei Noam,” meaning “Her ways are pleasant ones” and agrees with R’ Feinstein. If there’s really an obligation to donate your organs to people, it means that Beis Din, if there were a Beis Din, would be able to force people to donate their organs and punish them for not doing so- but that’s NOT “Deracheha darchei noam,” her ways are pleasant ones. To those who say that the individual has to put himself in small danger to save others from large danger- still, if you save him when he’s drowning, you get yourself, whole, back again, whereas by an organ transplant part of you is missing, you are not whole anymore.

Live organ donations- kidneys, not getting into issues of lungs and livers; there’s some talk that those can grow back so my former idea (of not being yourself at the end of the rescuing/ restoration process) would not apply…I want to mention as final words some people want to do something where as soon as they die their organs are removed…THIS can lead to DCD- potentially a halakhic problem, because someone might want to hasten the death to get the organs!

Cardiac Death in Jewish Law

Introduction by Rabbi Kenneth Brander

I want to begin by thanking (list a lot of people)- distinguished doctors, students, CJF, premier educators, Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance who is helping us with the teleconferencing hookup with R’ Schachter today. R’ Schachter really needs no introduction, but on a personal level, relationship between Rav and community, interacting with many of them, there is one Rosh Yeshiva who stands out from the crowd- in many ways due to his energies and efforts, and that is R’ Herschel Schacter.

R’ Herschel Schacter’s speech ( he had sources for everything he said, and said them, but too quickly for me to write them down- but LabRab got them! )

Thank you very much.

The Gemara in the last perek of Yuma discusses a situation where we’re not sure if someone is alive or dead, and quotes a pasuk : kol asher nishmas ruach chayim be’apav, “whoever has the breath of life in his nostrils (Parshas Noach).

It seems that when a person is breathing he is alive, otherwise if a person is no longer breathing, he is considered dead. (This is based on the idea that on Shabbos, if God forbid a wall collapsed on someone, how much can we be m’challel Shabbos for him.) Based on this Gemara (moving rubble, etc) many have developed a theory of brain death [since the brain stem controls breathing].

There’s a Teshuva of the Chasam Sofer- one of the more popular teshuvot- there are a few of the teshuvot of the Chasam Sofer where the name of the Sho’el (questioner) does not appear. Does not say to whom it was sent, but we know it was sent to the Maharatz Chajes (מהר"ץ חיות, a great posek and intellectual in 19th century Italy) The name doesn’t appear because at one point in the teshuva the Chasam Sofer says “Are you an apikores or something? You don’t believe in emunas chachamim?” But we know it’s the Ma’aratz Chajes because he compiles a book called “My conversations with the Chasam Sofer” and this is in it.

One paragraph of the teshuva quotes a statement from the Rambam from Moreh Nevuchim (Guide to the Perplexed) stating that the medical records of Greek doctors state that they saw a case where a man stopped breathing for three days and was not dead/ woke up again. The Chasam Sofer says in response to that statement in Moreh Nevuchim that this is a possibility but he doesn’t think the Gemara is saying that is the definition of life and death (in Yuma) but rather a siman, a sign that one is alive= breathing.

(He mentioned something here about an ill person who is so sick that you’ll be m’challel Shabbos to drive him to the hospital, and by that time he’ll be dead, but if there’s even the slightest, 1% chance that he might be saved at the hospital/ might survive for that, you drive him anyway.)

The Chevra Kadisha sees someone who is not breathing for 15-20 minutes, and it’s so far-fetched that he is still alive that we have the right to ignore this. The definition of death has to be one that would have made sense in those time periods. Moshe Rabbeinu is given this din as a guideline- if he’s not breathing for 15-20 minutes that’s a sign that he is dead, but it is not the definition of life/ death. [The point is that cessation of breathing for a long period of time is 99.99999% certainly an indication of death, even if it isn’t the definition of death, so after that point we don’t mechalel shabbos and we are allowed to prepare the body for burial.]

R’ Moshe Feinstein has a fascinating teshuvah about tefillin where someone asked him whether one was fulfilling a mitzvah to put tefillin on a paralyzed arm, seemingly a dead arm. R’ Moshe Feinstein answers by saying “Absolutely yes,” and he knows because his own father had a paralyzed arm after suffering a stroke and put on tefillin every day. The Gemara discusses mumim and what constitutes a ba’al mum (someone who has a blemish/ flaw on his body) and he quotes from the Gemara “If the flow of blood has stopped in an irreversible fashion, then it (the limb) will develop…grangrene, it will be dead.” If there is no flow of blood to the arm then it is dead- you cannot fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin with such an arm. But here the nervous system is not working, and blood is still flowing, which means that it (the arm) is still alive! So as long as the blood is still flowing, the limb is alive.

Tosfos explains that the blood circulation is what keeps animals and human beings alive. One of the prohibited activities on Shabbos is חובל, causing a wound to bleed. Tosfos is of the opinion that chovel is part of the melacha of killing …so we cannot cause even a little bit of bleeding; it’s considered “A small amount is equivalent to the larger amount” (He might have said Talmud Yerushalmi here…)

When the flow of blood has terminated in an irreversible fashion, then one is considered dead.

Now, by a brain-dead patient, if the brain is considered dead because there’s not enough blood flow to the brain, there are several possibilites-

1. Difference between vital organs and non-vital organs to begin with. If one loses a vital organ one is on the way to dying. How many vital organs are there? The Rambam and/ on Mishnayos says (in the context of several mishnayos which introduce the term אבר שהנשמה תלויה בו, for example if a person says: “My heart will be a Nazir” then he becomes entirely a Nazir, since it is impossible for him to exist without his heart; but if he says “My fingernail will become a Nazir,” he does not become a Nazir):
a. Brain
b. Liver
c. Heart

So the Rambam says Mishnayos is only speaking about the three vital organs.

Halakha says we recognize these three as a mashal (example to us) and the rest count as well. [I think he meant here that it is possible that there are more than three vital organs, but the three listed by Mishna/Rambam are just examples.]

So with respect to considering death- when all of the vital organs are dead/ no longer blood circulating to the vital organs, you are dead.

So what if only [some of] the vital organs are dead?

1. My opinion- I can imagine that you can say that if only one vital organ is not functioning, the whole organism is dead
2. No- if one of the vital organs is dead, but not the others, one is not considered dead
3. You may need two out of the three to be dead before the person is considered dead.

Now, there’s the idea of the goses (someone who is not yet dead but is approaching death.) In some Halakhos he is considered like one who is dead, and in others not. How to define a goses?

The Rambam says a goses is one in whom the process of death has already begun. So if we assume that if one vital organ is dead, then the whole person is dead, then what’s a goses? When one vital organ BEGINS to deteriorate?

If one’s not considered dead, however, till all three vital organs are dead/ have no blood flow, then goses is when one of the vital organs is dead, it would seem.

Now, a clean, neat definition of goses is to say it applies when “rov/ kol” of vital organs are dead (the majority or all.)

R’ Soloveitchik is quoted as saying that even if the Vilna Gaon were alive in our generation, he would not have big enough shoulders on which to rest the weight of this decision (of what constitutes alive or dead)- it is simply unclear from the Gemara.

Because the definition of death cannot be changed nowadays to fit what we know nowadays; the definition of death had to have been set in the times of the Tannaim and known to the Tannaim. You can’t give a definition of death that wasn’t known to the Tannaim.

(He quotes something here, which I can’t quite catch.)
The Gemara in Avodah Zarah divides history into three eras: Shnei Alafim Tohu, Shnei Alafim Torah, Shnei Alafim Yemot Hamashiach (2000 years of emptiness, 2000 years of Torah, and 2000 years of the Messianic Era. The Chazon Ish in Hilchos Treifos wonders: Don’t we still learn Torah nowadays? He explains that “Shnei Alafim Torah” means that all legal concepts in the Torah are defined based on the physical and social realities present during the 2000 years between Matan Torah and the closing of the Talmud. [Avi adds: The Chazon Ish uses this principle to explain the problem of treifot, viz. why we retain our categories of treifot even if they no longer correspond to life-threatening illnesses – since they were that dangerous during the period of shnei alafim Torah. The Chazon Ish’s approach is one of the classic solutions to the halachic problem that is solved in other contexts through the device of nishtaneh hateva. VeAKMa”L.]

and so the parts of Torah have already passed, so we cannot contradict/ disagree with the Tannaim. The categories and concepts of Halakha need to be defined in the period of Shnei Chalakim Torah- known to the Tannaim. All these fancy definitions of brain death now were unknown to the Tannaim.

Now, a friend of mine showed me a secular medical journal where there were 50 different opinions on brain death by each group (he named Harvard, Princeton, etc) and each one of the 50 has 3 different divisions of opinions, so 150 opinions.

There are no sources in the Talmud to recognize brain death- only blood circulation. If one is willing to accept brain death based on the idea of one vital organ dying means the entire organism is dead, then one should be equally willing to accept liver death! I can see such an opinion.

I wrote a teshuva on this idea, so all my sources are there (names book Be’ikvei Hatzon (one of R. Schachter’s two seforim of חידושי תורה.) It was suggested to me to send it to R’ Elyashiv, so I gave it to my acquaintance to give to R’ Elyashiv. But R’ Elyashiv doesn’t have time to read my 15-page teshuva so he asked my acquaintance, “Btoom line is what?” The acquaintance explains that R’ Shachter says that a brain-dead patient is “Safek-chai, safek-mais” (It is in doubt whether he is alive, in doubt whether he is dead.)

R’ Elyashiv answers and says that he is at least a goses, and is considered a “safek-mais, safek-chai.”

[I don’t remember a name here, but R. Avraham Steinberg in his response to this point said that it was R. Avraham Shapira, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel.]____ came to visit Yeshiva for a year, came late, went to Dr. Lamm’s) office, apologizing to Dr. Lamm why he showed up two weeks late- said he had to stay for a vote on brain death/ can you take out organs from a brain-dead patient?

He responded that the rabbanut allowed organ donation based on a combination of three factors:
1. Shtayim she’hargu is patur from misah- two that kill are exempt from murder, while one who kills is a killer- so if two doctors remove the organs from the brain-dead patient, then it should be fine. I (R’ Schacter) couldn’t contain myself and started screaming at R’ Levi Shapiro, “What is this shtayim she’hargu patur; it’s still assur, retzicha is assur!”
2. Also, they mentioned that the majority of brain-dead people come from automobile accidents- I didn’t agree with this either, what, just because someone crashes a car he is suddenly a goses? [The gemara in Sanhedrin 78a says that there is no חיוב מיתה for killing someone who is a גוסס בידי אדם, someone who was mortally wounded by another man. The Rabbanut felt that car accidents fit that category. R. Schachter didn’t agree; and even if he did agree, still all that means is that there is no חיוב for killing; but there still is an issur.
3. The Rabbanut considered brain death a safek, and with the other factors permitted. R. Schachter couldn’t believe that they are permitting safeik retzicha.

This I feel should be the definition of death- if any vital organ is dead the person should be considered a safek-mais, safek chai.

(Question time)

PHYSICIAN FROM COLUMBIA PRESBYTERIAN: IF we cannot halakhically accept the notion of brain death, we cannot accept heart donations- because murder is involved, to remove the heart. What would you say if a religious Jew needs a heart transplant; can he benefit from the murder of somebody else? Also, Jews are viewed as wishing to benefit from organ donation but not willing to be donors as well, which leads to discomfort?

(clapping. I don’t really get why there was clapping for the question…)

R’ SHACHTER: Regarding your first question, if the Halakha is not prepared to accept this, can you benefit from murder? You can argue this both ways. One can present an argument saying I’m not allowed to save my life at the expense of another’s life. Many Rabbanim feel it is permissible, however, because the man will die anyway. For the second question, I agree that this is a serious issue, but Halakha does not pasken according to societal views. Exact quote: “We don’t permit רציחה because of social pressure.”

Back to Rabbi Kenneth Brander

Look, everyone- we had two choices in this, to run this conference or not to run this conference. Not to run the conference would have been the easiest but also the wrong thing to do. People are already upset with us over who we did/ didn’t invite. Point for the record is that I recognize that there will be different rabbinic approaches but I think intellectual honesty requires that they are presented by people who recognize and live these positions. Respect for leaders- hamayvin yavin- all approaches are being communicated.

Now what happened was that there were 4 different options for speeches, all going on simultaneously in different rooms. I went to R’ Avraham Steinberg’s speech on Organ Trafficking.

Organ Trafficking by R’ Avraham Steinberg

There are various ways nowadays to obtain organs if you need one- you can go to China, pay a certain amount of money, and someone will be executed for you, and his organs will be given to you. Same thing in Colombia. You can go to a third-world country like India, Romania or Turkey, get a match, pay a sum (usually not very large, because it’s a lot for them, but only a little bit of money here.) There are even groups that go from the developed country to the undeveloped country so that the operation will be successful because the transplant team is from the developed country.

There is a way in the USA to bring someone who is being paid under the table and get his organs “legally,” simply by terming him your relative- your “cousin” or “brother;” it’s interesting, you know, to see this Chassid with his payos and religious garb next to this blonde non-Jew, and suddenly they are brothers! (laughter) And this brother altruistically wants to donate his kidney and so on. Now, it’s only natural that people would want to do this- people want to save their lives. But the fact is that it’s hard to blame someone who wants to save his life. I know personally very respectable people (army officers, government officials) at least in Israel, who do this because there is no legitimate way to do this.

The fact is that there are not enough organs- halakhically OR otherwise, because honestly the small 2% of Jews who may not be donating their organs for religious reasons don’t make that much of a worldwide different. Live-donors or deceased, people on a whole don’t want to give.

So talking about live-donors, the stated philosophy of Western society is that a live organ-donor must be ALTRUISTIC. Any compensation is regarded as illegal or immoral in a sense of organ-trading, which looks like slavery. I would like to open an informal discussion with you. I think we all agree that the examples I gave you (like with going to a peasant, giving him a TV and taking his kidney, or the Chassid and his non-Jewish “brother”) should not be.

So how can we get someone to be a live donor?

Woman 1: Education (goes into a long explanation of how she feels educating people to know that kidney donation is really not so risky, is helpful, etc is important.)

R’ Steinberg: You’re suggesting to educate people to become live donors. Now, does the live donor have to be altruistic or not necessarily so?

Man 1 w/ question: Why is it inherently immoral to go in for compensation?

Man 2: It’s obvious. Rich people will always buy the organs, there will be a maldistribution of organs, and that is unfair to everyone else.

(someone) So what if you set up a government agency to pay the money vs. the individual paying money for the kidney? (someone else brings up health insurance now, and how we should have health insurance for organs)

Another person: But it’s still the rich countries that will be able to afford the most organs.

Yet another: Better some people do get them than none!

Man with a hat: IF we can pay people for giving blood, give sperm, give ova…why not this?

Man with glasses: Actually, we do NOT pay people to give blood, ova, sperm.

R’ Steinberg: But surrogacy here is also for free?

Chorus of voices: No.

R’ Steinberg: A surrogate mother is paid to harbor and incubate the baby. This surrogate woman does not need to be pregnant at the time and yet she endangers herself, maybe more than she would if she donated the kidney, in order to do this!

Another person: What are the halakhic ramifications of obtaining an organ that might be stolen?

R’ Steinberg: You may expand your question- halakhically speaking, can we pay for organs at all? Leaving aside stealing…

The way that the world now approaches this dilemma is divided. Most of the legal systems at the moment outlaw any type of compensation for live organ donation as opposed to surrogacy, blood, sperm donations, ova, etc. It’s not illegal to receive money for surrogacy, etc. However, if someone donates a kidney and is paid for it, it will be illegal.

This is based on 2 principle assumptions. One is a basic philosophical assumption, the other a _____ assumption.

To pay for a part of the body incites/ causes people to do something they might not otherwise do, which hence must be made illegal. I confess I don’t understand it. If someone makes an autonomous decision to be a coal miner or engage in a dangerous profession for his parnassah, that’s fine. Or boxing? We pay professional boxers to entertain us, and look at Mouhammed Ali, who is completely demented from so many hits. Why can we pay people to do things which are so much more harmful to the body, but not for organs?

And what about soldiers- we don’t expect them to altruistically go to war and risk their lives; we pay them for it! We don’t expect altruism for any other service, so why now?

What I do understand is that the end result can be potentially problematic- that rich people might get more organs. The world is not, however, ideal.


There was a Pakistani man, a relatively poor person who had a daughter with leukemia. He took her to England after scraping together the little money he could to get a bone marrow transplant. They laughed at him because it wasn’t enough money. So he said he’s willing to sell his kidney- use the money from that to save his daughter, and save the other person with my kidney. But compensation is not allowed in England, so in the end the daughter died and the recipient died.

There’s a way to compensate so it will not be a kind of trade. This donor might receive education for free instead, rather than money. Because studies show that if you sold kidneys on a trade market, it would be bad for people. Because you give poor people money and they don’t know what to do with it/ waste it, and they’re no better off. So instead give them housing, clothing- a person’s life would be saved.

Honestly, to cross the street in Jerusalem is more risky than donating a kidney.

The risks are exaggerated. There is an exaggerated paternalistic approach to protect everyone.

So to avoid exploitation, it should be done by the government, insurance society, at a fixed price, to minimize unwanted societal consequences.

Another interesting point- everyone involved in organ donation is being compensated:

a) The Doctor gets money
b) The Nurse gets money
c) The Recipient gets the kidney

And yet the nicest person, the Donor, receives nothing!
Why does the donor not receive any money?

There’s no altruism in capitalistic society. In the old days, kibbutz, etc, then everyone would work altruistically. But today nobody is altruistic. R’ Shlomo Zalman zt’ll said compensation is okay from a halakhic point of view. However the basic idea is that mitzvoth should be done for free- Moshe Rabbeinu was not compensated, one might claim, so too us! There’s a verse that states Ma ani b’chinam, af atem b’chinam!

But show me one Rabbi who isn’t compensated and does this for free! Show me one Rosh Yeshiva who is not compensated. Show me Jews who are giving away lulavs and esrog for free!

So the idea is that to maintain the Halakhos one has to deviate slightly from the ideal in Halakha. If we required everything to be done for free, then nothing would ever be done. The ideology is to do it for nothing, but the practicality is to do it for something. If a meshulach goes to get money for a Yeshiva, he gets 30-40% of it. This is how the world is made up today. And therefore, said R’ Shalom Zalman, there’s no difference between TAlmid Torah being compensated and organs being compensated. No poskim as far as I (R’ Steinberg) know disagree with this approach.

So let me tell you what is happening in Israel right now. Altruistic only- there’s a committee in Israel that checks every donor to make sure it’s altruistic. I happen to be the National Chairman- but I am almost sure everyone gets money under the table. Because how can I do it? The Shin-Bet didn’t come to me to volunteer; the Mossad was unavailable. So I ask him “Were you paid for it?” “No,” answers the person, “of course not.” And then what else can I do?

With regards to exploitation, there are sometimes stories with that. For example, an Arab woman is regarded as much less than a man. So this Arab woman who is divorced and has two little children comes and says she wants to be a donor to this completely unrelated person, and offers as reasons the fact that she loves him, he helped her…so we dug around a bit and we saw that she was forced to do this by her brothers because they received money from the man (the theoretical recipient) for this. So we told her that she should continue to insist she wants to donate and we will be the bad guys and say no, and by law we don’t have to explain why. I saw the smile on her face when we said this. And later I received a very secret letter from her saying thank you.

Another example is this new Russian immigrant to Israel who knows no one. She was hijacking (correction from everyone- hitchhiking) yes, hitchhiking, and this man picks her up. While he’s driving her he tells her he hates his wife, he loves her, and he’ll marry her and they’ll start a life together if she gives him her kidney. And she said yes. So of course we investigate that and the man, and finally the man breaks and says that he loves his wife but he wants the kidney!

By the way, even within a family, where a family member is giving another family member a kidney it is not so simple- there is societal pressure, where the child or brother probably doesn’t really want to do it but feels forced into it.

At the moment, the law that is being proposed in Israel is like this- compensation is forbidden but you can compensate for expenses. Now expenses don’t have to be real expenses- they’re evaluated expenses. Still, this is too low a price, so people won’t come and want to donate. To do it halfway is what they’re suggesting. The price is not high enough/ compensation is not good enough. So we’re trying to work out forms of compensation which will be a fixed price/ education/ insurance. But fixed price idea won’t go to a specific person but rather first-come, first-served.

I think the world is understanding this and is doing much worse things now. No country yet that I know of has punished people for going to China, etc, because there’s no other solution. So we need to find solutions. It’s not enough to say something in principle but then not do anything when people go through these wrong immoral things. I find it hypocritical.

Another story about this girl who works delivering pizzas. She earns 5000 shekels a month, which is barely enough to live on. So she decided she wanted to donate her kidney, to do a chesed. And I asked her- why not go to Magen David Adom, do something else, and she said she can’t afford to become involved in an ongoing chesed. She wants to do something once, one good deed so she feels about herself that she is a good person. But she wants someone to give her the 5000 shekels she would have made were she not recuperating from the surgery. So the government said no because this would be compensation. So we had to pay out of pocket for this…

(In answer to someone going on about education being the means to persuade people to give kidneys) Well, there is a psychological burden to undergo surgery, to lose part of the body, and I doubt education will solve that problem.

(The HODS (Halakhic Organ Donor Society) head now spoke up and said thank you, suggests that money might minimize altruistic pools- R’ Steinberg said he didn’t think that would/ should be the case)

Brain Death in Jewish Law

Edward Burns to introduce Dr. Fred Rosner

…spoke to YU students in pre-med programs and some said they’d be applying to Harvard and Yale- I would suggest they don’t settle and trade down (laughter from everyone because he’s saying Einstein is better than Harvard) (did you catch the reference about Stern students having other incentives? i.e. free tuition. ;))

All of our discussions here have been on the cutting edge- in 1959 the first Jewish text on bioethics was published by Dr. Jakobovits. Not the same as today, though…different issues discussed…

One of the most distinguished alumni from Albert Einstein is…Dr. Fred Rosner.

Dr. Fred Rosner

…very lavish introduction. Sorry my parents couldn’t hear that- my father would have been proud, and my mother would have believed it all.

Definitions of death became inadequate when heart transplants started…”irreversible cessation of all brain stem function” is the terminology used. For students of the Daf Yomi, just a few days ago we finished Yuma, daf P”G (pay-gimmel) which is the key source for all the controversy is around a key Rashi there.

There’s a story about a building that collapsed where you don’t know if the person buried underneath it is dead or alive- so you bring shovels and pickaxes to get him. If he’s alive, you take him out. If he’s dead, you have to leave him for later (because you’re being m’challel Shabbos for him.) So how far do you dig to figure out if he’s alive? Up to the nose= respiration. Considered that the heart controlled respiration.

V’yeish omrim- another opinion says up to the heart. The Yerushalmi says up to his bellybutton/ navel (if you found him feet-first.) Bavli says up to the nose OR including the heart. Now, the Rashi there says “if you found him and he appears like a stone- an inanimate stone” then he’s dead.

Now there are lots of other sources for brain death, but this is the main one. What does it mean- none of his limbs are moving- now, Rabbi Tendler is many things but also the author of the “physiological decapitation” idea. When Marie Antoinette was beheaded she was dead- limbs jumping around, but she was dead. So if there’s no circulation to the blood (and you can do this with radiation and Geiger counter, CLICK CLICK CLICK over the head) then person is brain-dead. This concept of “physiological decapitation.” It’s all based namely on this Rashi.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was brain-dead for six weeks and they cleared out a whole floor and made an ICU just for him. Now, who is going to pay for the care of a brain-dead patient? Insurance won’t pay for it, so that’s an issue. Another question you might ask is if the Rebbe is occupying an ICU bed, is that depriving another patient of a bed? Is that medically/ ethically wrong?

Let me now introduce my teacher, mentor, colleague, friend, posek, R’ Moshe Tendler who is known worldwide for his psak, is a pulpit Rabbi, a Rosh Yeshiva at YU, Chairman of the Bio department at YU, and who discovered the chemical compound Refual which was quite big at the time…a multifaceted individual.

Rav Moshe Tendler: Brain Death in Jewish Law

(There’s a slideshow up. He looks at the top of the slideshow, where the YU logo is tilted to the right on the scan.)

If you notice, up here, the logo is tilted to the right. That’s the way Yeshiva’s going. [HUGE LAUGH.]

To tilt to the right means you’re prepared to accept stringencies in Halakha. There’s a copy of the Shla Ha’Kadosh…the Shla says when someone has a shailaand he sees it in two ways, the lenient and the stringent approach- there’s a pasuk

“Yegia kapecha ki tochal, ashrecha v’tov lach”

You work hard, then you’ll be rewarded. When you work at a shailah and you are convinced it’s kosher, then you eat it yourself. A cop-out, this unsure, let’s be “machmir” idea. I have a cap saying, “I have a chumrah that you’ve never heard of.”

I’m sorry that R’ Schachter is not here. As you might know I had the zechus to have him as a talmid…and my joy to see him as the major pillar supporting Torah education. I believe that on this topic, which is the interface of Halakha and the cutting edge of medicine- not everyone should be involved in this. I think you have to answer how many brain-dead people you’ve seen. How many mothers asking why is my child dead today, when it seems no different from yesterday?

“When can you take a man OFF the ventilator?” R’ Moshe Feinstein took two years on this. The idea is that if he’s dead we have a mitzvah to bury him/ a kohen shouldn’t enter the room/ his wife is an almanah, a widow.

“I do not know how to answer that question, nor can I answer…”

For a dead donor, not a live donor, it is a chiyuv not a mitzvah to give organs!


1. A negation of faith healing (Exodus 21: 19) The doctor has the obligation to heal people, but people need to know they can’t be healed alone. So people say God will heal me, well, they can’t go to the “real doctor” (God) unless they go to the “fake” doctor first!
2. A personal obligation (Deuteronomy 22:2) There is an obligation on the community to give money so that others can be made well
3. A modicum of person risk: healthcare for all (Leviticus 19:16)

Here I present to you an intriguing personality insight of R’ Feinstein. ______ posed a question about organ donation, kidney donation from a dead patient and gave many reasons as to why he feels it is forbidden. Some have intimated that I don’t understand R’ Feinstein and I feel offended/ insulted by that. R’ Feinstein said no such thing. The other person stated that the family feels great pain by the mutilation of the body- the psychological suffering, well THEN you are exempt from giving the organs, but (and this is classic R’ Feinstein) R’ Moshe concludes the letter by saying “don’t you realize that you are saving a human life and should not be suffering!” A chiyuv…

Now, some take issue with the description of the person breathing/ not breathing. If brain-death is defined as not breathing, then if a person is injured, or has asthma, or for some reason can’t breathe, he’s immediately dead?

No. So let us begin. This is the universal definition of death- accepted by everyone: “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.”

Now, the question is, why the entire brain? Why not just the cerebrum? The answer is that if it were only part of the brain, we’d lose half the student body here at Yeshiva. (laughter)

The only definition of death is the death of the brain stem.

We think that when the heart stops you are dead, but really it is when the brain stops so that you cannot be resuscitated anymore.

It bothers me terribly when people speak halakhically about brain death and don’t know how it’s diagnosed.

Harrison’s “Principles of Internal Medicine,” pages 130-131, the heaviest book in any man’s library- line there says there is a test performed to see whether one is truly dead that is a “simple test which allows no chance of diagnostic error.” To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a case of brain-death accepted by a court and following all correct protocol where the person has recovered.

This is the protocol (on the slideshow there’s a sheet with responses, tests, etc.) When someone shows no responses, there’s certain texts- I took my father-in-law with me to visit brain-dead patients, and the test that impressed him the most was the gag-reflex, because anyone who is living would not calmly have something stuck down his throat and not gag- this shows that he really has something dangerously wrong with him- and is not breathing.

Through the IV you inject a radioactive substance (he showed us normal pictures of the brain, and then a brain-dead picture which is pretty much like a hole in the brain= no activity at all going on there) You repeat tests 12 hours later- see that the brain has been deprived of oxygen for 24 hours, and the brain dies in 4 minutes. Apnea testing is really the most conclusive test, however- you give the patient 100% oxygen for 10-20 minutes, remove pumping actions and leave tube in- see no autonomic breathing, and this is as the Gemara teaches us (he’s referencing the rubble story where you check to see if the man is breathing.)

Autopsy on a patient who is brain-dead for 4 day, and we see the brain has softened/ liquefied (he might have said something about finding pieces of the brain in the spinal column? That might be completely crazy. He said something with brain and spinal, though….) We are talking about physiological decapitation and morphological decapitation.

Death occurs in 3 stages:
1. Organismal death
2. Organ death
3. Cellular death

When someone dies, the organism no longer exists but you can still take the organs, transplant them, then the organs die but the cells are still alive…

Here’s a case of a brain-dead woman who was pregnant, and they wanted to keep the organs alive and the fetus as well. Now R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was very disturbed by this because it says in the Gemara that the fetus dies first if the mother dies, because it is smaller and weaker.

To resolve this issue, in Israel they got a pregnant sheep and decapitated the sheep. Had head on one side and the sheep on the other side, waited 45 minutes, etc, and then by Caesarian section they delivered a healthy baby lamb which I believe is still alive to this day. No one would doubt that the sheep was dead- its head was cut off- but organs still working, heart beating for a little while, and baby survived.

The Chevra Kadisha sometimes reports that an hour after a person is declared dead a dead person sits up. Why? Because you move the head, stimulate the spinal cord, and it sits up- it’s a major cause of heart attacks. (laughter)

The decapitated sheep experiment shows even when something is dead- there is no one who will say a sheep with its head cut off is alive- the organs still move, the fetus is still alive. However the Gemara spoke of a woman dying in those times, not of a woman on the ventilator! Hence the seeming discrepancy.

In Oholoth 1: Mishna Vav (6) we see this described, the limbs are still moving but one is dead.

You’ll find everything in the Torah is a commonly described idea- well, you won’t find my microbiology course in the Torah- what this means is that AFTER you become a lawyer or a doctor you go BACK to the Torah and you will learn how to act.

There is a famous Gemara that is often quoted about the rubble, being mechallel shabbos, and looking to see if the man is breathing. But you have to look at the wording here! First, the man is “domeh k’mais”- he looks like a dead person! He LOOKS DEAD TO THE LAYMAN- and then you check to see whether he is still breathing. It’s exactly like the apnea test! So all these problems- if someone has an asthma attack- he doesn’t look like he’s dead, so it wouldn’t even apply.

There’s a Gemara in Chullin, unfortunately not cited by R’ Schachter, that says that Eli HaKohen fell off the chair when he heard the Pelishtim (Philistines) had captured the ark. Why did he die? Because he broke his neck. The moment he broke his neck he was dead.

Here’s the Shulchan Aruch- look at the subtitle! “Who is considered dead even though he is alive?” Incredible subtitle! So asks by Eli HaKohen- he doesn’t have physical signs of ____, even though his heart is beating, but he is dead.

Now, many people cite the Chacham Tzvi (heard wrong?) that the heart moving is what’s important. But you have to realize that he had a messed-up view of the circulatory system here (he explains how the Chacham Tzvi thought the body worked with contractions of heart, etc)- this is the teshuvah being cited to counter brain death!?

Here’s a teshuvah from my father-in-law saying that if there’s no autonomous breathing and one is only breathing on a ventilator- “domeh k’meis.” When he is motionless and cannot breathe without the ventilator, you should remove him.

Now here’s another famous quoted teshuva from R’Moshe (I think he said R’ Moshe) where he rejected cerebral death…but you have to read the shailah here! It says that cerebral death occurs while one is still breathing, so R’ Moshe rejected it because how could one be dead if one is still breathing? It had nothing to do with the issue of brain-death at all!

The Hamodiah last month, July 5, attacked Sha’arei Tzedek hospital for various reasons, something to do with an organ transplant that went wrong and then the team removed the organs…in the article they claimed that R’ Feinstein was against brain death. This is a lie! Where did that come from? And this is last month!

Question posed by Rabbi Bleich says if breathing is the key, then a person who has polio who is not “breathing” should be dead. But you see, he didn’t see the Rashi- “domeh k’mais,” first he has to look dead! A person with polio, even in an iron lung, does not look dead!

Another R’ Bleich text- they don’t know what brain death is. (He’s reading and I can’t catch this, something with a cow being shechted, and if the brain is liquefied it’s treif vs. nevailah, but how could you go and schecht a cow that had come off a ventilator?)

Here’s where a number of signators including R’ Schachter and R’ Willig are against the stance taken by the RCA to support brain death- saying a careful reading of the materials/ never saw the proof (I think he’s suggesting that both of them didn’t see some important part of the argument and confirm this…)

(more sources) Every single death is covered by teshuvas- not just deaths by ambulances…

Here’s a dramatic exit- many people go for Pesach to the _____ Hotel, which Barry Haftoff owns. He’s a tough fellow and doesn’t stand for nonsense. So he went to R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and said, “I’m a dentist but I’m involved in medical decisions- is R’ Tendler’s brain stem death correct and can we take out organs based on that?”

“In American you can,” says R’ Auerbach. I have this note printed here… (I don’t know if the note is in reference to this or something else of R’ Auerbach’s)

Why in America? I’m sorry to say because he had little confidence in Israeli doctors- slippery slope theory or ideas.

QUESTION FROM YU GUY: We’ve heard R’ Schachter, we’ve heard you- how do we decided?

R’ Tendler: “Very simple. Wait a week till R’ Schachter hears what I said, and he’ll change his mind!”


R’ Brander gets up and moderates again, after he finishes R’ Tendler gets up again and says “It’s Ellul, I want to do Teshuva for not noticing the praiseworthy, etc, etc, etc, Norman Lamm is here.” He smiles and sits down.

Keynote Address

R’ Avraham Steinberg: Keynote Address

I want to start with a big chiddush to you- that the issues we are talking about are in dispute. (laughter)

Disagree on everything but we learn to live together- two chachamim are fighting a milchama for Hashem, the end is love when they clarify their points to each other, even if they still disagree.

Keynote address- I don’t know what this word, “keynote” means; do you know? (laughter) I assume I got the key and have to close the issue/ conference, but I suggest instead that I turn the key and open the issue/ So misunderstandings can be clarified here.

For the past 25 years I have been actively involved in organ-donation in Israel. And have had personal experiences with the Gedolim on this issue.

In Israel, around 25 years ago, heart transplant became a reality and the Ministry turned to the Chief Rabbinate and asked whether this was permissible. It’s unusual because Israel is a secular state, the fifty-first state of the United States, and usually does not ask the Chief Rabbinate’s opinion.

We were asked by the Chief Rabbinate to assist them on the issue. Before decision of the Chief Rabbinate was reached, there were lecture from experts before they discuss the halakhic matter, because good ethics start with good facts. Really went into the understanding of the process- accepted the concept of brain death although not as brain death per se but rather that the function of breathing is controlled by the brain stem.

In the old days, when they didn’t know this…done through the heart, so obviously no further breathing- reaching same conclusion. Change in process due to new technologies not a change in halakha. Since most victims of brain death situations are car-accidents, the issue of treifah became a sniff to the whole matter- position of Chief Rabbinate of Israel, I told the Chief Rabbis that it would be preferable if Gedolim outside of the Chief Rabbinate would understand and also agree.

1. R’ Elyashiv
2. R’ Yitzchak Weiss (did he call him Minchas Yitzchak (author of the teshuvos of that name, and Av Beis Din of Yerushalayim.? )
3. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach

Heart-transplant is a double retzicha according to Minchas Yitzchak. I went to explain 2 facts.

A) That the recipient’s side has changed, and that now the recipient does not die after 18 days, but instead survives, so it is definitely not the same idea of rechitza involved.
B) Donor side- one can define this man as dead (from car-crash, whatever it may be) so it is not a rechitza either.

Now, R’ Weiss was hesitant to establish his opinion; he wanted a Beis Din where all three of them- R’ Elyashiv, R’ Auerbach and he could sit together.

R’ Elyashiv said he would meet but R’ Auerbach said that he refused to meet because this is something totally new to him/ he never paskened something without completely understanding it, this is too much, completely new thing he would have to learn. Because R’ Auerbach wouldn’t come, R’ Elyashiv wouldn’t come, and so nothing happened.

The Chief Rabbinate for “irreversible cessation” idead added to the brain death definition that-

1) Physicians should com from a specific list that the Rabbinate would approve (when it came to organ transplants/ pronouncing brain death.
2) Every case of brain death has to be diagnosed by clinical criteria AND an additional objective test
3) Review committee by physicians and Rabbis.

Well, the doctors came back and said, thank you very much for enabling us to do transplants, but we cannot accept these conditions. So these conditions have not been accepted by the Ministry of Health.

Depends on family in Israel- if the family is content with the physician’s diagnosis, that’s fine, otherwise the family has the right to ask if this brain-death is in accordance with the rules laid down by the chief rabbinate as well. So the hospitals agree to it but it is not the standard. We’ve been trying to amend the Ministry’s guidelines- only a few days ago we decided to rewrite the protocol and see if the Ministry accepts it - 20 years to make such a small change.

Now here’s a story:

R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach refused even to enter into the shailah when I spoke to him at first, but then he and R’ Elyashiv got together and said that taking out a heart from a brain-dead patient is an issur gemurah or retzicha.

So I went to R’ Shlomo Zalman and said, “What is this/ When I went to talk to you, you said you couldn’t, and now you have a verdict, and how is this retzicha?”

So R’ Shlomo Zalman answers that there’s a story from the Gemara about a pregnant woman dying and her fetus must die first! So he heard about a brain-dead woman giving birth to a baby; this means that she cannot really be dead, she must be alive! (This isdea is in Erichin daf zayin)

So I looked up the idea. But the Gemara goes on to say in the very next example that if the woman is dying/ killed, one can be mechallel Shabbos to bring a knife to open her up to sae the baby- so if it was ALWAYS the case that the baby dies before the mother does, then how could we do this? So Rashi says that sometimes the baby/ fetus is still alive!

So I went back to R’ Zalman and he told me I don’t know how to learn- saying that in that situation, where you can bring the knife to deliver the baby, she is already on the birthing stool – at the delivery stage, and so it is different!

So I looked at the Shulchan Aruch and in Siman Shin-Lamed I see that the Mogen Avraham says that even BEFORE the delivery time/ period one can bring the knife to save her! So I went back to R’ Zalman, and he said before I finished that he paskens against the Magen Avraham. And it’s true, there’s a machlokes there, and the Magen Avraham is a viable opinion!

So then R’ Shlomo Auerbach suggests the sheep experiment-if you’re saying that someone who is dead, really dead, can still deliver a healthy child, prove it! Take a pregnant sheep, decapitate her, and then deliver the lamb- that will prove the point.

BUT- said R’ Auerbach- the Gemara makes a distinction between “misah” or death and “neherigah” or killing. If the sheep is killed/ has its head cut off, that won’t help to prove the point here! But misah is a gradual death. So R’ Auerbach said that with harigah, since it’s instantaneous, sometimes the fetus doesn’t die right away! So what we should do is decapitate the sheep, then WAIT and then see if the fetus can still be delivered alive.

So it was a very difficult operation- we had an intensive care in the veterinary school, decapitate the sheep in a gradual fashion, and then we waited more than half an hour- the lamb came out alive! And of course we videotaped the whole thing.

So I come back to R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and I say I proved it, give him the video- he says “What do I need the video for? I believe you!”

“So what’s the halakha?” I say.

“NOW,” he says, “I have to think about it.”

“What do you mean?” I say, after going to all this trouble to prove it he has to THINK about it?

And he answered, “To understand a daf of Gemara, you’v done, but the halakha…”

So after much thinking and writing, R’ Zalman went very, very carefully over a document and this is what he decided-

“The heart by principle has nothing to do with death, breathing or non-breathing isinsufficient, the whole brain has to be destroyed.” This is his definition of death. BUT there is a Catch-22 to the situation, because he defines a brain-dead person as a “safek mais, safek goses,” which means he is “maybe dead, maybe near death.” Now, you can’t move a goses! But if you can’t move a goses/ can’t move a patient, then you can’t do the tests to prove that he is dead!

So I thought maybe we won’t move him, we’ll just inject him but R’ Auerbach holds that no moving, no injections, can’t even close lids of eyes…not rules that necessarily have to do with hastening death, simply rules.

So we came up with a test, the Doppler test- this he was willing to do. At that time, though, the reliability of the test was still below 90%. So he said no. But TODAY now that it has been improved, and it is much higher reliability, I believe that he would agree to the test and to its results.

Now, what is R’ Elyashiv’s position? This, too, I can illustrate with a story-

I got a call from R’ Elyashiv saying there was someone considered brain-dead, which he doesn’t accept, he wants me to go there and see if this person is transportable.

Now, I was still thinking on R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach logic, and I said, “What do you mean! She’s a goses; I can’t move her!”

And he said, “What are you talking about, to me, she’s alive! Of course you can move her!”

So R’ Elyashiv does not accept brain death at all it seems.

To conclude, everyone should have his own posek who is well-versed in this issue, understands it, more than legitimate to follow this.

R’ Zalman says about becoming a recipient in Israel- that you cannot be a recipient because he’s etting from a “safek-goses” according to his laws, but in the USA it’s okay. The definition of life/ death in Israel and USA is not the same. See, it’s one of the Noachide laws not to kill, but if a non-Jew declares a different definition of death and works by those rules, that is fine. He is not allowed to kill but he IS allowed to come up with his own legal definition of death, so in the USA it doesn’t matter.


Quick closing remarks which I didn’t catch, announcement of Mincha- and it was over.


The whole thing was completely amazing and brilliant.