This card can save ONE HUNDRED LIVES each year!

Considering the outstandingly generous and charitable nature of the Jewish People, and the espoused centrality of saving human lives ("pikuach nefesh") it is curious that when it comes to donating life-saving organs to dying patients, we Jews are apparently one of the stingiest nations on earth.

In Israel, the percentage of people who hold an organ donation card is only 10 percent; in Western countries the rate is 30-40 percent. The rate of agreement to organ donation is only 45 percent, which is 50 percent lower than the rate in most Western countries.

As a result, there are about 1,000 Israelis currently on the "waiting list" for organs, and it is estimated that roughly 10% [100 people!!] of them die annually due to a lack of donations. (Wikipedia).

Two landmark Organ Donation laws were passed in Israel in 2008, one defining the moment of death and the mechanism for determining this, and the other permitting limited compensation/incentive to donors while outlawing the "business" of out-of-country organ transplants.    

As the Hebrew readers will see from my ADI organ donor card (which I carry on me with my ID card), I have ticked the boxes for:
"any organ which can aid in saving a life"
"this is conditional upon the permission of a cleric of the choice of my family after my death."
"My donation is for the purposes of transplant only".

There are halachik opinions against organ transplants, particularly regarding those performed after "death" (defining that is the main point of debate); indeed it is this religion-based objection which is reportedly the dominant factor in the low donor rate in Israel. However, increasingly rabbonim are promoting organ donations, due to the ever clearer and urgent life-saving potential.

In the case of my ADI Organ Donors card, that halachik decision can wait until "lemaisah", after my demise. 

Rav Soloveichik – you will have a long, long while, I hope, to further research and contemplate this topic!!

To sign up now for your Israeli organ donor card (a simple form in English), click here:

You can forward this post to whoever you believe may also be interested in Saving One Hundred Lives!

Tizku lemitzvos!!


  1. Excuse me, but your article is ridiculous. You say "Considering the outstandingly generous and charitable nature of the Jewish People, and the espoused centrality of saving human lives ("pikuach nefesh") it is curious that when it comes to donating life-saving organs to dying patients, we Jews are apparently one of the stingiest nations on earth."
    We aren't stingy. If we hold that it is forbidden according to the Torah then that's the end of the story. You very well know that the majority of the contemporary poskim do not accept "brain death" as a halachik definition of death. So how can you say "However, increasingly rabbonim are promoting organ donations, due to the ever clearer and urgent life-saving potential."? It is 100% assur to sacrifice one life to save another. This is obvious to all. This has nothing to do with haredim and DL. The famous R. Bleich of YU and Rav A. Soloveitchik clearly rule that what you propose is called murder!! That's one of the big 3! Who's going to take a risk to rule like those who permit organ donations and commit murder?
    If one is clearly halachikly dead then it is obvious that organ donation is mandatory to save a life [assuming there is a choleh bafanenu]. Any charedi [who knows anything] will agree to that.

  2. With all respect, Anonymous, I suggest you re-read the "ridiculous" article.

    On a second reading, you will note that no-one is promoting murder - "big 3". Nor idolatory nor adultory (the other Big 2).

    You will see that the ADI card options I am promoting give veto to my Rav, in the event of my death.

    In the meantime, I've given my OK to use my organs to save other people's lives (only).
    Practically, I think this is mainly aimed at my family, who might otherwise object at that time (for all I know). It's a bit like a Will.

    If Rav Soloveichik (my rav) shlita (mamash!) decides I'm dead (by whatever standard he sees fit) and he decides that some/all of the organs can/should be halachikly used - then I'm good with that.

    You can see numerous repectable rabbonim who similarly have ADI or (in USA) HODS (Halachik Organ Donor Society) cards, and plenty of learned discourse & support on this topic:

    I don't understand, Anonymous, why you are apparently objecting to this - and calling it murder?!

  3. Most people misunderstand the issue. Do you tell them that the majority of poskim do not follow the medical definition of "brain-death?" Saving lives is paramount, but it does not override the big 3 aveiros!

    I understand you wanting to follow your Rabbi. I don't know him or what he holds on this issue. With that said, I would like to disagree with you. Unless my Rav was a world-class posek [and even then I'm not so sure] I wouldn't rely on him against many poskim when we're dealing with a shailah of sofek murder!! In kashrus follow him. The stakes aren't as big. In a shailah like this "shev va'al ta'aseh adif."

  4. Anonymous: the majority of poskim do not follow the medical definition of "brain-death?"

    I am not a halachik expert.

    I do observe that there is much dispute amongtst halachik experts as to what determines the moment of death.

    It would seem the main dispute concerns whether it is the heart or the brain which defines death. Some hold it is breathing.

    The Chief Rabbinate in Israel apparently backs the brain death definition. Thus the 2008 organ donation legislation in Israel.

    Whereas Rav Elyashiv, for example, holds that the cessation of the heartbeat is what determines death.

    In any case, I have every confidence that my rav (Rav Chaim Soloveichik, son of Rav Aharon ztz"l) is totally "reliable" - not just for sheilas about milchig spoons in the chicken soup (as you suggest rabbis are good for), but for life-and-death sheilos too.

    That's what the ADI donor card is for - to give your rav the Final Psak.

    If you're rav's not up to that - then I'm not sure why you're asking him shailos about milchig spoons either.

  5. I feel sorry for you if you can't understand the difference. Rav Elyashiv is not the only one by far. R. Aharon totally forbade following the medical definition. [His son can poskin as he fells fit.] Major shailos have to be handled by major poskim. Hopefully other Rabbis are sensible enough to know when to bow out.
    The problem is that this issue is all over the web. One person gives a heter and people jump on it. Who's the Rabbanut? With all due respect, but our chief rabbis are not usually the greatest poskim.
    I still object to what you wrote - "However, increasingly rabbonim are promoting organ donations, due to the ever clearer and urgent life-saving potential." This is not a halachik argument at all. I don't know if it's true.

  6. If I'm understanding you correctly, you are objecting to the ADI organ donor card BECAUSE it leaves the Final Decision to a rabbi of the family's chosing.

    And you are concerned that *that* rabbi may not be up-to-the-job of poskening this shaila (it's a biggy). Right?

  7. I object because the overall goal is for people to donate hearts, livers, lungs,etc. which can only be done [presently] while the organs are "fresh." These cannot be donated by the majority of poskim. Your man in the street is swept away by emotion and thinks this is allowed. He thinks that if the rabbinate poskins then it's God's word. he doesn't realize that halachikally [according to most poskim] this is murder. You don't like the word murder. That's why we invented words such as abortion and euthanasia. If we use these words then it's easier for us to do these things. Halacha calls these things MURDER. How many people will actually ask a Rav? Or will they say that it's really OK because they seem to remember once seeing ... [something]. Will they stand up to the pressure of the medical staff at the hospital.
    Don't get me wrong. If and when modern medicine is able to harvest organs according to the standard definition of [halachik] death then I'll be an advocate.
    Throughout history when there are new precedent-setting rulings, many poskim only rule leniently when they see that there decision has been accepted by a broad concensus of other poskim. That's a fact.

  8. Anonymous: "Halacha calls these things MURDER."

    I understand you are against the ADI donor card, even though, in my case, I have ticked the box saying my rav (actually, "the rav of my family's chosing" - could be Rav Elyashiv they ask, or whoever else they find is the "biggest" possek at that time...).

    You are stressing the downside of defining death in the "wrong" way as being "murder".
    Which you argue would outweigh the benefit (pikuach nefesh) of using the organs for saving other people's lives. (One hundred each year, who die in Israel due to lack of organs).

    Have I understood you correctly?

    If so, your use of the term "murder" is rhetorical, and not helpful to a balanced approach to this topic.

    Tarring halachik organ donor cards, such as ADI (in Israel) or HODS (in the States) - and the many rabbonim who support them (I really suggest you review the site I previously referred you to before responding, should you chose, with your next comment) - as "murder" and these many and distinguished rabbonim therefore as "murderers" - with all respect, I find is not only absurd, but shows a total lack of kavod to our rabbonim and the Torah they represent.

    I understand that the Chief Rabbinate's support for the ADI donor card doesn't impress you (perhaps due to politics?), but you will also note that Rav Ovadiah Yosef and Rav Dovid Feinstein (quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein) are amonst the many who have likewise supported the donor cards.

    (By the way, slipping in abortion and euthenasia as also "murder" - is to entirely ignore the fact that there ARE circumstances where both abortion - artificial termination of a foetus - and euthenasia - artificial termination of life, such as switching off life support equipment - are halachikally permitted - ie NOT MURDER. Your one-size-fits-all approach is to under-estimate the sophistication and complexity of the mitziut and of the halachik process - which I also am not an expert on!).

    Anonymous, I respectfully suggest you please tone down the rhetoric, and return to a more respectful and considered approach to this critical life/death inyan.


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