The gift of organ donation is a true mitzvah

Readers will forgive us for taking personally one particular story in this week’s issue.

We recently learned that former j. editor and publisher Marc Klein, who stepped down last October, has been diagnosed with stage 5 renal failure, and must undergo a kidney transplant or endure dialysis.

Thankfully, he’s in great spirits and generally feeling well. But the urgency of finding a suitable donated kidney grows with every passing day. The wait for a transplant can take years.

Donating a kidney so that someone else might live is a mammoth mitzvah.

Understandably, one might balk at the prospect of undergoing major surgery and then living life with one kidney. But the vast majority of donors live full, healthy lives. So as a mitzvah-minded people, Jews should consider answering the call.

And not just for kidneys. Everywhere, people languish on transplant lists — waiting for hearts, lungs, livers and corneas — transplants made possible only when another person dies.

Unfortunately, some Jews choose not to donate their organs, either while alive or after death. Much of that hesitation may be due to a belief that Jewish law forbids organ donation.

It does not.

Two points of Jewish law come into play here: respect for the dead, which includes laws forbidding desecration of the body; and pikuach nefesh, the preservation of life.

Many Jews, perhaps most, believe the need to save a life trumps all else.

Some observant Jews hold a more nuanced view, believing organ donation is permissible only when an organ is needed for a specific, immediate transplant. That applies to donors living and dead. In such cases, donating does become a mitzvah; literally, a commandment.

In Israel, the situation has reached crisis proportions — too many Israelis die every year because needed organs are simply not available.

Here in the United States, we make it easy to consent to organ donation. A simple pink dot printed on one’s driver license does the trick. Go to for details.

Meanwhile, Klein and countless others like him wait to hear some good news.

To donate a living kidney is a major decision. No one should take it lightly. But we hope that by bringing up the subject, more people will consider becoming a link in the chain of pikuach nefesh.

And we wish our dear friend, Marc Klein, refuat hanefesh v’refuat haguf, a healing of spirit and body.