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Noyekh Prilutsky

1 October 2013


Program hosted by Boris Sandler
Noyekh Prilutsky – One of the most important personalities in Yiddish journalism between the world wars; one of the founders of the daily newspaper “Der moment‟; researcher of Jewish folklore and theater.

Joseph Rumshinsky


15 January 2014

Program hosted by Boris Sandler

Joseph Rumshinsky (1881-1956)

Jewish composer and theater impresario. His songs composed for theater-performances were sung throughout the world. He published articles about music and theatrical figures in the Forverts.

Bessarabian Coachman in New York


A new CD has been released, “Songs with a Jewish Flavor” (with 12 Songs), a joint project of the talented musicians Rita and Naum Koyfman, the writer Boris Sandler, and the world famous pianist Evgeny Kissin.


QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Can I Donate My Kidney Against My Parent’s Wishes?
Can I Donate My Kidney Against My Parent’s Wishes?
Adar I 13, 5774 · February 13, 2014


Recently, I read about a woman who selflessly donated her kidney to someone who was very ill and in dire need of a transplant. The story touched me deeply, and I too want to save someone’s life by donating my kidney.

My problem is that my elderly mother is adamantly against my doing this. She argues that charity begins at home, and that a relative might need my organ in the future. “What if I would need your kidney? Or your only daughter would need it? Who would we turn to, and how would you feel then?” she argues, even though neither she nor my daughter has any kidney illness.

I know that donating a kidney is a big mitzvah. But I also know that honoring parents is a commandment. I’m wondering: am I allowed to disregard her opinion and still donate my kidney?


As you correctly point out, there are two mitzvahs which seem to be in conflict here—honoring one’s parents, and donating an organ. In order to resolve this conflict, we need to better understand the parameters of both of these mitzvahs.

Let’s start with the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim—honoring one’s parents.

Although it is included in the Big Ten, honoring one’s parents does not supersede other mitzvahs. The Torah states, “Every man shall revere his mother and his father, and you

Honoring one’s parents does not supersede other mitzvahs

shall observe My Sabbaths. I am the L‑rd, your G‑d,”1juxtaposing the observance of the Sabbath with the reverence of one’s parents. The verse is teaching us that although one must honor his parents, at the same time one still needs to “observe the Sabbath” and follow G‑d’s commandments. After all, both the child and the parents are equally bound to honor and follow G‑d’s mitzvahs.2 

Practically speaking, if your parents order you to transgress either a positive or negative commandment, you must disregard the order and fulfill the commandment.3 Additionally, if your parents request that you do them a favor while you have another mitzvah to perform that you can neither delay nor delegate, you must do the mitzvah and disregard the honor due your parents, since both you and your parents are duty-bound to fulfill the commandment. If you can, however, you must delegate or postpone the mitzvah, and honor your parents.4

In light of the above, if there were a straight-out commandment in the Torah to donate organs, then the answer would be simple, and that obligation would supersede the obligation to honor your parents. However, that does not seem to be the case.

Is there an obligation to donate your organs?

Note: The following discussion applies specifically to live kidney donations. Other types of organ donations (specifically, postmortem ones) are more complex and beyond the scope of this discussion.

People were created with two kidneys, although they can survive with just one. This allows a healthy person to donate one of his kidneys to someone suffering from renal disease. In some situations, a kidney donation is the only means of saving the patient’s life. The question is: are we obligated to donate a kidney to save someone’s life?

While the Torah commands us, “Do not stand idly by your neighbor’s blood,”5 and our sages tell us that “he who saves even one life, it is as if he saved the entire world,”6 there are nevertheless limitations to when one is obligated to save someone else’s life.

Endangering Your Own Life to Save Others

The Jerusalem Talmud tells us of an incident in which Rabbi Aimi was captured in a dangerous area. Rabbi Yochanan stated, “Wrap the dead in his shrouds.” Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish responded, “I will either kill or be killed; I will go with might and save him.”7

Based on this statement, some commentaries conclude that one

The risk factor may not apply to kidney donations

is obligated to save a life even if in doing so he is putting himself at risk.8 

However, other commentaries point out that the Babylonian Talmud seems to disagree9 with this conclusion. The Torah states, “You shall observe My statutes and My ordinances, which a man shall do and live by them. I am the L‑rd.”10 The Babylonian Talmud explains that the verse teaches that the commandments are meant to be kept when there is a certainty of life, but not when doing so will subject the person to the possibility of death.11

When there is a disagreement between the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, the law follows the Babylonian Talmud; therefore, the law is that one is not required to put himself in danger in order to save someone else’s life.12Furthermore, according to many authorities, one is (in most circumstances) prohibited from doing so.13

Due to the present-day low fatality rate,14 the risk factor may not apply to kidney donations.15 But according to all halachic authorities, there is no obligation for one to relinquish an organ in order to save someone else’s life. Additionally, if this is done at risk to one’s own life, sacrificing an organ is considered a foolish act.16In the case of an organ donation that does not involve risk to one’s life, the current halachic consensus is that while it is not an obligation to donate the organ, it is certainly considered meritorious if one chooses to do so.17

Honoring Parents Vs. Donating a Kidney

Since we have ascertained that there is no halachic obligation to donate your organ, it would seem that you would be required to honor your mother’s wishes. However, there is an additional factor to consider.

While you are obligated to honor your parents and fulfill their wishes, most authorities hold that you are not obligated to do so if what they are asking is not something that will necessarily18 affect or benefit them.19

So, from a halachic perspective, it is really up to you to choose what you want to do—listen to your parents, or donate your kidney.

1. Leviticus 19:3.
2. Talmud, Bava Metzia 32a and Yevamot 5b.
3. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 240:12–15, 25.
4. Ibid.
5. Leviticus 19:16.
6. Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a.
7. Jerusalem Talmud, Terumot 8:4.
8. Hagahot Maimoniot on Mishneh Torah, Hil. Rotzeach u-Shemirat Nefesh 1:15 (ed. Constantinople), cited also in Kesef Mishneh ibid. and in Beit Yosef on Tur, Choshen Mishpat 426:1. The reasoning seems to be (see Kesef Mishneh) that there is a certainty that the other person will lose his life without intervention, but it is only questionable about losing your own.
9. Some attempt to reconcile the two Talmuds by explaining that essentially the Jerusalem Talmud agrees that there is no obligation to risk one’s life to save another. These commentaries explain that Reish Lakish did so not out of obligation, but of his own volition (see, for example, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 2:174), or by explaining that Reish Lakish paid money to save Rabbi Aimi, but did not actually risk his own life. Thus, they explain that the Jerusalem Talmud agrees that one should not risk his own life (see commentary of Rabbi Chaim Heller on Sefer ha-Mitzvot, Prohibition 297). However, since most halachic codifiers seem to view them as two distinct opinions (see, for example, Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav, Choshen Mishpat, Hilchot Nizkei Guf ve-Nefesh 7), this article represents them as such.
10. Leviticus 18:5.
11. See Talmud, Yoma 85b and Rashi ad loc., and Aruch la-Ner on Talmud, Sanhedrin 73a.
12. See Sefer Me’irat Einayim (Sma) on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 426:2, and Pitchei Teshuvah ad loc.
13. Rashi on Talmud, Yoma 85b; Issur ve-Heter [he-Aroch] 59:38. See also Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav, Orach Chaim 329:8. However, see Likkutei Sichot, vol. 29, footnote #19 and gloss on that footnote, in which the Rebbe notes that while Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes in Orach Chaim simply that one shouldn’t put his life at risk to save another, without even mentioning the differing opinion, elsewhere (Choshen Mishpat, Hilchot Nizkei Guf ve-Nefesh 7) Rabbi Schneur Zalman cites both opinions, and only in parentheses does he rule according to the second opinion (see She’eirit Yehuda 6, where he explains that when there is a ruling in parentheses, Rabbi Schneur Zalman had in mind to further review that ruling again at a later time). For a full discussion on whether one can or is obligated to put his own life at risk to save another, see Encyclopedia Talmudit, s.v. Hatzolat Nefashot, p. 347.
14. While the risk of fatalities is reported to be about 2:10,000, kidney donations do cause a great deal of pain, illness and discomfort, and can even be a cause of death for the donor. See Arthur J. Matas et al., “Morbidity and mortality after living kidney donation, 1999–2001: Survey of United States Transplant Centers,”American Journal of Transplantation 3(7) (2003): 830–834. Also see Paul C. Kuo, Lynt B. Johnson and James V. Sitzmann , “Laparoscopic donor nephrectomy with a 23-hour stay: A new standard for transplantation surgery,” Annals of Surgery231(5) (2000): 772–779.
15. See responsum of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Pesakim 60; Minchat Yitzchak 6:103; Yechaveh Da’at 3:84. See also She’eilas David, Even ha-Ezer 6, note 4, where he explains that there is no obligation to perform an action that will cause one physical distress or cause one to become ill in order to save a life.
16. See responsa of Rabbi David ibn Zimra (Radbaz) 3:627, and Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 2:174.
17. See Igrot Moshe and Yechaveh Da’at cited in preceding footnotes. See also Nishmat Avraham, Yoreh De’ah 349:2.
18. Although in our case one of the reasons given was that someone from the family may need the kidney at a future time, since there is no present need for the kidney now, and it is just conjecture based on an unfounded fear of what will happen in the future, this is not considered a need that will necessarily benefit the parents.
19. Responsum of Maharik 166, quoted in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 240:25; see also Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, responsum 54.

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By Yehuda Shurpin    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for’s Ask the Rabbi service.

Moses Wants Out
Adar I 13, 5774 · February 13, 2014
Why Moses Broke the Tablets and What It Tells Us about Teshuvah

He had always been known as the faithful servant. But this time his words were brash. Brazen. Almost impudent. Dangerously so.

“If You won’t forgive them, leave me out of this. Leave me out of this covenant, leave me out of this Torah, leave me out of the entire story.”

“If this Torah won’t allow You to forgive them, I want no part of it.”

Until now, everything had been about Torah. He had rescued the people and brought them to the mountain only to enter into this covenant. The entire world had trembled as he brought heaven to meet earth, Creator to creation. For 40 days and 40 nights he sat in another world to absorb the words of this Torah and bring it to the people.

That is how he saw himself: As a teacher. He had rescued the people, he had carried them towards the promised land, fought for them and provided for them. But in his mind, it was all only in order to teach them. So that there could be this people, a special people, who would enter into a covenant with G‑d. And keep it.

But they did not keep it.

He had one of two choices: He could hold onto the Torah. Or he could hold onto the people.

When he descended from the mountain, carrying the two hewn stones, a divine work, a miraculous work, and he saw the people dancing about a golden calf in revelry, he realized to his horror that he had one of two choices: He could hold onto the Torah. Or he could hold onto the people.

If this Torah would arrive in the people’s hands, they would be judged. They had received this Torah, and they had defied it. They would be destroyed.

If this Torah would not arrive in the people’s hands, there would still be time. There would still be a chance to plead on their behalf. Perhaps they could be saved.

He smashed that which until now had been the most precious thing in the world to him. All for which he had ascended to the greatest heights and toiled over with all his soul.

And now, he pleaded.

“You want to forgive,” he said. “I know that. I know there is nothing closer to You than Your love of this people. But this Torah won’t let you. And if that is the case, I want no part of it.”

“I understand that this is the most perfect law, the most ideal covenant, a teaching that surpasses all. But I don’t want to lead a people that exists for the sake of fulfilling a perfect Torah. I want a Torah that is there for the sake of the people, to make their souls shine. To bring them to You.”

“What kind of a Torah is that? One that allows for human failure. For bad, wrong choices. For impudence and even defiance—all those things that human beings do. And then for reconciliation. And forgiveness.”

“I want a Torah that includes You within it. And if You are there, forgiveness is always at hand.”

When Moses died, the rabbis say, G‑d eulogized him. What was the greatest praise He could say of His faithful servant? That he rescued the people? That he gave them His Torah? That he led them through the wilderness for forty years?

He said, “Moses, you broke the tablets. Thank you, Moses. Thank you.”

Likutei Sichot, volume 21, Tetzaveh/Zayin Adar, pg 173-180
Ibid, volume 9, Vezot Habrachah, pg 237-242
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By Tzvi Freeman    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory; rendered by Tzvi Freeman.

The Purim Without Purim

The Purim Without Purim

Posted: 13 Feb 2014 01:46 PM PST

Img2B26Tonight at sundown we enter into Purim Katan, “Little Purim.”

At the full moon of Adar, we celebrate Purim, our festival of masks and merriment. We read from the Megillah of Esther, we eat hamentaschen and give gift baskets to friends and to the needy, we dress in costumes and make noise to drown out the name of the bad guy who sought to annihilate the Jews of Persia.

Except during leap years. During a leap year, we have two months of Adar, Adar 1 and Adar 2. The “real” Purim comes at the full moon of Adar 2. When we reach the full moon of Adar 1, we get Purim Katan, Little Purim.

What do we do on Little Purim? Well, according to the Mishna, “There is no difference between the fourteenth of the first Adar and the fourteenth of the second Adar save in the matter of reading the Megillah and gifts to the poor.” In other words — it’s just like Big Purim, except that we don’t read the Megillah or give gift baskets to friends or the poor, which is to say, we don’t do the activities which characterize Purim proper at all.  Or, as an amnesiac Kermit the Frog put it in an advertising slogan in The Muppets Take Manhattan, “It’s just like taking an ocean cruise, only there’s no boat and you don’t actually go anywhere.” I suppose we could still eat hamentaschen.

For those who pay attention to Purim Katan, the usual practice is to eschew fasting, to skip the daily tachanun prayers of repentance, and to avoid opportunities for grief. And some commentators argue that it’s a special mitzvah to be joyful on Purim Katan, as a kind of fore-echo of the big Purim a month later.

For me the most interesting thing about Purim Katan is the idea that it’s just like Purim Gadol except for all of the outward trimmings of Purim as we know it. That suggests to me that there’s a kind of essential experience of Purim which exists somehow independent of the acts which we usually use to cultivate a Purim state of mind.

One of my favorite teachings about Purim holds that our task on this holiday is to ascend the ladder of mystical knowing until we reach God’s own vantage point where our human notions of “good” and “evil” disappear. Where Mordechai (the hero) and Haman (the villain) aren’t from opposing sides anymore, but are part of a greater whole.

What would it feel like to cultivate such a sense of joy on Purim Katan, such a sense of elevated spirit, that we could seek to ascend to that place even without the megillah and the storytelling, the costumes and the gragers, the cookies and the schnapps?



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