A heartwarming story: While political and military battles in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist, a Palestinian baby named Musa received a lifesaving gift from a Jewish Israeli child who recently died. One-year-old Musa remains in critical condition after the operation, but his chances of survival have greatly increased as a result of the remarkable surgery.
The Jewish parents agreed to donate their deceased child’s heart within hours of Musa and his family arriving at Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center; a hospital that our congregation has supported over the years.
In donating their child’s heart, these parents performed the ultimate Mitzvah of our religion. Pikuach Nefesh, the saving of a human life, takes precedence over all of the other commandments in Judaism and is a principle that is at the core of our religion.
When life is involved, all Sabbath laws may be suspended to safeguard the life of an individual. In fact, to refrain from acting to save a life is considered a desecration. The duty to ignore the “law” for the sake of saving a life is stressed even in the Orthodox tradition, as it points to Yom Kippur and the prohibition of a sick person fasting on that day. In spite of the virtue of fasting, it is not virtuous to observe laws at the risk of one’s life. In fact, in our sacred books we are told that one who risks his life by fasting on Yom Kippur is described as “piety of madness.”
Yes, Judaism teaches us to cherish life, and to do all that we can to preserve life. At the same time, we affirm the virtue of organ donation when it can save another life. So do we all have the power to give something of ourselves so that others might live. There is no greater mitzvah.
Shabbat Shalom. I hope that you will join us for our service this evening.
Rabbi David Greenberg