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Parshas Terumah (5777)

Fake News and Real Jews

They did it again! The liberal, left-leaning news media have once again misrepresented the Torah and the Jewish religion.

This time the guilty party is a New York Times opinion piece this week that inaccurately portrays Judaism as being unequivocally opposed to organ donation.

Now I don’t know from where they got this ridiculous nonsense that donating one’s organs to others is forbidden by Jewish law. After all, if you have an old Steinway grand piano that you would like to give as a gift to your local Temple, they will gladly accept your organ donation!

Why, in this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Terumah, Moses accepts all kinds of donations from the Jewish people to help build the Tabernacle (see Exodus Chapter 25)! So why should organs be any different?

All kidding aside, this “fake news” is truly no laughing matter.

The Times article, by Ariana Tobin, an “engagement reporter” at the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, begins:

When it comes to death, my family honors all of the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions … When I got my driver’s license at 16, my mom asked me not to sign the organ donor card because Jews are supposed to be laid to rest in one piece. When I turned 18 and signed it anyway, I couldn’t stop imagining her face when she found out after I’d died in a car accident. [You can read the entire article by clicking here]

Those reading the above article who are too “intellectually lazy” to research this serious issue on their own - and from more reliable sources than the New York Times - might easily come away with the impression that the Jewish religion forbids all organ donation.

But they would be wrong.

You see, as with everything else in the Torah – and in life itself – the issue of organ donation is complex, nuanced, and with many gray areas. And while the Halachah (Jewish law) certainly does not offer a blanket authorization of all organ donations, there are indeed many situations in which it would be allowed and even encouraged.

[To learn more in-depth about the Torah viewpoint on the vital topic of organ donation, I recommend (for starters) the lengthy article What does Halachah say about Organ Donation? by Rabbi Yitzchok A. Breitowitz in Jewish Action magazine, available online here]

I guess the take-home lesson here is that if we want to be “real Jews” who take our religion and our lives (and deaths) seriously, we should not be getting our knowledge of Judaism from “fake news” sources like the New York Times. Just sayin’ …

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