Left-Wing Rabbis Call Rav Shlomo Zalman’s Shitah On Organ Donation “Morally Untenable”

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rav-shlomo-zalman-auerbachA group of about 100 rabbis has issued a statement regarding organ donation, a topic that has garnered much attention in recent months.

The crux of the statement is that adopting a restrictive position regarding donating organs and a permissive position regarding receiving organs is morally untenable. “Such an approach,” the rabbis claim, “is also highly damaging to the State of Israel, both internally and in regards to its relationship with the larger world, and to the Jewish People as a whole. The rabbis state that this approach, which is the shitah of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and other gedolei haposkim, “must thus be unequivocally rejected by Jews at the individual and the communal level.”

The following is the full statement and the signatories:

Rabbinic Statement Regarding Organ Donation

We, the undersigned Orthodox rabbis and rashei yeshiva affirm the following principles with regard to organ donation and brain stem death:

First and foremost, the halakhic definition of death is a long-standing debate amongst gedolei haposkim, and it should not be forgotten that, among others in the U.S. and Israel, the former Chief Rabbis of Israel, R. Avraham Shapira and R. Mordechai Eliyahu, zikhronam li’vracha, and, yibadel li’chayim, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the av beis din of the Beit Din of America, are proponents of the position that brain stem death constitutes the halakhic definition of death.

Both positions, that brain stem death constitutes death, and that only cardiac death can define death, are halakhically viable. This remains so even in light of the findings of the President’s Council on Bioethics in 2008.

With regard to this long-standing debate, and its critical implications for organ donation, we affirm our position that:

1. Brain stem death is a halakhically operational definition of death. As such, organs may be removed for transplantation under strict halakhic supervision and guidance.

2. In light of the serious moral issues and profound lifesaving potential presented by the possibility of organ donation, we strongly recommend that rabbis who are rendering decisions for their laity on this matter demonstrate a strong predisposition to accept the halakhic view of the gedolei haposkim who define the moment of halakhic death to be that of brain stem death, or that they refer their laity to rabbis who do so.

3. Even as we adopt the brain stem definition of death, we emphasize that the greatest of care is needed in applying this definition in practice, and that safeguards are necessary to insure the organ removal is done in accordance with halakhic principles. Each person should consult with his or her rabbi and appropriate medical professionals to understand how this determination of death is made, and how to ensure that the appropriate procedures will be in place.

4. Rabbis and laity who follow the position that brain stem death is not considered to be halakhic death should be aware that it is medically possible to donate certain body parts after cardiac death and that it is a mitzvah to do so. Thus,

a. It is both halakhically permissible and desirable and ethically mandated for every Jew to be an organ donor consistent with his or her definition of halakhic death.
b. Rabbis and community leaders must do all in their power to communicate this responsibility to the community, and to encourage all Jews to sign organ donor cards, in line with their halakhic definition of death.

5. To adopt a restrictive position regarding donating organs and a permissive position regarding receiving organs is morally untenable. Such an approach is also highly damaging to the State of Israel, both internally and in regards to its relationship with the larger world, and to the Jewish People as a whole. This approach must thus be unequivocally rejected by Jews at the individual and the communal level.


Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Efrat, Israel

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Petach Tikva, Israel

Rabbi Benny Lau, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, Israel

Rabbi David Bigman, Ma’ale Gilboa, Israel

Rabbi Yehudah Gilad, Ma’ale Gilboa, Israel

Rabbi Binyamin Walfish, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Dr. Avraham Walfish, Israel

Rabbi Herzl Hefter, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, New York, NY

Rabbi Yosef Adler, Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi Dov Linzer, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Barry Gelman, Houston, TX

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Chicago, IL

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Benjamin Samuels, Newton, MA

Rabbi Chaim Marder, White Plains, NY

Rabbi Yaakov Love, Passaic, NJ

Rabbi Nati Helfgot, Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, New York, NY

Rabbi Marc Angel, Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, New York, NY

Rabbi Yossi Pollak, Westport, CT

Rabbi Zev Farber, Atlanta, GA

Rabbi Alan Yuter, Bnai Israel, Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Hayyim Angel, Congregation Shearith Israel, New York, NY

Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum, Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Nissan Antine, Congregation Beth Sholom, Potomac, MD

Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, Princeton, NJ

Rabbi Zachary Truboff, Cedar Road Synagogue, Cleveland, OH

Rabbi Michael Chernick, Teaneck, NJ

Rabbi David Kalb, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Yair Silverman , Rabbi Moed, Zichron Yaackov, Israel

Rabbi Aryeh A. Leifert, Mazkeret Batya, Israel

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Yonah S. Berman, Montreal, CA

Rabbi Ari Segal, Houston, TX

Rabbi Daniel Braune Friedman, Oxford, United Kingdom

Rabbi Adam Mintz, New York, NY

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau, Rosh Kollel Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah, Alon Shevut, Israel

Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, Berkeley, CA

Rabbi Joel Tessler, Potomac, MD

Rabbi Ben Greenberg, Jewish Chaplain, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Rabbi Ari Perl, Congregation Shaare Tefilla, Dallas, TX

Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld, Portland, ME

Rabbi Yisroel Porath, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro, Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah, Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Michael Whitman, Hampstead, Quebec

Rabbi Eytan Yammer, Knesseth Israel Congregation

Rabbi Steven Exler, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Daniel Smokler, New York, NY

Rabbi Mordechai Rackover, Brown University, Providence, RI

Rabbi Josh Feigelson, Evanston, IL

Rabbi Akiva Dovid Weiss, Rutgers University, Rutgers, NJ

Rabbi Jason Herman, West Side Jewish Center, NewYork, NY

Rabbi Sorin Rosen, Bucharest, Romania

Rabbi Ronen Newirth, Overseas Director – Tzohar, Israel

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem, Cote St. Luc, Quebec

Rabbi Adam Scheier, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Westmount, Quebec

Rabbi Max Davis, Springfield, MA

Rabbi Josh Yuter, Lower East Side, NY

Rabbi Daniel Geretz, West Orange, NJ

Rabbi Jonathan Duker, Beit Shemesh, Israel

Rabbi Yehudah Sarna, New York, NY

Rabbi Bob Carroll, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Uri Topolosky, Congregation Beth Israel, New Orleans, LA

Rabbi Daniel Levitt, Congregation Sherith Israel, Nashville, TN

Rabbi Yisrael Hollender, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Marc Gitler, Denver, CO

Rabbi Dov Zelden, Chicago, IL

Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko, Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation, Montreal, Quebec

Rabbi Saul Strosberg, Sherith Israel, Nashville, TN

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, Executive Director, Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas, Dallas, TX

Rabbi Aaron Frank, Principal, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Elliot Kaplowitz, OU Seif JLIC, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, Los Angeles, CA

Rabbi Menashe East, Randolph, NJ

Rabbi Seth Braunstein, Boston, MA

Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish, University of Haifa, Israel

Rabbi Aaron Levy, Makom, Toronto, ON, Canada

Rabbi Mitchell S Ackerson, Chaplain (Colonel) US Army; Director Pastoral Care, Lifebridge Health System, Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Benjamin Berger, Senior Jewish Educator, Ohio State University Hillel, Columbus, OH

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Chai Posner, Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Baltimore, MD

Rabbi Zvi Leshem, Kehillat Shirat Shlomo, Efrat, Israel

Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, Yeshivat Sulam Yaakov, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Drew Kaplan, Long Beach, CA

Rabbi Hyim Shafner, Bais Abraham Congregation, St Louis, MO

Rabbi Mayer Lichtenstein, Yeshivat Otniel, Israel

Rabbi David Kasher, Oakland, CA

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel, Yeshivat Torat HaAretz, Har Nof Community Kollel, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Yitzchok Adler, Beth David Synagogue, West Hartford, CT

Rabbi Elie Weinstock, New York, NY

Rabbi Avi Finegold, Chicago, IL

Rabbi Benji Shiller, Riverdale, NY

Rabbi Yossi Newfield, Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Howard S. Joseph, Montreal, Canada

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Ohev Shalom – The National Synagogue, Washington, D.C.

Rabbi Howard Wolk, Dallas, TX

Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, Teaneck, NY

{Yossi Schneider-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. What happened to Rabba Sara Hurwitz? Why is she not one of signers? Most of the signers are those who were her promoters. Would it not make sense to have her sign first and formost?

  2. not even one of the above signers have any real MESORA.( TRADITION) Reb Slomo Zalman ztvk”l and Reb Moshe ztvk”l thay are the only meaningfull opinion, all who appose their opinion are shalow mechutsafim

  3. It appears that their statement did not mention (a rejection of) Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l by name, which seems to be the implication of the story. They were merely bringing the shittos that are in support of their position. I’m not saying that I agree with their maskana, but it should at least be accurately reported.

  4. Riddle me this…

    If someone goes into cardiac arrest..What chiyuv is there to ressucitate him (CPR)…after all there is absence of cardio-respiratory function..cardiac death.

    And on the other hand…if someone in cardiac arrest is considered alive;because the brain is still functioning (or Gosses), then wouldn’t )that implicitly argue FOR the position of Brain Death) CPR be prohibited because of the potential damage associated with CPR?

    In other words, why do the proponents of cardiac death as death, support the provision of CPR on dead patients??

  5. Certainly the football scores have more value than this trash? At least the players don’t have the temerity to call themselves rabbi. Please!

  6. They are as relevant to us as flatulence in the wind. This list is a who’s who of the enemy within, aka “Open Orthodoxy.” These people are Amalek, according to the shita of Rav Hershel Schachter, and are a very dangerous influence from within. They have a deep hatred for true choshuve rabbonim and think they know better than gedolim.

  7. SHame shame shame

    Thanks Matzav for exposing this travesty for what it is

    At least someone is calling out these rabbis for their chilil hashem

  8. This is pathetic. A group of people that are abandoned on an island with noone to save them trying to send out an SOS to make themselves relevant. Nebach!!
    We should make a machaa as follows:
    Gather Toradikke yidden together and let out a BIG LAUGH, anything else would be giving them credence which would just add to the chillul hashem called modern orthodox ‘rabbis’.

  9. Don’t know most of the signatories, anyone know if ANY of them comes up to Reb Shlomo Zalman’s toenails? Halachah? Lumdus? B’kius? Caring for the clall or prat?

  10. I myself am a kidney donor but I knew that there was a need for it. I inquired from my Rosh Yeshiva years ago if Organ donation of the dead is allowed. He told me that as long as the organ doesn’t go to a bank but rather to a waiting dying patient it’s okay. (not sure about to a aino yehudi). My understanding is, when you sign a donor card, the government has the freedom to harvest your organs as they see fit. I can’t find a heter to sign on that basis.

    Especially, when techias hameisim happens, if they took out your eyes, what happens? I’m sure these modern orthodox rabbis have the answer for us. (let’s hope they believe in moshiach)

  11. Don’t they know how to spell Halachic
    Whats this Halakick thing

    Their messing around with fire and some fires are hotter than others

  12. 1 million of these rabbis do not match up to the toe nail of the posek hador. The whole article is a leitzanus. I am surprised that you published such mockery. You could at least have waited for chodesh adar, even adar I would have been ok.

  13. Where are the actual talmidei chachomim and gedolim that the Modern Orthodox community identifies with? HaRav Aaron Lichtenstein? The Roshei Yeshiva of Ateret Cohanim? Chief Rabbis of Israel? HaRav Hagaon Herschel Schechter? and so on… (all of which I believe are tremendous talmidei chachamim and have valid hadrachos in life, although I don’t identify with them).
    Now these lefties are even dumping their own gedolim for the likes of Riskin.

  14. I was told a while ago that good pr is NOT equal to kiddush Hashem. Halacha constitutes Kiddush Hashem, and how we want the goyim to view us, not what’s pc at that particular moment.

  15. This position is against Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l and Rav Moshe zt”l.

    None of these Rabbis in this decision come to toenails of these 2 history level Gedolim. According to the cholkim, taking any organs before the cessation of breath is murder.

  16. I do not seem to recognise any world class poskim or generally recognized Gedolei hador on the list. I may be a total am haaretz and not know how great some of them are, but somehow the recognizable names of Poskei Hador and Gedolei Hador do not seem to be on tis list. Yes, many great Rabbis maybe, but there is still a category of greatness that is above Shule Rabbis and teachers of Torah. How mnay of those listed have actually authored their own twShaylos Uteshuvos seforim?? HOwmnmay can claim to know Shulchan Aruch wiht all the mefoshim wiht recall and clarity? I know many……… maybe its in the other half. Some are Rabbis who have mechitzos in their shule which is of debatable Kashrus….. and they have an independent opinion on an issue in which the greatest tread with trepidation?? On murder??? Morally not acceptable?? The term should apply to those in the group who do not know Shas and Shulchan Aruch and still sign this letter. Please, lets defer to the greatest…….. and Hashem will take of us as we follow in His path.

  17. Most of these people on the list are either talmidim of R’ Weiss’s yeshiva or R’Riskin’s yeshiva. They are the left wing of the Modern Orthodox, and are feminist, pro-toeiva, pro-abortion, pro-higher criticism, ans everything else treif.

  18. “He told me that as long as the organ doesn’t go to a bank but rather to a waiting dying patient it’s okay. (not sure about to a aino yehudi).”

    The last seven words of that quotation are the very essence and cause of anti-Semitism.

    Kidney Donor should remember that HaShem also made the “ainam yehudim” in His own image.

  19. Comment No. 8 by “Jewish Doctor” should be read and absorbed by most of the commenters. But of course it won’t help because the “Jewish Doctor” is resorting to logic rather than rhetoric. It must really make these commenters feel holy being so sanctimonious.

  20. rely to number 9: Jewish law is not based on emotions or science. Rather it is based on the Torah. These “rabbis” are not qualified to determine halachic death. Even if they are the greatest doctors and neurosurgeons they cannot define halachic death, rather they can say what they think is medical death, which has no standing in terms of halacha.

  21. I find the tone of some of the posts above a little disturbing.

    Again this issue as noted above, has to do with the ‘Metzius’ someone whose Brain is dead is considered by most do be dead. When Rav Moshe spoke out, he spoke out against Heart transplants and even then, it was at a time that heart transplants had a very high mortality.

    As I stated above, people administer CPR on patients in cardiac arrest,(cardiac death) because of the FACT that the brain is still functioning.

    Furthermore issues in halacha (whether we like it or not) are decided by a ROV -Majority, and just as we do not know the names of members of Sanhedrin in each Generation..it’s important to analyze different viewpoints on their own merits, and follow the majority.

    In addition: people seem to forget the concept of ‘Eyiva’ which plays a pivotal role in halacha and medicine. Certainly the Heter to treat the AK’UM is predicated on this concept. ‘Eiyva’ certainly can lead to Pikuach Nefesh, if Jewish doctors and patients are viewed as giving preferential treatment to their own. Could you imagine the life endangering reprecussions if the situation were reversed i.e. ‘Jews Don’t receive transplants’ at all?!- are we ready for that.

    Finally: for post # 22

    Hashem does not need your eyes or kidneys, or brain, to perform Techias Hamessim. He’s not limited by one’s already decomposed organs. Also those people who perished in the holocaust H’YD of whom nothing was left…will return (Bimehera Beyameinu)

  22. May those of who curse and offer coarse comments on the rabbanim who signed the statement experience the judgement due them for their lack of respect for the rabbanim.

  23. I think all of the posters are missing the worst element of this statement. It’s one think to quote poskim- which there are, in fact- who hold that brain death is halachically considered death regarding organ donation. But it’s another thing entirely to present a position clearly known to be that of Harav Sholomo Zalman and call it “morally untenable.”

    Again: they are calling the psak of the gedolim that one may accept an organ from a patient whose organs were taken after cessation of brain activity, while not agreeing to have your own organs taken under the same circumstances, immoral.

    And to send out such a statement to the media is an unbelievable chillul Hashem.

    May the Ribbono Shel Olom protect us from any punishment we may deserve for not condemning this shocking p’giah against RZSA loudly enough.

  24. To #32, virtually all agree that R. Moshe Feinstein endorsed the brain death criteria as Halachikly sound. R. Dovid Feinstein is on video record as saying as much. There is no Halachik requirement for the cessation of cardiac activity to declare someone dead. Cessation of breathing is sufficient. Brain stem death occurs after the cessation of breathing but can occur before the heart stops beating.

  25. That the rabbis quotes as proponents of brain stem death don’t appear to be signatories (did I miss them?). Perhaps they felt that divrei chachamim b’nachas nishmaim and this wasn’t how they wanted to get out their message.

  26. If all frum yidden, were donating blood 5 x a year to secular blood banks while they were alive, there would be significantly less resistance to frum yidden receiving harvested organs bur refusing to donate organs for halachic reasons. You can’t always be a moocher.

  27. “Especially, when techias hameisim happens, if they took out your eyes, what happens? I’m sure these modern orthodox rabbis have the answer for us. (let’s hope they believe in moshiach)”

    I think that G-d, who will bring the dead back to life, will be able to fashion a replacement cornea or other organ as well.

  28. Their point was not to go against R’ Shlomo Zalman. Their point was that there are big Rabbonim who hold differently than R’ Shlomo Zalman. Because these can be cases of pikuach nefesh, they say that Rabbonim should rely on the poskim that hold it’s allowed, even over R’ Shlomo Zalman’s opinion. There is no disrespect to R’ Shlomo Zalman intended, only the intent to save lives by relying on the opinion of other Rabbonim.

  29. To the person asking about how to spell Halachic….There is no accurate spelling for any yiddish, hebrew, word that is translated into English.You can spell it any way you please…it translation…so don’t fuss over this.
    Number two…For all those who think it is a Chillul Hashem that these Rabbis issued this calling….It is a bigger chillul Hashem to use language unbecoming a Yid. If you have a beef with anyone that disagrees with you, you can call on him one on one, or disagree in a respectful manner. Calling people names and other stuff,,as witnessed by the comments above does not make you right. Two wrong don’t make one right.
    For all those who have their shita based on our mesora and take their lead from Rabbanim and Gedolim of our “Heimishe” kind…(for lack of a better expression) why is there a need to attack? Get on with your lives, learn a blatt gemara instead of sitting on the internet disputing the undisputable.It boggles my mind watching some of these sights and the comments that come in from people with, what shall I say, soft brains and time to waste. GET ON WITH YOUR LIVES AND LET IT BE. You will not change a thing with your rantings and only make the antagonist stronger and stronger…Seichel Hayushor tells me to stick with my Rebbe and his daas torah and get on with it…..Too many people watching these sites and the chillul Hashem is tremendous the way people argue back and forth, using ugly vile language and attacks…It’s just not the yiddishe way…

  30. The statement by these leftist rabbis calling Harav Hagaon Rav Shlomo Zalman’s psak moraaly unteneble, brings to mind a well-known statement by Moreinu Harav Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein zeicher tzadik v’kodosh livrocho.

    Some irate members of the chasidishe community who were upset by Rav Moshe’s psak being matir zera melachtis under certain circumstances,which was at odds with the psak of the heilige Satmar Rebbe zt”l.

    Rav Moshe heatedly responded that his thought processes are molded and shaped only by the Torah Hakedoshah. He was never exposed to any other chachmos or influences, so how dare they call his psak into moral question.

    Rav Shlomo Zalman was an ish kodosh who was never exposed to anything near the garbage and filth that these clowns have been wallowing in their whole lives. His moral compass was set according to the moral influences of 24/7 exposure to Kol Hatorah Kulah. Theirs? Only Hashem knows the complete picture of the “madda” that they have been imbibing.

  31. #46, If that were true, these “Rabbis” wouldn’t write:

    5. To adopt a restrictive position regarding donating organs and a permissive position regarding receiving organs is morally untenable. Such an approach is also highly damaging to the State of Israel, both internally and in regards to its relationship with the larger world, and to the Jewish People as a whole. This approach must thus be unequivocally rejected by Jews at the individual and the communal level.”

    In other words, “All Jews should do what WE say they should do, regarding organ donation.”

    Jews are supposed to live according to the Halachah of the Torah, which existed before the creation of the State of Israel; not by what is considered “morally tenable or untenable” by a group of “Rabbis.”

  32. Not everyone can give blood
    There aren’t enough of us to make a difference. I think we make a difference in other ways. There are ample opportunities to be mekayem shem shamayim nisaheiv al yadcha.

  33. To 46 et al: The disrespect was not in arguing on R’ Shlomo Zalman! The disrespect is calling his shitah “morally untenable!”

    If someone is a bar plugta, and has a different deya, then by all means, be noseh v’nosen b’dvar halacha! LHagdil Torah Ulhaadirah! But if they’re arguing on the gedolim, and calling their psak morally untenable, because of society’s view of the morals of the day, oh boy is that ever disrespectful!!

  34. By the way, regarding:

    “4a. It is both halakhically permissible and desirable and ethically mandated for every Jew to be an organ donor consistent with his or her definition of halakhic death.”

    A Jew is not supposed to decide on “his or her definition of halakhic death.”

    If there is a question of halakhic death, a Jew is supposed to ask a Shaila of his or her ROV.

    An action is “halakhically permissible” if one’s ROV says it’s permissible, not because it’s “desirable and ethically mandated” by a group of “Rabbis.”

  35. Does “desirable and ethically mandated” determine Halacha or does the psak halacha determine Halacha? “R. S. Z.’s psak is not politically correct (morally untenable) so lets find a psak that is PC.”

    Are these the same Rabbis that next year will vote for women Rabbis? Or immoral lifestyles?

    This is how Conservative Judaism came to about. What I think is morally tenable and correct is what the Halacha will be.


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