Halachic Organ donor Society, P.O. box 693, New York, NY 10108-0693, Phone: 212-213-5087, Email: admin@hods.org

Rabbi Yehuda Meshi Zahav

Rabbi Yehuda Meshi Zahav
Founder of ZAKA
[5 minutes  34 seconds]


Rabbi Yehuda Meshi Zahav   
I’m the chairman of -“Zaka”.
Everybody knows Zaka. We’re an organization, which deals with respecting the dead – in Israel and around the world, an organization which currently has 1,500 volunteers.
Zaka takes care of…actually it’s divided into several areas. The first area is Chesed shel Emet – Which deals with every death occurrence… Arriving at scenes such as a fatal road accident, suicide, murder cases, where we locate the body, sometimes in a state of decomposition…obviously [from] terrorist attacks, and such. Volunteers run from incident to incident in order to do everything, [and anything] in our power to respect the dead

Beyond the Halachic aspect, where one is supposed to bring the entire body for burial…not only of Jews, but of gentiles…[there is also the] issue of impurity and respecting the dead, as well. A lot of it is due to human nature because we think that this isn’t only respect of the dead, but respect of life, as well,…because we think that every person, it doesn’t matter who or what he is…It says “K’tzelem Elokim Nivra Ha’adam” – [Man was created from God’s image]. It doesn’t state Jewish or not, Religious vs. non-Religious…Everyone was created in G-d’s image.

Man was living as a vessel in his lifetime and did good deeds in his lifetime [with his body]. A man, a human being is different than the animals in nature. Animals? ..after they’re death. We see it as a big disgrace for the living and the dead, if our dear ones, living or not, will ? as the animals in nature. Therefore, we see it as a necessity to bury man whole, as it is respect for his life, too. This is the last type of respect that we can grant him.

People, who believe in resurrection, in the faith of resurrection, tend to believe that resurrection is based on a whole body, when all parts are buried. Sometimes they believe that if they are not buried whole, they are G-d forbid damaging they’re resurrection. He, who believes in resurrection should believe that, He [G-d], who can resurrect man from the dead…who created [something] from nothing, just as man was born from nothing, is capable of resurrection while some body parts may be missing. It’s a disruption in his belief [if you believe G-d can’t do that]. On the contrary…A person who believes that he won’t be resurrected unless he is buried whole, has a lack of faith.

What should all the Jews say who have been through so many disasters throughout history, who were killed, died, burnt…Aseret Harugai Malchut [The Ten Martyrs]…all the people in the holocaust…should one think that these people will not be resurrected at all? Will King Saul, who was burnt, not be resurrected? G-d forbid…This is almost denial and contradiction of their belief in Judaism.

To donate organs…I mean…We, in Zaka, and myself, personally, as the chairman of the organization…think that especially we, who in the organization do what we can around the world to bring all parts to burial…it’s a tremendous mitzvah…we fight for the respect of the dead…like fighting for the respect of life… There is no connection between one and the other. A person, who was killed, or deceased, needs to be brought complete to burial. This is the correct tradition. One the other hand, any chance you have to save a life, this mitzvah is no less important than the mitzvah of respecting the dead. If a person can do chessed [donate organs]…and it’s the same chessed, no less then what we do with the dead…the same chessed, perhaps the last one a person can do after he enters the other world…is saving another person’s life.
There is no mitzvah greater than that!

People tend to think that they already know what’s more important, and do not ask Rabbis. I say…to the contrary! One should ask Rabbis, and he will see that not only is it permissible, it’s a mitzvah and an obligation… this mitzvah has the same importance as saving one’s life.

The phrase, “One who saves one life, is as if he saved the world” exists in organ donation, as well…Because saving another person’s life is beyond the elevation of one’s soul. After the person who donated dies, the people [who received the organs] continue to do great things.

Now we will launch in to the Halacha..there’s a conflict that we know of:

The Poskim talk about what it is considered time of death.

Some say it is brain-stem [death] and others claim it is irreversible cessation of the heartbeat…We’re not going into it…Every person should ask his or her Rabbi. The advantage of having both choices on the ADI card is that each person can go according to his or her Rav. In both types deaths there are still situations where lives can be saved, where you can donate, or save others… Therefore this doesn’t have to be the thing to hold us back. We tend to think that the whole issue is forbidden, what we can do is talk about it more and educate ourselves on the topic. Once we let the community know, we can realize that this is not a Halachic issue, but the contrary – the Halacha obligates us to save a life, and we can through organ donation. Even after someone dies, we can still save another life through organ donation…This way people can be more aware and see that this is our contribution to the matter.

Zaka’s job, where we collect the body parts for Kvod Hamet – respecting the dead, is not G-d forbid because we can’t save lives…on the contrary…we do it because it has to do with respecting the dead..

There is no contradiction…no connection to organ donation…on the contrary…in principle… since we do everything to maintain a dead person’s respect…we stand at the front and say – donate every organ you’re capable of donating, to save a life…It is not only obligation, rather a mitzvah and an obligation together. What has not been donated, we try to bury, because that is the Halacha. Do everything you possibly can to save another person’s life. The same way you
have to do everything you can to save another’s life, we do everything we can to respect the dead.

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