Guest post by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz / Observant Jews must be careful to distinguish right from wrong, not only with a sense of kindness and generosity, but with a strong sense of the demands of halacha. Recently, some have questioned the halachic propriety of Jews donating blood in America. In this essay we will discuss the relevant issues and seek to demonstrate that giving blood, while not always obligatory is at a minimum, permissible, and more likely a very great mitzvah.

Blood Donations According to Halacha

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Blood Donations According to Halacha in a Secular Society: Required, Prohibited or Recommended?

Guest post by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz

Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz has served for the last six years as the Mara D’asra of Beis Haknesses of North Woodmere, a vibrant and growing community on the South Shore of Long Island. Rabbi Lebowitz has also been an eleventh grade rebbe at HALB’s DRS Yeshiva High School for the last eleven years, and serves as the Program Director and Maggid Shiur in HALB’s post high school yeshiva program, Yeshivat Lev Hatorah.

I. Introduction

The Gemara (Yevamos 79a) lists the three “signs”, or distinguishing characteristics, of the Jewish people: We are a merciful, bashful and kind people. Jews have distinguished themselves in America with great philanthropy and genuine concern for the welfare of the less fortunate. Our generosity is not limited to our willingness to give charity, but extends to giving of ourselves physically as well. We will not soon forget the great Kiddush Hashem that was made by the Israeli presence in Haiti following the devastating and tragic earthquake that ravaged the country. At a recent blood drive, one of the technicians remarked that the Jewish people are remarkable in their willingness to donate blood. The technician estimated that Jews give blood at a rate five times the national average. As an example, last year alone Bikur Cholim of Boro Park conducted forty five blood drives raising 5300 pints of blood from the orthodox communities of Brooklyn and Staten Island.[1] However, observant Jews must be careful to distinguish right from wrong, not only with a sense of kindness and generosity, but with a strong sense of the demands of halacha. Recently, some have questioned the halachic propriety of Jews donating blood in America. In this essay we will discuss the relevant issues and seek to demonstrate that giving blood, while not always obligatory is at a minimum, permissible, and more likely a very great mitzvah.

II. Saving Lives

The most obvious reason that giving blood is a thoroughly Jewish thing to do is the value that Judaism places on human life. Indeed, with the exception of the three cardinal sins (Idolatry, Licentiousness, and Murder) one may violate any prohibition in the Torah in order to save a human life (Sanhedrin 74a). Moreover, the torah not only values the good Samaritan who goes out of his way to save a life, but formally obligates every Jew to actively save lives that are in danger (Vayikra 19:16). Several contemporary poskim have noted that Jews must participate in any life saving procedure with negligible risk in order to save a fellow Jew (Nishmas Avraham IV: Even Haezer:80, Responsa Shevet Halevi V:219), and this seems both logical and correct: just like a person must spend small sums of money to save the life of a person, he must inconvenience himself by taking minuscule risk (like the risk of crossing the street). Several poskim have noted that the minimal discomfort of donating blood is certainly halachically insignificant. It therefore follows that if a Jew is in need of blood and one refuses to give, he is in violation of “lo sa’amod al dam re’echa” (Shearim Metzuyanim B’halacha 190)

It should be noted, however, that traditional rabbinic sources point to a clear distinction between our obligation to save the lives of fellow Jews and our attitude toward saving the lives of non-Jews. Specifically, the aforementioned imperative to actively save lives explicitly refers to Jewish lives (לא תעמוד על דם רעך). When it comes to saving non-Jewish lives Chazal (Sanhedrin 57a) were much more ambivalent, and ruled that non-Jews should neither be thrown into a pit nor saved from a pit into which they are thrown. Similarly, Chazal prohibited violating Shabbos in order to save a non-Jewish life (Mishnah Yoma 8:7). Of course, common practice is not only to actively save non-Jewish lives, but also to violate Shabbos in order to do so.[2] Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe Orach Chaim V:25) explained that the imperative to save non-Jews is critical for Jewish survival in our times. If Jews were to deny treatment to non-Jews the resulting fallout would be nothing short of disastrous, as society would not take very kindly to such discriminatory policies and would rightfully justify such discriminatory practices on their own part. Though the Gemara (Avoda Zara 26a) reasons that non-Jews will surely understand that we may only violate the Shabbos for the sake of those who observe Shabbos, Rav Moshe points out that such arguments are not very likely to be accepted by the gentile society in general.[3] Rav Moshe concludes by emphasizing that there is no need to prove from earlier sources that one may violate biblical prohibitions to save gentile lives because it is “abundantly obvious”. It would seem that similar considerations may exist with respect to donating blood to save non-Jewish lives. A communal refusal to do so is likely to be met with strong criticism and severe anti-semitism.

III. The Potential Issurim

One local rabbi recently suggested that there is a prohibition to donate blood to general blood banks (though he acknowledged that there is a mitzvah to donate blood to Jewish causes). In order to refute any such claim it is important to identify precisely which prohibitions may be violated in the course of blood donations.

The first potential prohibition one may violate when donating blood is the prohibition of wounding human beings (Devarim 25:3). The Gemara (Bava Kama 91) records a dispute whether this prohibition extends to one who wounds himself. The Rambam (Hilchos Chovel 5:1) rules in accordance with the opinion that prohibits injuring oneself. The Tur (Choshen Mishpat 420) rules that it is permissible for a person to wound himself. The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 420:31) rules stringently on this matter. It may therefore be argued that giving blood would involve the prohibition of needlessly wounding oneself. However, there are several reasons to assume that this prohibition does not apply in the context of blood donations. First, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe Choshen Mishpat I:103) points out that it is obvious that one may cut himself if such incisions are necessary for medical treatment. For instance, one may clearly undergo a medically warranted surgical procedure even though the procedure involves making an incision. Rav Moshe points to the custom in Talmudic times to go through regular blood-letting sessions in order to maintain proper health (Gemara Shabbos 129). Although we no longer encourage blood-letting as a form of medical therapy, and even by the times of the Rambam the medical effectiveness of letting blood was somewhat minimized (Hilchos Deos 4:18), there still must be some therapeutic value to it. Rav Moshe finds it hard to believe that something considered so healthy just a few centuries ago would fall in the category of chavalah (wounding) nowadays. Indeed, several recent studies suggest that there are health benefits to people who habitually donate blood.[4] Second, it is possible that there is no prohibition of wounding when the wounded permits the other party to injure him. The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 48) and Turei Even Megillah 27a rule that the prohibition does not apply when the victim permits somebody to hurt him.[5] While the Shulchan Aruch Harav (V: Hilchos Nizkei Guf V’nefesh:4) does not believe a person has the right to allow another person to cut him, the dissenting opinion of the Minchas Chinuch and Turei Even would serve as an additional lenient consideration in our case.[6] Third, an additional lenient consideration is that the Rambam (Chovel U’mazik 5:1) defines the prohibition of wounding as “derech nitzayon” (in a combative way), which seems to exclude a wound created in the context of a blood donation from the prohibition. Finally, even if one may not cut himself to give blood, there may be no prohibition to have a gentile make the incision. While the gemara (Avoda Zara 6b) rules that one may not aid a gentile in violating a prohibition, the prohibition of wounding does not seem to be one of the seven Noahide laws.[7]

A second potential prohibition associated with donating blood is לא תחנם (Devarim 7:2) which the Gemara (Avoda Zara 20a) understands to include a prohibition to give “free gifts” to gentiles. Obviously this consideration would be a non-factor if the donation were going to a fellow Jew. However, even when donating to general blood banks there are several strong arguments to be made that donating blood does not violate the prohibition of לא תחנם. First, while the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 151:11 as explained by Shach ibid 18) applies this prohibition to all gentiles, many great poskim have limited the prohibition to idolaters (Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman, Rav Henkin, Rav Ahron Soloveitchik – see also Tzitz Eliezer XV:47 where he demonstrates that this was the opinion of several prominent Rishonim and concurs with their view).[8] Second, the Turei Zahav (Yoreh Deah 151:8) rules that if one knows the gentile to whom he is giving the gift, it is permissible because it is not considered a “free” gift. When there is a reciprocal relationship one can rest assured that the generosity of giving a gift will be repaid by the gentile in one way or another.[9] Similarly, one may argue that even when one doesn’t know precisely to whom his blood is going, there is certainly a sense of reciprocity for blood donors, as Jews who need blood will receive blood as a direct result of the blood banks that we support. Additionally, a person who carries a blood donor card is likely to be treated with greater care should he ever find himself in the hospital. The value to all members of a society in having functional and fully stocked blood banks is immeasurable. Just as a Jew may, and must, pay taxes even if some of the roads paved with the tax money may never be traversed by a Jew, a Jew may give blood that may not be used to help another Jew. The reason that this is permissible is not simply one of a reciprocal relationship, but of fully participating in a system that benefits all of us. Supporting a broad system that benefits countless people, and thousands of Jews amongst them, is difficult to categorize as a “free gift” to gentiles.[10]

A third possible stringent factor may be the application of the rule of majority. One of the primary claims of those who wish to prohibit donating blood to blood banks is that the majority of those who need the blood are gentiles. Assuming that the prohibition of לא תחנם (discussed above) applies to contemporary blood donations to gentiles, one may argue that the prohibition would apply even though there are many Jews who may ultimately receive the blood. This is based on the principle that we follow the majority (Shemos 23:2). There are two reasons that this application of the rule of majority is likely incorrect. First, Chazal (Kesuvos 15b) suspend the rule of majority in situations that involve a threat to life. Certainly the need for sufficient blood supply in hospitals is one of life and death. Therefore, even if one were to accept a prohibition to donate blood to a gentile, the possibility that the blood may go to a Jew is sufficient to outweigh any such negative considerations. Second, Rabbi J.D. Bleich has suggested that since the blood is distributed in a hospital, which is a set location. The law of majority only applies to situations where something is removed from its set location, but regardless of actual ratios the halacha treats anything that is stationary (i.e. in a set location) as a fifty percent doubt (Yoma 84b, Kesuvos 15a and elsewhere). Therefore, even if ninety five percent of the patients in the hospital are gentiles, the halacha treats the situation as if fifty percent are Jewish and fifty percent are gentiles.

Perhaps even more pointedly, Rabbi Michael Broyde has noted that when dealing with a commodity like blood, the whole concept that majority and minority seems mistaken. We live in a society without “Jewish” blood banks and the only way the Jewish community can carry its fair burden of giving blood to save Jews is by donating to the general blood bank. If 5% of the general population is Jewish and Jews donate 5% of the blood, certainly halacha accepts that such a system is proper, as there is no mechanism to designate which blood goes where.

It goes without saying that one cannot assume that if a Jew is in need of blood the Jewish community, even if somehow immediately informed of the need, would have the wherewithal to collect enough blood on their own in a timely fashion. When a person is involved in a major accident there is often a need for massive amounts of blood in a very short period of time. Supplying that blood ahead of time is absolutely critical.

Finally, Rabbi Menashe Klein (Responsa Mishnah Halachos IV:245), after discussing various halachic considerations associated with blood donation, suggests that it is “inappropriate” for a Jew to give of his soul (blood is equated to the soul in Judaism) which is sanctified as Jewish blood and allow it to flow through the impure veins of a gentile. Rabbi Klein poetically refers to the blood of the person “crying out” from the gentile veins. Considering the utter lack of halachic sources to back up what seems to be a frivolous argument it does not seem necessary to rebut this claim in any meaningful way other than to point out that it is most curious that Rabbi Klein does not express any similar hesitation about a holy Jew receiving the impure blood of a gentile.[11]

IV. For Money

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe Choshen Mishpat I:103) was asked about the permissibility of giving blood to the blood bank for money. Prior to determining that there is no prohibition of wounding oneself (see above) Rav Moshe argues that there is reason to assume that one may violate the prohibition of self mutilation for monetary gain based on the following logic. The gemara (Bava Kama ibid) associates the opinion who prohibits self mutilation with the opinion that refers to a Nazir as a sinner. If the Nazir is considered a sinner for denying himself the pleasure of wine, the person who mutilates himself is certainly a sinner! However, it is obvious that if one is offered payment to avoid drinking wine, they may refrain from wine and not be called a sinner. Similarly, one may argue that if one were to receive payment to cut themselves, they may do so. However, Rav Moshe points out that Tosafos (ad loc) assume that the prohibition of self mutilation is operative even if one receives compensation for it. The distinction between receiving payment for withholding wine from themselves and one receiving payment for self mutilation is self evident. One who does not drink wine is not actually causing themselves any pain. They are merely withholding a pleasure from their lives. If the money they receive to avoid wine gives them more pleasure than the wine itself no prohibition has been violated. On the other hand, one who mutilates himself is actively causing pain to himself, an act that is prohibited even when done for payment.

As a practical matter the preceding analysis is irrelevant because Rav Moshe rules that giving blood would fall under the category of a therapeutic treatment rather than self mutilation. He therefore concludes that it is permissible to receive payment for blood donations.

V. Conclusion

Aside from the classical halachic issues and challenges, the overarching consideration that should help drive the Jewish policy is the enormous potential for Kiddush Hashem in blood donations by the Jewish community, and the even greater potential for chillul Hashem should we, as a community, not do our part. As observant Jews we have an obligation to sanctify God’s name in every which way possible permitted by the halacha. Considering the halachic arguments over limitations on organ donation, the need to donate what we are without question halachically permitted to donate may be even greater. Indeed, the Orthodox community in America has taken this responsibility extremely seriously. There is a longstanding practice for Orthodox shuls and institutions running blood drives and supporting blood banks. Any ruling to the contrary would constitute a significant departure from minhag yisrael, across the entire spectrum of orthodoxy, over the course of several decades. In the merit of fulfilling the great mitzvah of saving lives and sanctifying the name of God, we should all merit good health and long life.[12]


[1] http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/article.php?p=54493
[2] See Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah 2:16 s.v. v’nireh that we no longer discourage saving gentile lives.
[3] See also Responsa Chasam Sofer Choshen Mishpat #194 who makes the same point.
[4] “Donation of Blood Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction” Jukka T. Salonen, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen, Riitta Salonen, Timo A. Lakka, and Kristiina Nyyssonen in American Journal of Epidemiology 1998. “Possible association of a reduction in cardiovascular events with blood donation” D. G. Meyers, D. Strickland, P. A. Maloley, et al. in Heart 1997 78: 188-193 The author thanks Dr. Michael Oppenheim for bringing this information to light. Dr. Oppenheim pointed out that “these are not definitive studies so the official medical stance is that there are some studies to suggest there might be a benefit but larger scale trials would be needed to prove the benefits.”
[5] The Turei Even however does not extend this permissive ruling to a parent allowing a child to draw blood.
[6] The opinion of Minchas Chinuch and Turei Even is difficult to accept in light of the prohibition for a person to wound himself.
[7] See, however, Meshech Chachmah Bereishis 34:22, who assumes that gentiles are also prohibited from wounding other people. Also, the role of the blood donor in aiding the technician to remove the blood may play a role. See Taz Yoreh Deah 198:21 and Nekudas Hakesef there.
[8] It should be noted that the majority of poskim assume that this prohibition applies even to gentiles who are not idolaters. This is most relevant with relation to the prohibition of selling land in Israel to gentiles, which is also derived from the passuk of “Lo Sechaneim”. The use of heter mechira to circumvent shemittah prohibitions may hinge on the permissibility of selling land in Israel to non idolatrous gentiles. Rav Shalom Yosef Zevin (L’or H’halacha pages 124-125) demonstrates that one may not sell land in Israel to any gentile, even non idolaters. It is also important to note that whether Christians are considered by the halacha to be idolaters is the subject of some debate. The Noda B’Yehuda (Yoreh Deah Tinyana #148) clearly demonstrates that gentiles are prohibited from believing in the trinity.
[9] For similar idea see Gilyon Maharsha Yoreh Deah 159.
[10] For a similar point see Responsa V’yashev Moshe I:94.
[11] See Responsa Vayashev Moshe I:94 in footnote who similarly dismisses Rabbi Klein’s argument as completely nonsensical.
[12] Rabbi Michael Broyde wrote: “I have read this essay closely and I note that I completely agree with its conclusion: Although halacha does not generally require that a person donate blood, as the life saving act is not imminent, halacha views the act of donating blood as a mitzvah and pious healthy people should run to fulfill this righteous deed when they can. The Orthodox Jewish community should continue to sponsor blood drives, as has been the minhag have for decades.”

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

98 comments

  1. I realize you’re on the right side here, but how can a post such as this not be fodder for those who feel that Judaism/ Pharisaism is an awful, misanthropic religion and the Jewish rabbis need pilpul to justify doing the right thing which is obvious to anyone without multiple citations from Iggeros Moshe – while at the same time other Jewish rabbis use pilpul to justify, no, demand that we do the wrong thing?

    While “Jews must be careful to distinguish right from wrong, not only with a sense of kindness and generosity, but with a strong sense of the demands of halacha” we also must be able to take a step back and realize when we start to look and sound poshut demented.

  2. Guest is SO right

    This post is sick. If my coworkers saw it I’d be ashamed.

  3. I think this whole post should be condensed down to R. Broyde’s footnote #12. Nothing else needs to be said.

    “halacha views the act of donating blood as a mitzvah and pious healthy people should run to fulfill this righteous deed when they can”

  4. Also, the upshot of the dismissal here of the “Meshaneh Halachos” is because, haha, he just said something emotional without giving a sound halachic argument. But of course he could have, or do we think that this unnamed rabbi whom Rabbi Liebowitz refers thinks that it should be ossur because Jew blood is crying out from goyish veins?

  5. When I was a freshman at YU (1964-65) I was in R’ Lichtenstein’s shiur. There was a blood drive and at the end of the shiur, RAL mentioned the drive and said (I paraphrase) “let’s go,” and he led most of the shiur to the drive where he rolled up his sleeve along with the rest of us and gave a pint. Quite frankly, I prefer the memory of that to an essay referring to some “clear distinction between our obligation to save the lives of fellow Jews and our attitude toward saving the lives of non-Jews” and R’ Menashe Klein’s opinion (which I find so offensive I refuse to type the words).

  6. I am not sure why you call this mutilation, it has no long lasting effect. The previous posters have very little idea of Jewish scholarship. Everything has to be examined according to Jewish law, not to one’s own ‘sensitivities’. There are today brands of christians who refuse to accept or donate blood, citing the bible. Even though it goes against common sense. It is up to us to provide ‘pilpul’ as you call it to prove what is right.

  7. “Guest on November 2, 2010 at 11:12 pm
    I realize you’re on the right side here, but how can a post such as this not be fodder for those who feel that Judaism/ Pharisaism is an awful, misanthropic religion and the Jewish rabbis need pilpul to justify doing the right thing which is obvious to anyone without multiple citations from Iggeros Moshe – while at the same time other Jewish rabbis use pilpul to justify, no, demand that we do the wrong thing?

    While “Jews must be careful to distinguish right from wrong, not only with a sense of kindness and generosity, but with a strong sense of the demands of halacha” we also must be able to take a step back and realize when we start to look and sound poshut demented.”

    Agreed and BTW since this is posted on internet it can become an easy source of antisemitism. One way to lessen finding via search engines is to put the most provocative material in Hebrew.
    I enjoy reading R Leibowitz but this is informative and that I agree with but wish it never was posted.

  8. “I am not sure why you call this mutilation, it has no long lasting effect. The previous posters have very little idea of Jewish scholarship. Everything has to be examined according to Jewish law, not to one’s own ‘sensitivities’.”

    But not all scholarship should be posted on the internet.

  9. question.re.compliments

    “First, while the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 151:11 as explained by Shach ibid 18) applies this prohibition to all gentiles, many great poskim have limited the prohibition to idolaters (Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman, Rav Henkin, Rav Ahron Soloveitchik – see also Tzitz Eliezer XV:47 where he demonstrates that this was the opinion of several prominent Rishonim and concurs with their view).[8] Second, the Turei Zahav (Yoreh Deah 151:8) rules that if one knows the gentile to whom he is giving the gift, it is permissible because it is not considered a “free” gift. When there is a reciprocal relationship one can rest assured that the generosity of giving a gift will be repaid by the gentile in one way or another.”

    and footnote 8


    8] It should be noted that the majority of poskim assume that this prohibition applies even to gentiles who are not idolaters. This is most relevant with relation to the prohibition of selling land in Israel to gentiles, which is also derived from the passuk of “Lo Sechaneim”. The use of heter mechira to circumvent shemittah prohibitions may hinge on the permissibility of selling land in Israel to non idolatrous gentiles. Rav Shalom Yosef Zevin (L’or H’halacha pages 124-125) demonstrates that one may not sell land in Israel to any gentile, even non idolaters. It is also important to note that whether Christians are considered by the halacha to be idolaters is the subject of some debate. The Noda B’Yehuda (Yoreh Deah Tinyana #148) clearly demonstrates that gentiles are prohibited from believing in the trinity.”

    1.
    what then is the basis for what seems to me to be the widespread practice of complimenting someone regardless of whether they are jewish, and also not directly to them. I do not have the impression that there are many people, to include haredim or rabbis, who refrain from saying positive things about neighbors, co-workers, and etc. regardless of whether they are jewish. (Does anyone contest the validity of this observation?)

    I assume that complimenting a person directly is no different than giving a gift in a reciprocal relationship.
    I also assume there is not benefit to the person complimented if unknown to him/her, one remarks positively on them to a third party. Yet I’ve not noticed too many people refraining from such remarks. I’ve assumed that this is based on the notion that lo sechanem only applies to ovdei a”z or perhaps 7 umos, but if the majority of poskim apply lo sechanem to all gentiles, what is the basis for the common practice? (I’ve read – though not seen inside – that Rav Kook argues that chaniya bekarka is less stringent than matnos chinam. Does this apply also to it being preferable to positive remarks?)

    2. Regarding complimenting directly to the person –
    What if there is not a long-standing relationship, but one is firsting meeting the person? E.g. a clerk in a store. How much time is necessary to establish a reciprocal relationship or what other variable is relevant to compliment the person?

  10. Observant Jews must be careful to distinguish right from wrong, not only with a sense of kindness and generosity, but with a strong sense of the demands of halacha.
    ===============================================
    Very true – which is why I would suggest reading R’ Amital at:
    http://vbm-torah.org/archive/values/02a-morality.htm
    http://vbm-torah.org/archive/values/02b-morality.htm
    part 3 is next week
    KT

  11. I am shocked that R. Gil allowed this to be posted in a public forum. R. Lebowitz does not even bother with euphemisms which might not be so suscepible to a Google search. Any discussion of lo techanem should be conducted in a private forum.

  12. This post is a symptom of what is so wrong with Orthodox Judaism today. It reminds me of the post last year discussing if it was permissible to help the people in Haiti after the earthquake. In that post also we were treated to a serious discussion about how we are forbidden to do anything nice for non-Jews (even helping save their lives) but in the end a “heter” was found for helping the goy.

    This post also shows the world, very clearly, that many Orthodox Jews really are not interested in doing the right thing, and that in order to do the right thing, they have to get something in return.

    That is not the Torah Judaism the Rav taught.

  13. Aryeh Lebowitz

    First, thank you all for your comments and criticisms. I genuinely appreciate that you took the time to read the article.

    It seems that the criticism of this post has been on two basic points:
    1 – While an accurate depiction of the halacha and the halachic process this post will lead to anti semitism and become a target for those who want to target Jews as racists.
    2 – The very discussion is inappropriate as it is obvious that one must do the right thing.

    On the first point, I thought about this and was hesitant to post. In fact I originally wrote this article to be disseminated locally where there was a bit of a controversy about this issue due to the “macha’ah” of a local rabbi to a blood drive. However, after showing the article to some senior rabbis who I respect very much, I was advised to disseminate to a wider audience via a place like Hirhurim. I think that if you actually do a google search looking for fodder for anti semitism, this post will not be anywhere near the top of the list. There is so much out there that it is highly unlikely that a post strongly urging Jews to donate blood will lead to increased anti semitism. If you think your coworkers would not like the post, don’t show it to them. They are unlikely to read Hirhurim on their own. The more likely result is that serious yeshiva students (who did not have the benefit of giving blood together with Rav Ahron Lichtenstein) will see a clear presentation of why it is important that we do our part and give.
    On the second point, if we make judgments on emotion alone without having any sense of halacha, we are likely to make major errors – that is how R’ Menashe Klein arrived at his psak. You should realize that what is obvious to you is not obvious to the average yeshiva student. I B”H have hundreds of talmidim, and some regular mainstream YU or YU type guys asked me if it is permissible because they had heard from a local rabbi that he heard from a gadol in Israel that giving blood in America is “pashut assur”. Talmidei Yeshiva are impressionable and really struggle with these kinds of issues. The response should not be “do whatever you feel is right”, but should be a demonstration of how halacha leads us on the correct path.

  14. I am quite disturbed by those who feel we need to follow our gut and ignore the halakhic process. Even if it works in this case, it is eventually a recipe for religious chaos. We are Orthodox Jews and that means we follow halakhah. Like any legal process, it sometimes gets messy. But that is the religious law that guides us.

    And if we refuse to take part in this process, we cede religious authority to those who would take our religious texts in a different direction. This is *precisely* the kinds of discussions that Modern Orthodox Jews should be having if we want to remain Modern and Orthodox.

  15. Unfortunately I agree with R’ Aryeh that our educational process has become such that someone can say something as counterintuitive as “it’s pashut assur” and all the talmidim (where are their parents in this equation?) salute and feel oh so frum.

    I disagree with R’ Gil to an extent- I don’t think this is gut versus halacha for many (see the R’ Amital link and R”M Shapiro’s current post on seforim blog)this goes back to micro and macro halacha/ethics discussion we’ve had over the years .

    LastlyI am thankful that R’ Moshe gave that tshuva and not some “MO” posek – it would have been roundly rejected as going against the mesorrah……

    KT

  16. I have already written that there are those who understand the bible to forbid donating and recieving blood. This is an excellent example. One sees that common sense can be ‘clouded’ by statements from the bible. We have our rabbis who prove from halacha that common sense prevails. Everything we do has to also agree with halacha however much we think common sense is the opposite. There is nothing wrong in the goyim realising that and reading about it here. Do they complain about those whose religion forbid them to donate and recieve blood? Why should we be any different.

  17. Aaron,
    J’s Witnesses, the sect that does not accept blood transfusions, does not, AFAIK, have anything against donations, So there is no reason for anyone to resent them.

  18. Shachar Ha'amim

    “Talmidei Yeshiva are impressionable and really struggle with these kinds of issues. ”

    sad reflection on the state of yeshiva education

  19. “just like a person must spend small sums of money to save the life of a person, he must inconvenience himself by taking minuscule risk”
    What?? Isn’t it an imperative to give ALL of one’s money to saving the life of a Jew (as not to save his life would be a violation of Lo Ta’amod, which is a Lav, violation whose avoidance requires one to relinquish all of his possessions)????

    Also, Joseph Kaplan-
    Do you feel uncomfortable with valuing the life of a Jew over a gentile? I am so sorry. But be consistent- should you ever (G-d forbid) require a kidney transplant, do not go to the Jews asking for one. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful gentiles who will give you an organ!

  20. Several contemporary poskim have noted that Jews must participate in any life saving procedure with negligible risk in order to save a fellow Jew (Nishmas Avraham IV: Even Haezer:80, Responsa Shevet Halevi V:219)

    By the way, R. Herschel Schachter in one of his seforim quotes Rabbeinu Chaim as holding that a Jew must even endanger his life to save a Jew who is a vadai sakana.

    I wonder if all the commenters who are “sickened” by this essay can be relied on in such an event?

  21. The debate here is not new; indeed it is the difference between the vision of the Prophets and the blind adherence to biblical text. It is the difference between the debates of the Talmud and the blind adherence to law codes. Berkovitz would claim that there is a priority of the ethical that trumps other considerations ceteris paribus. I can be faithful to that kind of Halacha. It is a vision worthy of being called Jewish. As for R’ Menashe Klein, I count him as one of the scarred victims of the Holocaust. Someone who is so embittered that he gives up the entirety of the Jewish religion with the twisted intention of trying to save it.

  22. Imagine if you will the following story:

    A roman soldier who wants to convert comes to Rabbi Hillel asking him to explain judaism while standing on one foot. Rabbi Hillel tells him “we don’t want your filthy roman blood. If you were dying in the street and a blood transfusion would save your life, I would not give it because you are not a Jew. Moreover, I will not let you become a Jew because you come to me not knowing anything about Judaism so I cannot assume that you will live exactly according to Halacha. Go and study for ten years and come back to me when you know the Gemara backward and foward and then I will consider converting you. Better yet, go to Shammai and get for yourself the most stringent rulings you can and live by them all for ten years. Then you can come back to me and I will consider it.”

  23. Joseph Kaplan

    “Also, Joseph Kaplan-
    Do you feel uncomfortable with valuing the life of a Jew over a gentile? I am so sorry. But be consistent- should you ever (G-d forbid) require a kidney transplant, do not go to the Jews asking for one. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful gentiles who will give you an organ!”

    1. Whether I do or not value the life of a Jew over a gebtile is not the issue; we’re not talking about one over the other; the issue was a “prohibition” against giving a free gift to a gentile.

    2. As for your snide comment, PG, about kidney transplants, there are many gentiles — ethical, moral, good people — who donate their organs without consiideration of the race or religion of the recipient. Quite frankly, if I had a choice I’d rather go to one of them than to you if, God forbid, I was ever in such a situation.

  24. There are halakhot that “bother us.” See the Rav’s comment to Dr. Blidsteim in marc Shapiro’s footnotes in TuMJ article on RYYW’s letters.

    how one deals with them is a long standing debate. To some extent, great poskim have said that a particular halakha applies only in a circumstance that no longer is relevant. (a pagan (n every sense) versus X.) Others have created a balancing halakhic need that renders the psak inoperative. ( darkei shalom, reciprocity, etc.) still others distinguish on yet other grounds. As the Rav commented – none are satisfying.

    More satisfying, is to assume that the original psak was the anomoly – it applied in a limited circumstance that we may not be able to fully delineate. This solves the ethical issue, albeit in a somewhat “deus ex machina” manner.

    For those who want to hear a most startling talk on this topic look under R.A. soloveitchik’s talk in 1966 on Holiness on YU torah (parshat acheraimos – kedohim). Listen carefully when he quotes sources. (The tape is weak – use a headset if u have one. halfway through r. Soloveitchik’s last mussar shmoos before leaving for chicago, he discusses this issue.)

    On giving blood, what is truly sad is that a Gadol’s compass is so twisted (if in fact he was told of the reality) to say “pashut assur.” It represents a trend among non-traditional jews (both reform and charedi) to allow their “ethical” sense to trump/bias halakha. God help us if we need this essay versus even the story of RAL. One does not need to consult a halakhic source to ascertain the permissability to breathe (despite bugs!) Unfortunately, however, we do need these essays to counter the attempt in the chareidi world to capture halakha as a handmaiden to their “frumkeit/Krumkeit.”

  25. question.re.compliments

    if the idea here is to ground intuitions in halacha, anyone want to give a stab at answering my question – rabbi lebowitz or r gil?

  26. Ha’dardai-

    C’mon, There is much more “juicy” stuff out there than this post if anti-semities were looking to have a “good time”.

    Ari Enkin

  27. >C’mon, There is much more “juicy” stuff out there than this post if anti-semities were looking to have a “good time”.

    This is juicy enough.

  28. question.re.compliments: From the conclusion of שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חלק טו סימן מז

    ויצא לנו איפוא מכל האמור כמה וכמה דרכי היתר שעל פיהם מותר לספר ולחבב מעשיהם או דבריהם של חכמים ומדענים מחכמי או”ה ויה”ר שימי המצרים האלה יהפכו לנו במהרה לשמחה בלי מצרים, ונזכה לראות בבנין בית מקדשנו ותפארתנו בב”א.

  29. Dr. Bill said:

    “On giving blood, what is truly sad is that a Gadol’s compass is so twisted (if in fact he was told of the reality) to say “pashut assur.”

    I think this alleged utterance – which some sources now claim he didn’t exactly say. He may have said, “Davar Poshut” rather than “pashut Assur”, which would further cloud his meaning – highlights a bigger problem in contempotrary p’sak. I am speaking of the value of local p’sak. As long as Rav Moshe zt”l was alive American frumkeit had no need, or inclination, to go further than the lower east side to get p’sak halacha because he was the acknowledged posek hador. With his passing – and even more so in the last 10 years – American orthodoxy and it’s rabbinate have become more frightened than ever to even presume to pasken on a variety of shailos for fear of contradicting what may emerge in the name of the Israeli poskim. What ever happended to elu v’elu? What ever happended to trusting local rabonnim to pasken local shailos? Why must everything be brought to Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Elyashiv? It’s not that we don’t need their guidance but there are many shailos that are so specific to the nuances of locality that it would seem not only permissiable to value local p’sak but perhaps obligatory since the Israeli gedolim must by necessity rely on the subtleties (and biases) of the presenter when paskening long distance. This shailoh would seem to be a perfect example. Don’t the specifics of the New York social dynamic play a mojor role in assessing the issues of Darchei Sholom, Eivah, and Kiddush Hashem involved? Don’t we need to hear from somone like Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlit”a or Rav Yisrael Belsky Shlit’a, who live here before we run to Eretz Yisrael? Maybe I’m way off base, but I dont think so

  30. >which some sources now claim he didn’t exactly say

    Why all the mystery? Which sources? Whom are we speaking of?

  31. Shalom Rosenfeld

    If I understood the Igros Moshe, he didn’t seem to think the average blood donation rose to the level of pikuach nefesh, as it wasn’t choleh lefaneinu (who knows when/if this blood will ever be used…).

    Do contemporary poskim disagree with R’ Moshe’s halachic definition of choleh lefaneinu? Disagree with his assessment of blood banks? Or has the metzius of blood banks changed in the past few decades? (All of the above are okay.)

  32. Living in the 5 towns

    1) We do not know if the Godol actually said “Poshut assur” or not. Just becasue someone said he said it, does not mean he said it. If there is a video, I suggest it be posted in youtube with the other Rav Chaim videos.
    2) Let’s assume he said “poshut assur” – what was the question? As we all know, an answer is only valid to the question asked. If a 60+ year old Rabbi who is not in the best of health asked Rav Chaim if he should give blood and Rav Chaim said “poshut Assur”, what does that have to do with me?
    3) Is this the way we treat halacha – i.e., ask a godol, get a two word answer and that is that? I sort of wonder why the Chasam Sofer, Rav Moshe, etc etc wrote these long winded SH”UTs. Why not just write a book: “assur”, “Muttar”, “Safek”, and save me the hours of reading?
    4) The Rabbi who asked Rav Chaim is quoted as saying that once Rav Chaim said Assur one cannot argue. Another interesting approach to halacha, since it seems that Rav Chaim himself disagrees with Rav Moshe among others.
    5) I assume that any issur will boil down to some facts on the ground – e.g., what are the chances the blood goes to a Jew? Why would we run to EY to ask this question, and not keep it here in the US where, even if the Rav is not a big an expert as Rav Chaim on halacha, presumably will know more than Rav Chaim about the facts on the ground. (I am assuming that Rav Chaim is not a Navi and has no ruach hakodesh.)

  33. On a related topic (Orthodox Jews donating organs) see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cfaAWTH5zM&feature=share. As someone pointed out on another list, watch it in a location where you won’t be embarrassed if you cry.

  34. > Don’t we need to hear from somone like Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlit”a or Rav Yisrael Belsky Shlit’a, who live here before we run to Eretz Yisrael? Maybe I’m way off base, but I dont think so

    Maybe the problem is that we think that everything is a she’ela. Or we think that everything we already do is probably all wrong, or worse, everything our parents did is wrong. I know that tzu pas nit to learn from crazy Hungarians, but in the introduction to the Lev Ha-ivri there is a footnote which gives the following legend concerning the importance of not deviating from the way things are done (minhag) even when it seems obviously krum. The story is from the pinkas of Krakow and concerns the time when the Rema was appointed rav of Krakow. It seems that in Krakow the practice was that the owner of the mikva (you heard right) would give a Mazal Tov to the men the morning after their wife was tovel. To the newly installed rav, the Rema, it was obvious that this was unsavory to say the least, and his first act was to instruct this mikva owner to stop doing this, and so he did. One guy went over to him and asked him why he failed to give him Mazal Tov? The owner said for two reasons. One, the rav told me no to. And two, your wife wasn’t tovel last night!

    It seems that with the abolition of this practice at least one woman realized that she could get away with skipping the mikva and her husband would never know. Thus, saith the story, the Rema realized the error of his decision, restored the custom and took it upon himself to defend all minhagim and the rest is history.

    Who knows what harm we will bring upon ourself by daring to reevaluate every little thing that we do and that our parents did? Maybe our moral compass was steering us in the right direction, and the “poshut it’s ossur” people don’t know what the heck they’re doing? Isn’t this the argument that people make against the “poshut it’s mutar” approach to new ideas?

  35. “since this is posted on internet it can become an easy source of antisemitism.”

    oh please. as popular as this this site is (וכן ירבו), i don’t think it has anything to add to all the anti-semitism and material used by anti-semites that’s already out there.

    as to the post itself, i think it’s sad that this is an issue but i’m not at all surprised.
    הרעיון הכללי שכל מעשה לטובת גוי הוא אסור, אינו רעיון חדש למי שגדל בברוקלין

    of course any suggestion that

  36. question.re.compliments

    J Rich – Very interesting links, thanks. However, wrt the view of the maharal that vehalachta bdrachav is limited to rachamim, that R Amital cites(part 2):

    “We cited earlier the talmudic passage in tractate Sota regarding the duty to walk in God’s ways and cleave to Him. But we are not called upon to emulate all of His traits. God is also jealous and vengeful, and we were never asked to imitate Him regarding these qualities.

    Maharal (Netivot Olam, Netiv Gemilat Chasadim 1) explains why man is called upon to walk in God’s ways with regard to the trait of lovingkindness:
    It is because this quality is something that man does of his own accord. But regarding justice, it cannot be said that a person is walking in God’s ways, because [“walking in God’s ways” means] walking of his own accord, acting independently and of his own free will… But as for justice, a person is obligated to do justice, and therefore he cannot be referred to as walking in God’s ways. Only when he performs acts of lovingkindness, beyond the letter of the law, and he does them on his own and of his own free will – this is called walking in God’s ways.”

    I believe the maharal’s view is the subject of dispute, and that the Rambam’s view is that vehalachta bedrachav is NOT limited to midos harachamim, and this view of rambam’s is relevant to addressing conflicts between natural feeling and mitzvos.

    In Moreh 1:54, Rambam says that the 13 midos are mostly rachamim, with the exception of poked avon avos al banim, which he includes in his count of 13 midos and says is restricted to avodah zara. Rambam presents all 13 midos, including this one, as traits that are to be emulated by human beings – and this is because of the importance of eradicating a”z. (In context, they are especially to be emulated by leaders- I’ll return to this point below.) I note that keyl kanah is also always in the context of a”z.

    Similarly, in hilchos deos 1, he includes all kinuyim that appear in tanach under the rubric of vehalachta b’drachav and as traits to be emulated by human beings.

    In the final chapters of moreh, the rambam is fairly explicit in including din in vehalachta bedrachav. (It almost must be true that rambam includes more than rachamim in vehlachta bedrachav, because, as one sees in the final chapters of moreh, vehalachta bedrachav is an overarching imperative in his system – the purpose of existence, for which the torah and mitzvos prepare.) In Moreh III, 53-54, he interprets yirmiyahu 9: 22-23 and says ki im bzos yishallel hamishallel haskel veyadoa osi requires not only understanding of god’s unity, noncorporeality etc. etc. – rather the navi continues ki ani hashem oseh chesed mishpat utzdaka ba’aretz etc in that these traits are to be known and emulated – i.e. yirmiyahu is giving a mandate for vehalachta bedrachav. And he there defines mishpat (in ki ani hashem oseh chesed mishpat etc. ) as din, as acting on judgement positively or negatively, rewarding and punishing, something to be copied by humans.
    It thus seems clear that Rambam does NOT limit vehalchta bdrachav to traits of rachamim, but includes aspects of din, and specifically forms of vengeance for avodah zara.

    In the first cite above, Moreh 1:54, the rambam says that moshe requested to understand how the rbs”o conducts the world so that he would know with what traits to lead the nation (this is how he understands va’eyda’acha lemaan emtza cheyn be’eynecha u’re’eyh ki amcha hagoy hazeh). The examples he gives of where we see to emulate midas hadin wrt to a”z (the mida of poked avon avos etc) are mitzvos – e.g. eradicating the 7 umos. The Rambam says that the reason for this are stated explicitly in the torah, so that it’s clear that it’s not an act of anger, but done because of the importance of eradicating a”z. But these are explicit mitzvos to eradicate a”z. I assume that outside of a specific mitzva, an individual couldn’t go about e.g. killing someone or destroying property etc. It seems to me though that in the context of leadership, which is for the rambam why moshe made the request to understand the midos – a melech can act extra=judicially and a navi can make a hora’as sha’a and the rambam seems to advocate that vengeance for a”z be emulated by a leader, when appropriate, and only balanced by emulation of the other midos harachamim. However, it seems to me that in hilchos deos and at the end of moreh, the rambam is directing the injunction to emulate the rbs”o even in midos hadin to individuals, presumably in areas of reshus.

    The rambam goes far in this section of moreh in advocating vehalachta bedrachav, for example in the directive, that I referenced partially above, that vengeance/din be done for rational purpose and not from human emotions. He also all but says that just as the rbs”o does not really have emotions and they are figures of speech – so too a leader should punish out of rational considerations and not emotions – kol hispalus raah. This is anyway how i read that section, and if this reading is correct, it seems to take the concept of vehalachta bedrachav very far indeed (in keeping with the discussion at the end of the moreh).

    In any case, I think the rambam conflicts with the maharal. (Though I’m not sure to what extent this dispute has practical ramifications to the average person….)

  37. If non-Jews are led to anti-Semitism by seeing this post, isn’t that to be expected? How would you react if you saw a non-Jewish site speaking about how it is forbidden to do anything good for Jews, and that you can’t give them presents, or give them blood. Non-Jews are completely justified in feeling anti-Semitism when they read that Jews are conflicted over whether it is permitted to give your Gentile co-worker a gift on his wedding and that the only reason you can is so that he doesn’t have negative feelings towards you. If this is the sense that nonJews get about how we relate to them, then anti-Semitism is not a mystery but makes perfect sense.

  38. question.re.compliments

    r gil – Thank you for the reference.

  39. Shachar Ha'amim

    I don’t know how this affects the discussion, but in Israel there is also no certainty that the recipient of a blood donation will be a Jew. one can argue that the majority is such that this is the likelihood, but it is not a given since approximately 25% of the population in israel is not Jewish (and maybe more if you count the arabs of judea and samaria – not sure what arrangements are in place for sending blood out to palestinian hospitals)

    i would add that blood donations in israel are a form of insurance. if one gives frequently enough then one is entitled to receive blood for oneself and immediate relatives in any instance without cost (yes – even though hospital care is generally covered by insurance or the state, any transfusions are NOT and have to be paid for in cash – or via specific donations)

  40. I think that best you can say about this sort of thing is that its a picayune focus on nothing while the building burns around you. As an intriguing case of logic unrelated to anything in the real world, it is an interesting academic question.

    However, I think that this focus on academic questions keeps us from seeing the forest for the trees. Judaism is not about following meaningless laws. It is about following meaningful laws that make us a light unto the nations. Since the reading that we cannot give blood to non-Jew’s presumes a kind of nihilistic self interest it cannot be meaningful and it certainly will not make us appear as a light unto the nations. Thus it is Pashut Mutar to give blood. SOF!

  41. David S: I totally disagree. Judaism is about approaching God through His Torah. That means engaging with the texts and laws of our tradition, not dismissing them out of hand.

  42. If we do not know in advance the outcome of the exploration of whether or not Jews are permitted to donate blood then there is a serious moral failing. Do we not agree that a similar doubt by gentiles about Jews would be repugnant? If we know the outcome in advance, then such discussions is playing pretend. Which is it?

  43. “Additionally, a person who carries a blood donor card is likely to be treated with greater care should he ever find himself in the hospital.”

    This is simply false. No one at the hospital is going to pay the slightest bit of attention to whether you have a blood donor card.

  44. Is this a case where the baale batim have a better sense of what G-d wants of us than the rabbonim? is this was Rabbi Kook was talking about?

  45. Jews often have a good halakhic intuition, based on a solid Jewish education. But that doesn’t mean we can or should rely on intuition alone.

  46. On the second point, if we make judgments on emotion alone without having any sense of halacha, we are likely to make major errors – that is how R’ Menashe Klein arrived at his psak. You should realize that what is obvious to you is not obvious to the average yeshiva student. I B”H have hundreds of talmidim, and some regular mainstream YU or YU type guys asked me if it is permissible because they had heard from a local rabbi that he heard from a gadol in Israel that giving blood in America is “pashut assur”. Talmidei Yeshiva are impressionable and really struggle with these kinds of issues. The response should not be “do whatever you feel is right”, but should be a demonstration of how halacha leads us on the correct path.

    We should always study and know the halacha. But is not one of the reasons offered for why we do not make brachot on mitzvot bein adam l’chaveiro that, unlike bein adam l’makom where the highest kiyyum is as an act of obedience to God, the highest kiyum for mitzvot bein adam l’chaveiro is to internalize the midot of the Merciful One to the point where a specific commandment is no longer required? So there is no cause to think less of those for whom it is obvious that one should donate.

  47. >Jews often have a good halakhic intuition, based on a solid Jewish education. But that doesn’t mean we can or should rely on intuition alone.

    I get the larger principle. But is your contention really that everything is a she’ela?

    In addition, the rest of the world does not need a halachic essay to know that they ought to donate blood. Sometimes intuition works fine. In fact another cogent halachic essay could also be written disproving every contention and conclusion of this one (what, you think R Chaim Kanievsky couldn’t do it?). So what is gained by this? I understand that Rabbi Liebowitz in his purity and with good intentions felt that such an essay or opinion must be answered so that people (“yeshiva bochurim” as he puts it) will know to do the right thing. That such a doubt can exist solely because of halachic or pseudo-halachic thinking is itself a problem.

  48. “David S: I totally disagree. Judaism is about approaching God through His Torah. That means engaging with the texts and laws of our tradition, not dismissing them out of hand.”

    A law that conflicts with a greater purpose of the Jewish religion is rejected all the time. For this reason we can break the sabbath to protect or save a life.

    Engaging with the texts and laws of the tradition does not mean being a slave to them. It seems to me that Chazal in their wisdom knew this. We seem to have forgotten it.

  49. I would like to protest at the presentation of Rav Menashe Klein’s teshuvah in the article and the comments.

    This teshuvah is quite lenghty – 8 columns of small Rashi script. The teshuvah is centered around the issur of “chovel be-atzmo” (wounding oneself). Rav Klein concludes that the halachah follows the opinion that it is forbidden (possibly Biblically) to wound oneself even for financial or other gain. This is the beginning and end of the teshuvah, and the substance of its argument.

    In the middle of this lengthy discussion – not its concluson – Rav Klein discusses that even according to the opinions that permit one to wound himself, it is prohibited to do so on behalf of a goy because of “lo sechanem”. His “poetic[] refer[ence]” (which takes all of four lines in the middle of the eight-column teshuvah) to the blood of the Jew crying out is AN EXPLANATION OF THE PROHIBITION OF “LO SECHANEM”. He is not issuing any type of ruling on the basis of any non-halachic consideration; on the contrary, the entire teshuvah is solely based on halachah – and even the citation to which you take such umbrage is part and parcel of a halachic discussion of “lo sechanem”.

    It is grossly disrespectful to make the type of remarks made above about Rav Klein about a gadol batorah even if he had said what the article alleged. But to write the way that the author of this article and the commentators do about Rav Klein when in fact he did not make the argument they allege is reprehensible. I think a retraction and/or clarification of Rav Klein’s views are in order.

    Rav Klein’s teshuvah can be read online at: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1876&st=&pgnum=382.

  50. I would strongly discourage people from poking around in R. Klein’s writings and posting the results online. There are things there which should not be repeated.

  51. I have glanced through the tshuva thanks the for link. But as I have already written why is this considered ‘chavala’. I go regularly for a blood test, and i would be surprised if Rabbi Klein doesnt. In the olden times not so long ago it was considered a treatment. Is the ‘chavala’ because the ‘prick’ hurts. Or is it the loss of blood. The gemoro in taanis says of one of the greatest tsadikim ‘aba umna’ that that was his occupation. R Yosef didnt call an ‘uman’ to his house, at the end of the present daf yomi. Even if a person does become weak afterwards and the gemoro inb shabbos says one may ‘steal’ food. And on certain days one should not do it. All this does not add up to ‘chavala’.R Akiva let blood when R Eliezer died. He would not have done it if it was not allowed. Sanhedrin 68A.
    This whole post seems to be under the impression and R Klein that it is chavala. Perhaps someone can tell me the guidelines of chavala.

  52. Aryeh Lebowitz

    In terms of R’ Klein’s teshuva, I noted in the article that this comment comes only after he engages in a discussion of the halachic points. It seemed to me that after going through what he thought were the halachic problems, he added a third consideration that I cited in the article. I didn’t quote the specifics of the rest of the article because I didn’t see anything new in them. I thought that his gut sevara that wasn’t based on halachic considerations is likely the underlying reason that some people are machmir, and I think such sevaros should be dismissed as much as the sevaros of several commenters here who aren’t interested in what halacha has to say as long as their gut tells them right from wrong.

  53. There is a lot of interesting dinim in Mishneh Halachos:

    – prohibition to eat in mehadrin restaurant that serve “goyish” types of food (italian, chinese, mexican etc.).
    – tax evasion is not a problem (unless chilul H’).
    – there were billions of Jews in EY in the time of the 2nd Temple.
    – assur to report child molesters to authorities
    – assur to serve on a jury

    and many many more

  54. “In the middle of this lengthy discussion – not its concluson – Rav Klein discusses that even according to the opinions that permit one to wound himself, it is prohibited to do so on behalf of a goy because of “lo sechanem””

    In other words he saying that it is assur to help a goy because of the prohibition against helping idolaters. I cannot see how this helps your case.

    “It is grossly disrespectful to make the type of remarks made above about Rav Klein about a gadol batorah even if he had said what the article alleged.”

    To address this, we need to consider the relative importance of two conflicting points: 1) Loshen Hara – It is certainly wrong to negatively discuss the Rabbi even if justified or true. 2) Chilul Hashem – It is also certainly wrong to allow someone to profane the name of God and we must protest this.

    As for me, I think it is far better than to use loshen hara than to create a Chilul Hashem. Any experts available to help with this thorny issue?

  55. >As for me, I think it is far better than to use loshen hara than to create a Chilul Hashem. Any experts available to help with this thorny issue?

    במקום שיש חלול השם אין חולקין כבוד לרב

  56. “Good Samaritan”? Was that meant to be ironic? Does the author know the origin of that expression?

  57. >In terms of R’ Klein’s teshuva, I noted in the article that this comment comes only after he engages in a discussion of the halachic points. It seemed to me that after going through what he thought were the halachic problems, he added a third consideration that I cited in the article. I didn’t quote the specifics of the rest of the article because I didn’t see anything new in them. I thought that his gut sevara that wasn’t based on halachic considerations is likely the underlying reason that some people are machmir, and I think such sevaros should be dismissed as much as the sevaros of several commenters here who aren’t interested in what halacha has to say as long as their gut tells them right from wrong.

    This is simply not the case. First of all, this is not “a third consideration” – this is HIS EXPLANATION OF THE ISSUR OF “LO SECHANEM”

    Let me translate section 7 of his responsa:

    And now, what emerges to us after we have proven that one may not injure himself, it is therefore obvious that it is forbidden to give blood to a blood bank for free. Although I have seen in the Yam Shel Shelomo (Bava Kamma ad loc) who discusses this law of one who injures himself at length and rules according to most authorities that it is forbidden, however he adds that nevertheless even according to the Ramah [who permits self-injury] it is not permitted unless there is a need – for if there is no need it is unanimously forbidden even to damage clothing or other matters because of “bal tashchis”. Rather, [the Ramah] opines that that, just as it is permissible to destroy money for need (such as that which is mentioned in [Tractate Shabbos] Perek HaOreig [to damage money] in order to provide fear in his house) so too here it is permitted to injure himself for another need. If so, giving blood by one who has no need to do so is certainly forbidden even according to the Ramah z”l.

    Now, if the donor would argue that “bal tashchis” does not occur in any case for his blood will be given to someone who needs it, [this argument is not accepted]; certainly, there is [a prohibition of “bal tashchis”] because here in the majority of cases they will give his blood to an idolater and there is no need at all [to give him blood]. On the contrary, he violates another prohibition [in addition to that of self-injury]: the negative commandment of “lo sechanem” – not to give them a free gift. He also violates the prohibition to heal them for free, as here he is certainly healing them (see Avodah Zarah 26a, where Rav Yosef wanted to say that nursing [an idolater’s baby] for wages is permitted because of “eivah” but Abaye said that one could say [an explanation to remove “eivah”] and here too one could say [a similar explanation] as is understood). In any case, it is not proper to give Jewish blood – which bears the life, the soul, the spirit of G-d (as it is written “for the blood is the life”) and in Jew, his blood and fat have been sanctified with the holiness of Israel – and transfer that it to the impure body of an idolater (Heaven forbid); the sound of his blood will cry out from the idolater, for it has been given over to an impure and defiling place.

    This is section 7, bear in mind; the first six sections describe the prohibition of self-injury AND SECTION 8, WHICH IS HIS CONCLUSION (“and now we will turn to the subject of your question…”), returns to discuss only the prohibition of self-injury.

    I don’t see how anyone could assume this aside (explanation of why there is a prohibition aside from self-injury) is the reason why he is machmir. Rav Klein’s actual teshuvah explains why he is machmir: because it is forbidden to cause self-injury.

  58. > In other words he saying that it is assur to help a goy because of the prohibition against helping idolaters. I cannot see how this helps your case.

    Rav Klein is discussin the prohibition of Lo Sechanem, which is part of our Torah and halachic process. The article above spends a lot of time discussing this issur. Whether it applies here is (apparently) a disagreement among poskim. However, all this is a far cry from alleging that Rav Klein is introducing non-halachic gut feelings in a halachic context, which is of course what the article and comments allege.

  59. > As for me, I think it is far better than to use loshen hara than to create a Chilul Hashem.

    First of all, the loshon hara here is that the article and comments did not accurately relate to what Rav Klein wrote. If any “Chilul Hashem” arises, it is from the misrepresentation of the substance of the comments by those who are purveying the loshon hara.

    As to what Rav Klein does say, the fact that our Torah contains an issur of Lo Sechanem can hardly be considered a “Chilul Hashem”. While there are some poskim who hold this applies only to real akum, most disagree (see footnote 8 in the article for some sources). Paskening a shailah about Lo Sechanem is certainly not a “Chilul Hashem”. Now, maybe posting an article in English on a popular website about this topic could at least be considered a problem of eivah … that, I don’t know. But Rav Klein’s pesak (in Hebrew in a volume of teshuvos in answer to a serious question based on halachic sources) is nothing of the sort.

  60. > I have glanced through the tshuva thanks the for link. But as I have already written why is this considered ‘chavala’ … In the olden times not so long ago it was considered a treatment. Is the ‘chavala’ because the ‘prick’ hurts. Or is it the loss of blood … This whole post seems to be under the impression and R Klein that it is chavala. Perhaps someone can tell me the guidelines of chavala.

    This is the essence of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s teshuvah (Choshen Mishpat 1:103). He discusses these issues and concludes that, although nowadays we do not see medical value in regular blood letting, since it was traditionally considered to have such benefit and people did it, it cannot be totally forbidden (particularly if it occurs under the direction of a doctor, etc.). [However – and the article does not point this out – Rav Moshe concludes that “perhaps we should not forbid this injury of blood letting, ad if one wants to be lenient we should not protest against him.” Furthermore, Rav Moshe only discusses one who is going to be compensated (which mitigates the Lo Sechanem/Bal Tashchis aspects). You can read Rav Moshe’s response here: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=918&st=&pgnum=166.%5D

    As to the point about blood tests, one is allowed to self-injure as part of a medical procedure (e.g., surgery, blood letting in Talmudic times). There is no question about this.

  61. “Rav Klein is discussin the prohibition of Lo Sechanem, which is part of our Torah and halachic process. The article above spends a lot of time discussing this issur. Whether it applies here is (apparently) a disagreement among poskim.”

    Yes it is part of our Torah not to give any comfort to idolaters. To apply this appellation to any specific class of people at this time (such as the Christian citizens of the United States) is treading on very dangerous ground. I think the only safe route here is to relegate this topic to ancient times when people prayed to Idols and engaged in human sacrifice. Thus we have no way of applying this to our fellow human beings unless then engage specifically in those kinds of acts. this should not be so difficult.

  62. FYI

    Blood Drive, this Sunday in Flatbush at Hatzoloh Headquarters, 1800 Ocean Avenue 9 am – 5 pm.

  63. For some reason i cannot get the tshuva of RMF it says error page when i try. I am still not convinced it is called chavala even if it is on shabbos, and a son to a father would get killed for it. these dinim dont go together. And again I mentioned R Akiba.
    There is another point much more important. Since we, when we need blood must rely on blood banks. If we dont donate then we wont recieve. The issur of lo sechonam never applies when we will lose by it. I am old enough to remember in the israeli wars there was always a ‘blood drive’ afterwards. They needed to buy blood from other countries not having enough of their own. Can you imagine what would happen if we didnt donate blood.
    I am sorry but I find the whole question absolutely irrelevent.

  64. “No one at the hospital is going to pay the slightest bit of attention to whether you have a blood donor card.”

    in israel there was a proposal whereby people with organ donor cards would recieve priority in getting organs should they need them. i don’t recall what became of the proposal

  65. aryeh lebowitz

    you are correct that this is not his primary reason to say it is assur. If you read my earlier comment carefully you will see that I never claimed it was his primary reason. Yet, having read the teshuva again I still think he is bringing in a new point – not explaining lo sechaneim. He is saying that aside from chavalah and lo sechaneim there is a general problem of it being improper for the reason he states. That is the point I was picking on because that is the only point that only R’ Klein (and non of the other cited poskim) makes.

  66. שינוי גדול כ”כ, וגם היום מוציאין הרופאים כמעם
    בלא צער, ולכן אפשראין לאסזר בתבלה זו דהקות
    דם. והרוצה להקלאין למחות בוכיון שהיא סברא

    i am pleased to say that now after finding the tshuva he says it depends on if there is pain. And today it is not considered pain.
    as an aside the rebbe of netanya was in hospital for a blood test and the nurse told him they are using special thin needles for him which hurt less.
    when he heard that he commanded that they use these needles for everyone even though they cost more

  67. >he commanded

    You mean demanded? Asked nicely?

  68. R. Aryeh,

    Why don’t you write a new post on this issue — but here’s the approach I would suggest: consider all of the halachic sources for the value of saving life. Show how they trump other considerations. And then demonstrate the mitzvah of donating blood, and perhaps discuss whether this mitzvah is a mitvah chiyuvis or kiyumis. Everthing in your current post can be condensed into a small footnote in that article, where you simply state that poskim, as an legal exercise, have already contemplated all sorts of objections based on self-injury and rejected them.

    I think that post would accomplish the end of presenting a careful halachic consideration (but from a direction opposite to the unfortunate one you took in this piece) at the same time assuring us that the Torah remains a living source of ethical and moral truth.

  69. I am no fan of Rabbi Klein’s but the tone used towards his “gut feeling” left me with a gut feeling of my own that was rather unpleasant. Instead of calling it a “frivolous argument” or “nonsensical” it could have just as easily been characterized as “puzzling” or “hard to accept”, the English equivalents to “Tzorich Iyun”.

    The passage “to point out that it is most curious” etc. with its subtle implication that Rabbi Klein is ethically challenged, also comes across as a snide tone of voice more fitting for secular journalists, rogue bloggers, political commentators, and their ilk, not for halachic discussions.

    Just my opinion. I did like the article though, and thanks for that.

  70. I’m listening to R’ Aryeh’s shiur right now – he states that in a local shul the Rabbi posted a sign over a flyer announcing a blood drive. the sign included a statement that the Rabbi of the shul in question had met with R’ Kanievsky and he was asked whether it is mutar to donate blood to a blood drive, R’CK’s answer, “pashut assur”
    (me – is that clear enough)
    KT

  71. BTW if you listen to the shiur, you’ll find the objections raised by the Rav in question – and I certainly wouldn’t post the link to my friends
    KT

  72. Living in the 5 towns

    Joel Rich and “Clear enough”.

    Not to me. Somoene says that he saw a sign that someone else wrote that says Rav Chaim told him “poshut assur” to a question whose phrase-ology we don’t know. (Was it ‘blood donation for all jew in the world?’ ‘bllod donations for jew in the US?” ‘Blood donation for the one who asked the question’? ‘Blood donation on shabbos’?) I would say nothign could be more unclear.

  73. Aryeh Lebowitz

    Skeptic – that is a nice idea, but the purpose of me writing this article (which was not meant to be a blog post – that was suggested to me after I wrote the article) was to respond to a specific statement of a local rabbi that I thought was misguided and potentially very damaging. That is why I dealt with that particular issue.

    Big Maybe – I have to confess that I allowed my personal feelings for the way that R’ Klein deals with halacha in general interfere with the normal language I would use in halachic dialogue. One of the talmidei chachamim that I sent an early draft of the article to actually thought the language was too soft!

  74. Aryeh Lebowitz

    Joel – the rabbi in question told his ba’alei batim after the tragedy in Haiti that if they send money they should “get their yichus checked”, which was ironic because in this derasha http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/741115/Rabbi_Aryeh_Lebowitz/A_Jewish_Response_to_the_Tragedy_in_Haiti I used the same lashon to describe those who don’t feel sympathy toward the victims of the tragedy.

  75. R’Aryeh,
    perhaps he meant that it was a yichus check – to show they are rachmanim, bayshanim and gomlei chassadim? Even if you can’t give imho, you should feel the pain.
    KT

  76. “You mean demanded? Asked nicely?”

    Isn’t it his hospital? I don’t know how it runs exactly, but the rebbe (previous one) was the founder of the laniando hospital in netanya .

  77. Aryeh Lebowitz

    Joel – I really wish that was what he meant (I just don’t think so)

  78. The synagogues in Riverdale have regular blood drives. I don’t think anyone would even thing that there is a shilah.

  79. The first bunch of times I gave blood was at YU blood drives.

    Sometimes people who think that everything is a shayla are just plain wrong.

  80. moshe shoshan

    Though I certainly side with those who feel that “its poshut muttar” perhaps there was a more deferential way or rejecting R. Klien’s position.

  81. Charlie Hall said:

    “The synagogues in Riverdale have regular blood drives.”

    Nachum said:

    “The first bunch of times I gave blood was at YU blood drives.”

    And in my experience – for decades now – there have been regular blood drives sponsored by Maimonides Hosiptal and the Boro Park Bikur Cholim. They are routinely held in just about every shul in Brooklyn large enough to accomodate the setup. They have been held right under the noses of virtually every prominent Rav in Brooklyn and in manny instances in their shuls. Now I realize that observing common practice is not in theory a correct means of determining Halacha (or else we could conclude, for example, that talking in shul is mutar). However, I think any reasonably intelligent person can see that in this case, the observable evidence makes it clear that if there is even a “shemetz” of issur associated with such a blood drive, it is a fact being exceedingly and deliberately well hidden by our Rabbonim.

  82. Aryeh Lebowitz

    Cohen – correct, and that is exactly what I noted in the conclusion of the article. That is why I was so shocked to hear a local rabbi say otherwise and felt a response was in order.

  83. I’m personally embarrassed that this is even a question in 5771.

    Blood supplies are consistently low. Every donation literally saves a life.

    Therefore, it could be argued that anyone who talks someone out of donating blood is a murderer.

    Oh wait – now “guest” will reply to this thread that it’s okay to murder goyim…

  84. Adam – I agree that we should all give blood (obviously), but do you believe that a person who doesn’t give every two months is a murderer?

  85. anonymous:

    no I don’t.

    However, if a person has decided to go and give blood on Tuesday, and then hears a shiur on Monday night that he ought not to give blood… …and then Wednesday night they run out of his blood type at the local hospital, and someone dies as a result – then the one who gave the shiur directly caused that patient to die. (garmi, more than gramma)

    The man who listened to the shiur and changed his mind essentially did the right thing – he listened to his rav. It’s the rav that has blood on his hands, so to speak.

  86. R’ Leibowitz,

    Excellent article. One question –

    You write:

    First, while the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 151:11 as explained by Shach ibid 18) applies this prohibition to all gentiles, many great poskim have limited the prohibition to idolaters (Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman, Rav Henkin, Rav Ahron Soloveitchik – see also Tzitz Eliezer XV:47 where he demonstrates that this was the opinion of several prominent Rishonim and concurs with their view).[8]

    Can you provide a source for the positions of Rav Henkin and Rav Soloveichik (without a T, by the way)?

    See also this article by R’ Shlomo Brody:
    http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/Judaism/Article.aspx?id=173719

    Yasher Koach.

  87. aryeh lebowitz

    Almoni – thank you very much for the feedback. Unfortunately I don’t have any printed sources, just “m’pi ha’shemuah” from talmidim and family members of those gedolim. With Rav Soloveichik I am pretty sure there is a recording where he says so, but I am not sure where to find it.

  88. Yashar Koach for posting this responsa and for the excellent flow of discussions that ensued. This type of responsible exchange of information to people oround the globe is making the best use of the koach of the internet and is mezake the rabim.
    The kudos go to Gil Student for creating the blog and for Rabbi Leibovitz for taking a courageous stand for what is right!

  89. I was wondering if anyone could address the following. When I was in Yeshiva for a year in Israel, I seem to remember being told that we should go to the blood drive but only have the blood taken by someone who was male. If this was not available, we shouldn’t donate. I don’t know if this statement (assuming I recall correctly) is relevant to most of us: 1) the context was Israel, where there were blood-drives weekly so finding an alternative was not a big deal; 2) we were 18 year old males with no contact with females – there was no חיבה in the touching, but for an 18 yr old, you never know.

    Has anyone ever heard of something like this?

  90. Just for the record: when I was learning in Lakewood 25 years ago the yeshiva hosted its own blood donor clinic and strongly encouraged all talmidim to participate.
    Coincidentally, I have a donor appointment just tomorrow evening…

  91. Yeshivat Har Etzion regular hosts blood drives involving female nurses.

  92. Great article.

    While you do not mention the Rabbi’s name, as a resident of the 5 Towns, I unfortunately can figure out who would write such a thing (as well as that comment about Haiti).

    I know what my gut says about the obvious need for the permissibility of blood donation but i still I saw the need for the article as (i) as jews and Ishei Halacha we always need to see things through the prism of halacha and (ii) there clearly are a number of people out there that need to see the vast sources and reasons to allow blood donations because as others have noted, there is always a shortage and every donor counts.

    R’ Lebowitz – does anyone have a picture of the note in question that was posted by the local Rabbi (particularly in response to Living in the 5 towns)?

  93. aryeh lebowitz

    jean claude – I have a picture because i went to his shul to verify that he indeed posted such a sign before writing the article. Once there I took a picture with my blackberry. I don’t want to post it, but trust me it exists.

  94. Living in the 5 towns

    Though it has now been taken down. This does not reflect any admission of anything; signs go up and come down on the Rabbi’s personal bulletin board.

    This is not a he said/she said issue. Hundreds of people saw the sign. At least 100 people were there when the Rav spoke about his reasoning during his weekly Friday night dvar torah. My own ‘hocking’ tells me that 90%+ of the members disagree and will continue doing whatever they did until now, and wish he would stop doing this type of stuff.

  95. R Leibowitz should be commended for discussing the issue and illustrating why R M Klein’s position, as in the other cases illustrated in Shimon’s post, cannot be viewed either as mainstream Psak or an address for Psak outside of those who consider R M Klein their Posek on all halachic issues.

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