This is Why Next Shabbat I am going to Be Walking For Life-organ donation
This week’s Torah portion is Tazria Metzora. It is the combination of two Torah portions that address two different topics: Tazria, that has to do with the time required for a woman to become ritually pure after delivery, and Metzora, which has to do with the illness of Tzara’at – commonly known today as Leprosity. And even when these topics might sound very different, the real topic and common denominator of these two Torah portions is our bodies, our souls, healing and recovering.
If you look at the process with Tzara’at; a person that has the mark on his skin is checked by the priest, the Cohen, and is sent to a week of quarantine. After this week the person comes back, is checked again by the Cohen, and if the signs remain or have developed he is sent away for another week. He is then again checked by the Cohen and the process, with longer lapses of time, is repeated until the person recovers.
We also learn that the recovery process concludes not just by the healing of the body but by having in addition a ritual performed by the Cohen, pointing out the fact that in Judaism body and soul are absolutely linked and there is no full recovery if our soul is not a part of the process.
But today I want to explore the quarantine time, the time that people spend waiting to be healed. When we talk about healing we often hear the sentence “let time do its work, be patient…”. And in many cases this is true; time can be a great ally to the recovery process. From that perspective we encourage people to embrace time with patience and to let their bodies and their souls heal.
But time can play a very different role. If in order to heal you are waiting for an organ donation, time is not your ally, because you might be running out of time. Thinking about the soul, I think about the difference in the process that Torah describes when your body recovers – the Cohen and the community participate in order to help you to fully recover. In this process you have a person knowing that the community is waiting to embrace him. And on the other hand, when you have a person waiting for a transplant; that person might know that every 10 minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list; he or she can learn that on average 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant.
The Rabbis teach us that saving one life is like saving the entire world. Organ donation is not just a wonderful and important idea; it is, in fact, a religious obligation. But I want to take it to a different place. I want to think with you about the waiting time. That moment in which every 10 minutes a person learns that he’s added to a waiting list. That terrible moment in which a person learns that his life depends on the capability of his neighbours to understand that life transcends the sense of ownership over our dead bodies. That moment in which that person realizes that the majority of our society still hasn’t signed their organ donation cards. If it wasn’t enough that that person is dealing with a terrible illness in his body, on that moment probably his soul is terribly affected. This is because the majority of the community is not there to embrace him. This is probably one of the deepest experiences of indifference.
And This is why, my friends, next Saturday morning we are going to pray with our legs, and with a sense of religious obligation we are going to participate in the Donate Life walk at Cal State Fullerton. Not just because we want to advocate for organ donation which, as we said, is indeed our religious obligation, but because we want to tell those that are waiting that they are not alone, that we are here, that we care. We might not be able to contribute to the healing of their bodies – refuat haguf- but yes, -refuat hanefesh-we definitely can stand against the indifference that is threatening their souls, and with our presence become partners in the healing process.