November - Pikuach Nefesh


November - Pikuach Nefesh (Saving a Life)


Jewish Tradition

The value of human life is a predominate feature in Jewish law and tradition. The idea of Pikuach nefesh specifically places the preservation of human life over, almost, every other religious law or rule. Leviticus 18:5 states, “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD."  This can be translated in saying that whenever someone’s life is threatened or in danger, protecting or saving that individual makes all restrictions in the Torah forgivable.  

One way we can honor the idea of pikuach nefesh is by regularly donating blood and registering to be organ donors. There are many preconceived notions revolving Judaism and organ donation, for example if it’s permitted in Jewish law or if live donation is acceptable. However, by following this link many questions can be answered about organ donation in Judaism.



  • Film:
    • Traffic (2011)
      • Superstar Dev Kapoor's daughter is ill and needs an urgent heart transplant. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, trainee journalist Reyhan meets with an accident and is declared clinically dead.
    • Seven Pounds (2008)
      • Ben Thomas is a man on a mission. Giving vital parts of his body to those desperately in need of a donor. Ben meets Emily Posa, a beautiful young woman at risk from a deadly heart condition. As Ben falls for Emily and begins to open up to her, it becomes clear there is something dark in his past.
    • 21 Grams (2003)
      • “This story about three people whose fates get entangled is an emotional ride right from the start. It deals with the complex emotions of giving life and taking life.”
    • Thank You (2015)
      • Tamil film director A. L. Vijay's short film released by the National Foundation for Liver Research sends out a heart-warming message about the benefits of organ donation.
    • The Transplant Trade (2004)
      • The concept of trading in human organs seems horrifying to many in the West, but for some of the poorest people in the developing world selling an organ for money can seem like the only chance to escape poverty.”
  • ELITalks: (Allows individuals and organizations to cultivate, transmit, and curate Jewish ideas and thoughts through digital conversations.)
  • TED Talks:
  • Books:
    • “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult
      • Tells the story of thirteen-year-old Anna Fitzgerald, who sues her parents for medical emancipation when she discovers she was supposed to donate a kidney to her elder sister Kate, who is gradually dying from acute leukemia.See the movie.
    • “Unwind” by Neal Shusterman
      • “The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors.”
    • “The Organ Donor Experience: Good Samaritans and the Meaning of Altruism” by Katrina A. Bramstedt
      • This book profiles donors who have offered their organs to strangers and helps readers understand the meanings behind their donations.
    • “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro
      • As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.
    • “The Heart” by Maylis de Kerangal
      • It chronicles the events immediately following the death of 19-year-old Simon Limbres in a car accident. Focusing on the transplantation of Simon's heart and how it affects those involved in the process, including Simon's parents, the physicians, the nurses, the organ transplant coordinators, the recipient, and the recipient's family, over the course of twenty-four hours.
    • “The Nicholas Effect” by Reg Green
      • The Nicholas effect is how his parents refer to the wonderful things that people do in response to hearing Nicholas' story. People look inside themselves to see what they can give back to the world. Depending on their circumstances and talents, they start scholarships, dedicate parks or schools, write poems or stories, or simply hug their children more often.


  • Donate
  • Events
    • In coordination with the November NEFESH theme of pikuach nefesh (saving a life), Temple Beth-El will be hosting a National Organ Donor Shabbat on Friday, November 1st. Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), the organ procurement organization serving Central and South Texas, will be on-site to educate about Donate Life Texas, the official state registry to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor and share how one donor can save 75 lives. During the services two members of our congregation, Dollie Closna and Marlene Eichelbaum will share their personal testimony of how organ donation impacted their lives. Those inspired to sign up as donors on the Donate Life Texas registry will have the opportunity to designate their decision at the TOSA booth. If you are unable to attend and would like to register with Donate Life Texas, you can do so on our Temple Beth-El campaign at 
  • Prayer/Spirituality


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