Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 28 November 2009 / 10 Kislev 5770

A Life for a Life

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
based on a real-life Ohr Somayach “Ask” dialogue
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From: Jonathan in MA

Dear Rabbi,

My Mom suffers from diabetes and it has now destroyed her kidneys. The tests have been done and I am an excellent match to donate my kidney to her, but someone told me that it was against the Jewish religion (note: both my Mom and Dad are Jewish). My question is: 1. Is this Jewish law true? 2. If so, what's the reason? 3. Even if it is against the Jewish law, why would G-d make me an excellent match for my Mom? If you could answer my questions when you get a chance, I would appreciate it. Thank you, Rabbi.

Dear Jonathan,

It is permitted and a mitzvah in your case to donate to your mom. What has happened since you wrote this?

Dear Rabbi,

As far as what's going on, my Mom got some sort of shot at the end of June. The shot takes 90 days to work. Then we can plan a date to have the surgery. We should get a call from the doctor anytime now.

The most miraculous thing about this is that I'm adopted! Although it doesn't surprise me. Ever since I volunteered to donate my kidney, I've prayed to G-d that this would all work out. I'm also very spiritual and have gotten a sense from Him that I'm destined for something big (in addition to giving my Mom my kidney). I don't know what yet, but I'm willing to wait. It should be noted that I'm part Native American, and also Jewish (Jewish because of my adoption), so maybe that's why I'm so spiritual!

Thank you so much Rabbi! I hope you have a happy and healthy New Year!‎

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for your response. I hope all goes well. And to think that, as an adopted son, your kidney is compatible is really a miracle. Clearly, G-d brought you where you are for a higher purpose. And this may be not only to save your mother, but also to bring you to Judaism. It’s for this reason that I want to address a sensitive issue.

Your spiritual journey is very inspiring, and I appreciate your sharing it with me. I encourage your interest in Judaism, and because I care, I want to clarify something with you, in case you don't know. A person born to a non-Jewish woman, even if adopted by Jewish parents who become his adopted father and mother, needs halachic conversion to be Jewish. If this situation applies to you (meaning if your natural mother was not Jewish and you did not convert according to Jewish Law) it affects you.

You probably know this, but just in case it wasn't clear, I want to spare you from any potential problems, which could be big ones, in the future. Please forgive me for being forward.

Dear Rabbi,

Thanks, I hope all goes well, too!

I'm curious about the halachic conversion. However, I can't do it at this time. Between the operation coming up soon and my grandmother’s illness, it will be hard to find the time. Anyway, most likely, my biological mom wasn't/isn't Jewish. I was born in Central America and am half Native American and half Spanish. But, as I said, I am curious about the halachic conversion. What is this? What do I have to do? What does this entail? Please email me, at your convenience, and let me know.

Dear Jonathan,

I’m sorry to hear about the difficult health issues in your family. I pray that all will be well. Regarding conversion, now that you mention you are part Spanish, perhaps the hand of G-d here is even more pronounced. Who knows, you might even be a descendent of Spanish Jewish conversos?

[The correspondence continues to discuss halachic conversion to Judaism.]

Dear Rabbi,

Thanks for explaining what a halachic conversion is. We’ll see what happens if and when my grandmother gets better and after my Mom's and my surgery.

I also have great news! The doctor called my Mom and told her the kidney transplant is a go! We will set up an appointment this Tuesday!

Thanks again Rabbi.

Dear Jonathan,

That’s fantastic! Thanks for the great news. I pray all goes well, and let me know when you can how things went.

Dear Rabbi,

I wanted to let you know the surgery went extremely well! Mom and I are recuperating at home now. People were amazed so much about this that we were on the news twice. If you’d like to see it, here are the links:

YouTube - Woman's Adopted Son Is 'Miracle' Organ Match

WBZ-TV Video Archive -

I would like to thank you for all your help regarding this matter. I greatly appreciate it! This situation is a total miracle! I would like to continue emailing you about religious and spiritual questions.

Again, thanks for all your help.

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for the great news. May it get even better! And may G-d continue to give you and your family physical and spiritual healing.

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