ON SATURDAY MORNING, April 28, I had the privilege of leading members of Temple Beth Tikvah (TBT) on a special Shabbat morning, spent praying with our feet as we participated in the Donate Life walk at Cal State Fullerton. 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 participating in this walk has another aspect. Think of the moment (which happens every 10 minutes in our society) that a person learns he or she is being added to the national registry to wait for a donor. That person probably realizes that his or her life depends on the capability of his neighbors to understand the idea that life transcends our physical bodies. He also confronts the reality that most of society still hasn’t signed their organ donation cards. That person often deals not only with a terrible illness in his body, but also with the soul shattering experience of indifference.
Our presence there is to let those that are waiting know that they are not alone, that we care, that they haven’t been forgotten.
We recently read in the Torah about the healing process of “Tzarat”—leprosy. The affected person was sent away for a time to allow the body to heal. We 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 and then welcoming that person back in the community. In Judaism, body and soul are absolutely linked and there is no full recovery if our soul is not a part of the process.
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. 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. In the process mentioned in the Torah, you have a person knowing that the community is waiting to embrace him. In contrast, the person waiting for a transplant 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. He is probably wondering where is the community!
Jewish tradition understands the need for not only refuat haguf (the healing of our bodies) but refuat hanefesh (the healing of a person’s soul) and the need for a community to share in the recovery process.
I truly believe in the power of the community in the healing process, yet I understand that society can sometimes pose challenges. In this context, this spring, our congregation has hosted a speaker series called “Being Human” where we have explored topics that we tend not to discuss in the shul, making people feel abandoned and unwelcomed. We have explored eating disorders, substance abuse, healing and recovery. On June 3, we will host Rabbi Denise Eger who will discuss LGBTQ inclusion.
As Jews, we don’t live only by the adage that “time will heal.” It is our responsibility to bring healing now, and to tell those that are marginalized or are waiting for recovery that they are not alone, that we care. Let’s keep praying with our feet so our brothers and sisters won’t wonder where we are. Let’s keep building a more caring society!
Rabbi Nico is the spiritual leader of TBT in Fullerton. He believes in the power of the shul to create personal and community transformation. Nico is married to Noga and they have three children and a giant dog: Amitai, Nitzan, Guilad and Sancho.