Would You Donate a Kidney?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I have been pondering some random philosophical questions, and would love to hear your take: If we lose our memory are we still ourselves? Am I still myself if I lose my mind? And how do I know that I didn't wake up this morning in this body with this memory, but yesterday I was someone else with their memory?
Assuming you are still you when you receive this, I will attempt to answer your question. Let's approach this theoretical topic by first looking at a very real story.
My brother-in-law Rabbi Zalman Sandhaus did something heroic this week. He donated a kidney to save the life of a stranger. A man who suffered from kidney disease for 24 years now has a new lease on life. And my brother-in-law is recovering from the surgery that removed one kidney, leaving him with only one now. He doesn't see himself as a hero. In his words, "How can I not give it if a guy's life is on the line?" But to give a kidney takes guts.
So here's an interesting question. When you donate an organ, is the recipient partly you now? And is a kidney donor any less of a person with only one kidney? Having lost a part of themselves, is their identity minimized in any way?
The answer to all of the above is a clear no. Because you haven't given away a part of yourself, you have given a part of your body. And your body is not you. Your soul is. You are a soul, and that soul has a body.
So then let's ramp up the question a notch. Brain transplants are not yet possible. Although the way some people behave, it seems as if they have already become donors. But the theoretical possibility of brain transplants really boggles the mind. Am I still me if I have someone else's brain? Maybe your kidney can become my kidney, and we both still remain the same people. But if someone's brain becomes someone else's, who is who?
Well, the answer remains the same. You are not your brain, you are your soul. Your mind, your memories, your personality and your identity are all stored in the soul, not the brain. Receiving someone else's brain would be like buying a used smartphone. You just transfer your old information from the cloud to the new device, and life goes on.
So there is your answer. You are not a body, you are a soul. In the short time the soul inhabits the body, thank G-d for every healthy limb and organ you have, and for the opportunity to use them for good.