Giving a year of one’s life

R’ Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, may he have a רפואה שלמה, is still critically ill, although reports today suggest that he has emerged from a medically induced coma and is gesturing with his hands and eyes. R’ Elyashiv is a widely acclaimed Posek who is over 100 years of age. I have asked two Shaylos to him in the past. These were over 20 years ago and before he was named or considered the “Posek HaDor”.

Recently, various Charedi press outlets have reported that a young man allegedly bequeathed one year of his life to R’ Elyashiv. Symbolically, this is a nice gesture. However, it troubles me on a few fronts.

It is reported that the young man went to speak about his proposal to a range of Poskim and Rabonim and that they advised the young man to speak to his family first. I gather that he sought to find out if it was “possible” to do so, from a halachic perspective.

If it is indeed possible to do so, which is what is implied in the press, then I’d be interested to be educated as to which section of Shulchan Aruch discusses this phenomenon. In particular, where does it suggest in our Mesora/tradition that we have the right to dispense with a year of our lives, even for a so-called noble cause? It also troubles me that the young man didn’t discuss this proposition with his own family before he asked permission from the Poskim. I’d imagine that the young man checks with his wife (and not his Posek) about the details of the bread and milk order. Why wouldn’t you discuss this minor matter with her first, as well?

Another aspect troubles me. It seems to imply that we have the ability, as opposed to the permission, to enact such an extension of life. How many people have had, and continue to have, parents and children who are critically ill and who wouldn’t do the same thing if it was indeed possible?

What about 20 people donating a year each. Does that mean the person will live another 20 years?

Are we going to see jewbay sales where people auction a year of their lives to the lucky winner, together with a “Buy it now” clause?

If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny. I see this as the natural outgrowth of the unreasonable  and non halachic veneration accorded to human beings, albeit great human beings. Ironically, this time it isn’t occurring amongst Chassidim, who have generally owned the mortgage on this level of veneration. Rather, it is coming from the newer Misnagdic forms of veneration, where “the Rebbe” is replaced by a “Posek HaDor” or “Gadol HaDor” or “Manhig HaDor” or “Zekan Roshei HaYeshivos” et al.

R' Elyashiv, שליט’’א

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

4 thoughts on “Giving a year of one’s life”

  1. “Recently, various Charedi press outlets have reported that a young man allegedly bequeathed one year of his life to R’ Elyashiv”.

    Recently, various Charedi press outlets have reported that a old man allegedly bequeathed 20 years of life to R’ Elyashiv, when asked by a young man, where did you get all those years to give, he answered: I didn’t give my years, I gave yours!

    Like

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