While things are winding down at the yeshiva - we end the week after Shavuot - students continued to learn intensively, doing chazara and taking their final exams in gemara and siddur kiddushin and preparing for their final exams in hilkhot aveilut. We also had a number of special lectures and sessions.
On Monday, as part of our End-of-Life series, YCT musmach, Rabbi Jason Weiner, Head Jewish Chaplain, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in LA, gave a wonderful seminar (via Skype) on end-of-life case studies, dealing with both the halakhic and the pastoral issues and sharing with students the wealth of his experience and expertise. It was a fabulous opportunity for the students, to learn from Rabbi Weiner's wisdom in these areas, and to connect to a musmach in this way. It always makes such an impact when a graduate is able to come to the yeshiva and give a class or share inspirational words with the students!
On Tuesday, 3rd and 4th year students presented their year-end pastoral protocols, covering a wide range of cases - dealing with known abuse, vidduy, congregants in prison and returning from prison to the community, weddings for non-observant couples, and protocols for tzedakkah. Dr. Friedman, Ms. Miriam Schachter, Rabbi Marder and I, sat in, and we, together with the students, offered feedback and critique from halakhic, rabbinic, and pastoral perspectives.
Wednesday, Yom Yerushalayim, was a event-filled day. We started with a celebratory davening with hallel, joined by members of the HIR. After tfillah, Mordechai Harris, a second-year student, played the radio broadcast from the retaking of Jerusalem, "Har HaBayit biYadenu". This was then followed by singing and a nice breakfast. Later that day, all students filled out an exhaustive on-line assessment, giving us feedback relating to the various shiurim and classes, as well as to overall yeshiva culture and issues.
Later on Wednesday, after mincha, Robbie Berman, Founder and Director of HODS, the Halakhic Organ Donor Society, spoke to the whole yeshiva on the halakhic and moral obligations of organ donation. It was a powerful presentation, and afterwards I shared with the students that I myself am a holder of a HODS donor card, and believe that it is our halakhic and moral responsibility to sign up to be organ donors. I asked all students to strongly consider signing up to be HODS members, and to make this a topic of advocacy in their communities. I rule that brain stem death is halakhic death, and thus it is possible - and mandated - to give organs in such tragic events. While I understand those who do not rule this way, and rule in favor of the heart-and-lung-function definition of death, what I cannot understand is those who permit people to be organ recipients from those who are brain-stem death, but who forbid people to donate their own organs in such cases. This is clearly inconsistent, and since organs are only removed for a specific organ recipient, for those who consider giving organs to be causing death to the donor, should also consider receiving organs to be the same, and should insist that no one be allowed to be an organ recipient either. Those who believe that it is acceptable to be an organ recipient, should certainly recognize the permissibility, nay, the mandate, to be an organ donor as well.
I ask each one of you to sign up to be a member of HODS - http://www.hods.org/. We need to be models in our communities for such moral and halakhic mandates. Here is an opportunity for every person to possibly save many lives and to inspire others to do the same.