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How a Kidney Recipient saved 800+ Lives

Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 12:14 pm

Canva - F021_3720.jpgWhile waiting for a Kidney Transplant in the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem in 2007, Avraham Yeshayahu Heber a teacher and principal in a Yeshiva in Israel got to know and befriend several other patients who were on dialysis. One of these people suffering and desperately awaiting a Kidney Transplant to save their lives was a young 19 year old named Pinchas Turgeman, who had already received a kidney as a child, and had lost a brother in a terrorist attack. Avraham Heber and Pinchas became very close as they both endured their suffering, treatments and wait and hopes for a transplant. Heber ended up being the lucky recipient of a Kidney Donor and quickly recovered but unfortunately just weeks before a scheduled Kidney transplant young Pinchas succumbed to a cardiac incident and didn’t make it.

While Heber was beyond grateful for his own life being saved, he was devastated by the sudden loss of the young Pinchas who he had tried so hard to help.

Yet Heber translated his loss very quickly to action, as he realized that he wanted to make an organization that would encourage others to donate a kidney and save lives. What began as a small effort within his own religious community and neighborhood soon became a large organization that forced him to leave his job and focus full time on coordinating live kidney donations with potential matching recipients.  

Heber called the organization Matnat Chayim, “Gift of Life” and as of this week the organization which he run tirelessly has helped match almost 900 recipients of all walks of life with living donors.

Unfortunately a few days ago, Avraham Yeshayahu Heber contracted COVID-19 and has since succumbed to this terrible disease.

Heber was once asked about his extraordinary efforts and resources that he put into this effort that directly saved so many hundreds of lives, and he pointed to a verse in one of this week’s Torah portion (Kedoshim), which states “You should not stand idly by the blood of your brother”. Simply put, the verse means if we can do something to save the life of our fellow, then we have an obligation to act.

This message is just one of the important ideas which is highlighted in this week’s Torah portions which address the need for us to live and be a “Holy Nation”, meaning that we learn to live life with a higher and more altruistic dimension that reflects the purpose of our existence. This should not simply remain in the world of abstract theory and thoughts, but should be tangibly expressed in how we act, live, and care about our fellows.

May we all learn from Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Heber Z”L who wasn’t just grateful for having his own life saved, instead he channeled his pain and understanding of this disease to save the lives of almost 900 people so far.

With people struggling in so many areas of our lives in these current dynamics, it is incumbent on us to reflect and translate into action the injunction “do not stand idly by the blood of your brother”. It may not take that much to make a difference to our fellow, a simple call, reaching out to help and offer to assist, might be very tangible expressions of this important principle.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom


P.S You can read more about this wonderful organization over here https://kilya.org.il/en/

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