Friday, November 22, 2013

The Mitzvah of Donating Blood

Blood, blood, blood:
And Reuben said unto them: 'Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him'--that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colours that was on him; and they took him, and cast him into the pit--and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery and balm and ladanum, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren: 'What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother, our flesh.' And his brethren hearkened unto him. And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt. And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said: 'The child is not; and as for me, whither shall I go?' And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a he-goat, and dipped the coat in the blood;
And some more blood:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.
There was a blood drive where I work recently. Magen David Adom came with all the necessary equipment and staff and set up a room at the office for people who want to donate blood.

I decided to give a liter of the red stuff.

Before you can donate blood, you have to fill out a questionnaire. Not everybody can give blood. The Magen David Adom has strict criteria, which can be downloaded here. Some of these criteria were surprising. Among the conditions which make the blood unit unacceptable for transfusion::

Living in England for a cumulative period of 6 months between the years 1980 -1996 or receiving a blood transfusion in England since 1980... Living in Ireland or Portugal for a cumulative period of at least 10 years since 1980.
Less surprising was the following:
The donor practices a life -style, that in any way may increase the risk for the blood recipient (intravenous drugs use/sniffing , receiving payment for sexual relationship, sexual relations between men after 1977, etc.).
As the red (actually purple) stuff was flowing out of me into a plastic bag, the MDA guy told me that I should donate often, as my blood type (O-) is very special. It can be given to anybody. He mentioned that when there is a terrorist attack, the ambulances arrive with O- blood which can be given to those wounded without having to check their blood type.

I felt a little bit guilty that I do not donate blood more often. I started to wonder what the Torah has to say about giving blood. With the help of the good old world wide web, I found the following (in Hebrew), a summary of the laws of giving blood. I recommend reading it.

B'li neder, I will donate blood more often.

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