Jan 25, 2011

Interesting Psak: No Davening For The Dead

Rav Reem HaKohein, the rav of Otniel, has written an interesting psak in a shabbos parsha sheet article.

The topic is the current hot issue of brain death and what is considered halachic death. There are some rabbonim who consider brain death to be the time of halachic death, while there are some rabbonim who hold brain death is not death but cardiac death is the halachic point of death. The ramification of the debate is at what point can one in such a situation possibly donate organs.

Rav Reem Hakohein is a proponent of organ donation, and he holds that brain death is halachic death. Rav Hahohein paskened in his article that one would not be allowed to daven for the recovery of someone who is brain dead. The reason is because once one has gone through brain death, there is no recovery. Rav Hakohein adds that even according to those opinions that are machmir to not call it death until cardiac death, and that one could not donate organs after brain death because the person is still technically alive, one still cannot daven for the recovery of a brain dead patient.

And the reason is because davening for such a person would be a tefillas shav, a prayer in vain, which one cannot say. There is no recovery from brain death, and therefore one cannot daven for such a recovery. Therefore, irregardless of whether or not you hold brain death is halachic death, one would still not be allowed to pray for the recovery of a brain dead patient. (source: ynet)

I see no reason to say person could not daven for the patient in other aspects, that he should not suffer, that he should pass quickly rather than languish, that he should have merit in shamayim, etc. The only problem is regarding praying that he recover, which is impossible.


  1. If you are brain dead, you are not suffering. YOU ARE DEAD. There is a 100% dead brain, the organs being kept alive by a mechanical ventilator. The Rav is correct. You will die as soon as the ventilator switch is turned to the off position. The only reason the ventilator is kept going is to allow the family to decide whether to donate organs. The people praying should be those who will die or suffer without organs - they should be praying for the family members of the brain dead patient to have rachmanut and show some common sense.

  2. I was going to say the same. If you're brain dead then you can't suffer.

    If you are of the heart-death persuasion you should probably also pray for the health and recovery of the people waiting for transplants. That is unless it also is a tefillat shav because the only thing that is going to save them is a transplant. In that case you might want to pray that another donor is found soon - not that you would want to be praying for the demise of the donor...

    You may also want to add a prayer that if they die that their death should not affect the "merit in shamayim" of the current niftar.

  3. The body, as controlled by the brain, may not be able to suffer; but who knows what the soul endures? Hazal point out that oftentimes the separation of the soul from the body is 'difficult' and 'painful'. One of the reasons we eulogize is to comfort and reassure the departing soul. Maybe we shouldn't rule out prayer for relief from suffering so simply.

  4. a tefillas shav

    Wait a second ... what about all those Kupat Ha'Ir prayers?



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