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Feb 16, 2012

Donating A Year of Life To Rav Elyashiv

If you thought fasting for a day for the health of Rav Elyashiv was a bit too much, get a load of this...

According to Kikar, an avreich from Jerusalem was so distraught at the possibility of losing Rav Elyashiv, in a time when many great rabbis and rosh yeshivas have recently died and a number of others are currently not well, that he decided to donate a year of his life to Rav Elyashiv.

He came up with the idea, and went to ask the gedolei hador. They told him he should discuss it with his family - his wife and kids. he says they agreed right away.

He says the rabbonim encouraged him and directed him to accept it upon himself without any special ceremony, but just via personal prayer, which he says he did  last Shabbos.

After he did, during leining the person sitting next to him noticed him smiling. he asked him why the big smile. After the fellow explained what he had just done, the hassidic guy asked if he would do the same for the Satmar Rebbe - donate a year to his life? The fellow responded that yes, and he would give a year of his life for each of the gedolim.

I wonder if this will become a trend now. I wonder if 50 people donate a year each, will he be able to live a healthy life until 150? Is there some limitation on how this works? Does it mean he will have a good and healthy life for the coming year? What about the donor - when he dies a year early (though obviously nobody knows when he is supposed to die, so nobody knows when it is early or not), will he able to be saved and his life extended by prayer? This raises so many questions.

The source for such a thing, that I am aware of, is when it worked, according to the Medrash, with Adam donating 70 years of his life so David could be born and become king of Israel.


  1. Sounds to me to be like commiting suicide, if he donates too many years, he'll have to soon die. it must be against Halacha.

  2. What I find interesting is that his wife and kids agreed right away. Apparently they won't miss that extra year of his life him that much, either. It kind of fits the picture...

  3. This is called "mesirut nefesh" - superstitious-style. (What's chaval is that there are so many REAL ways to be mosser nefesh - like perhaps donating one's time to a chesed organization R. Elyashiv has supported.)

    The question is, do you tell someone that they're living in a child's magical reality to think that they can "transfer" a year of life to another simply by thinking it or saying it?

    Or do we say that if it gives the person (and in theory R. Elyashiv, were he to hear about it) koach, simcha, hope, etc., best to allow them to live in a fantasy if it improves their quality of life?

    I'm curious what people think.

    This question really applies to any number of beliefs of a supernatural/superstitious/mystical nature.

  4. What if Rav Elyashiv dies? Was it a conditional donation, or unconditional? Does he get the year back, or does he lose it anyway? What if Rav Elyashiv survives for a year, but in a coma, like Ariel Sharon? Does he still lose the year? The ramifications are staggering?

  5. R' Spolter - if the Rav still dies, you could say that he only lived as long as he did because of this guy's "donation", retroactively. Really, R' Elyashiv was decreed to die a year ago, but because HKB"H knew that this chassid shoteh was going to give up a year of his life, he gave R' Elyashiv an advance of another year.

  6. I read that when Reb Naftali Trop, ztz"l, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Chafetz Chaim's Yeshiva, was very ill, the students and faculty of the Yeshiva all donated time from their life to him - IIRC, people donated a day, or a week, something like that. When they came to the Chafetz Chaim himself, he thought a while, and agreed to donate either a minute or a second. The point of the story is that one has to really value his own life, and not be so quick to give it up.

  7. all the above, written by the various commentators, is true, though I still must admit I have a certain sense of admiration for his loyalty and dedication to his rav that manifests itself even to this level of being willing to donate a year to his life.

  8. Dtz: I believe the story with the Chofetz Chaim was about donating minutes of Torah study, not life.

    The story goes that Rabbi Avrohom Elbaz a"h from Cleveland donated years of his life so his Rebbi, Reb Elya Meir Bloch zt"l, should live longer, and it worked!

  9. Shaul,

    His cheshbon is simple. Such mesiras nefesh on his part for the gedolim is in itself the making of a gadol.

    Therefore when he becomes a gadol there will be people who will then sacrifice years of their lives to him. It's simply an investment.

    When I was in Lakewood there was the "Lakewood 100K Dollar Life insurance policy" that each avrech received.

    If chas v'shalom someone died each of the 1,000 avrechim would give 100 dollars. 100x1000 = 100,000.

    What a simple and affordable policy.

  10. If the world would simply not be able to function without R' Elyashiv to such an extent that fools are told to "donate" years of their lives to him, which "gedolim" did he ask the question of?

    The story, by the way, is told in "A Tzadik in Our Time," in which the seven prisoners who receive aliyot successively donate a day, a week, a month, a year etc. to the life of R' Aryeh Levine's daughter, a young mother who had suffered a stroke. The person who got Shevi'i declared that life in prison was worth nothing, and he was donating the rest of his life to her. She recovered. He also went on to live a long and happy life.

    The story as told there is inspiring. The story told here is nothing like it and is depressing. What's more depressing are the commenters here who seem to think it's a good idea.

  11. Meir - you are joking, aren't you?

  12. First you might ask can one give up his life for another (e.g. 2 people in the desert, A has a bottle of water, may he give it to B even though it will mean A's death). There's discussion on this issue if B is a talmid chochom. contact me for more detail if interested.
    Joel Rich

  13. Shaul,

    Actually not.

    There was a push at one time for all avreichim to purchase a term life policy.

    Many were against the idea saying it was a "lack of emuna, bitachon,etc."
    Several people came up with the idea I mentioned before.

    Their claim was that why spend on insurance..the odds are that everyone will be healthy, etc. and if someone c''v dies...

    So while it wasn't an official "policy" it was in fact the "policy" of those against the idea of life insurance.

  14. I can't imagine a tzadik like R Elyashiv would WANT people to give up their lives for him.

    Even in one-year chunks.

    And especially if it works.

  15. Meir... (shakes head disbelievingly)...
    It's very sweet and all when lay people try to synthesize insurance policies with "group insurance", but it rarely ever ends well.
    They are not actuaries.
    They have no idea what the risks are, or what the actual probabilities are that anyone will C"V die.
    What if 5 avreichim traveling together in a car are involved in an accident? Will all 995 remaining avreichim now be able to spring for $500 apiece? I emphasize all, because if any one person doesn't meet their obligations, the whole system unravels.
    What about if suicide is suspected? Do you pay out?
    Do smokers get a lesser payout? or do they have to pay more if someone else dies, to offset the way they skew the risks against everyone else?
    What about disability? Do you pay out for that too? That's even more expensive than death.
    We haven't even scratched the surface of the issues that the highly paid lawyers and actuaries devising professional insurance policies have to cover, and these beautifully naive avreichim, who barely got a bagrut in math, think they've got the system taped. It is stupid and negligent, and will inevitably end in an ugly Din Torah and a terrible amount of machlokes.

    And as for this idea of giving away years of your life in some kind of backward Ponzi scheme that counts on successive generations donating portions of their lives to their elders... words just fail me.

  16. Is a person's life his to donate, or has HaShem granted it specifically for him to use it wisely?

  17. I think every Jew should donate one year of their lives to R' Elyasiv. Then he can live for another 13 million years.

  18. what gedolei hador did this avreich - or cultist as I like to think of him - visit? the gadol hador is dying, so he didn't go to R' Elyashiv. R' Kanievsky allowed this? why are names not used?

    I like to think this is the jewish version of the Darwin awards. if enough of these mislead and naive people do this, we would rid ourselves of this type of behavior after just a short amount of time.

  19. It's very sweet and all when lay people try to synthesize insurance policies with "group insurance", but it rarely ever ends well.
    They are not actuaries.
    Amen! The history of quasi-insurance is replete with these attempts. Someone gets left holding the bag. PLEASE if you know anyone involved or relying on this type of arrangement have them seek Daas Actuaries on it.
    Joel Rich, FSA

  20. There is a well-known story of how ETZEL prisoners in the Jerusalem Prison (located in the Russian Compound, excellent place to visit) donated days, months to the daughter of Rav Aryeh Levin zt"l who was suffering from a fatal illness.

    She lived many more years and the prisoners felt it was hakaros hatov to their beloved Rebbe.


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