Gifts of the Body


Tablet Magazine, 6/12/15


A large manila envelope lies on my desk. Marked “To Be Opened in the Event of My Death,” it contains the most recent version of my ethical will and related documents.

Ethical wills have a long and honored history in Jewish tradition, dating back millennia to the requests of biblical figures like Jacob and Moses. While a legal will deals with matters of tangible personal property, an ethical will, sometimes called a legacy letter, is a statement of intangibles: the experiences, values, hopes and related instructions that we leave for our survivors.anatomical.gifts

But some intangibles—like human equality and reverence for life—need to be expressed in practical terms. My papers in the manila envelope are arranged in the order my survivors will need to see them. My simple burial instructions are on top, along with confirmation of enrollment in my state registry as an organ and tissue donor. (...)

The myth that Jews shouldn't offer gifts of the body after death needs to be laid to rest. There are lives at stake. READ MORE