Reviews in Brief

Defining the Moment: Understanding Brain Death in Halakhah

Defining the Moment: Understanding Brain Death in Halakhah
By David Shabtai

Shoresh Press
New York, 2012
448 pages



The halachic issues surrounding organ donation and brain stem death have hovered in constant conflict for over three decades. The greatest rabbinic authorities have not only disagreed on conclusions but also clashed over textual interpretations and medical facts. Rabbi David Shabtai, MD, is determined to clarify the positions and move the debate forward. Armed with expertise in medicine and halachah, Rabbi Shabtai sets out in his recent book Defining the Moment to evaluate the main halachic views. Rabbi Shabtai scrutinizes each opinion, challenging them from rabbinic texts and medical facts, and attempts to resolve all of the questions faithfully according to each opinion. However, his valiant efforts do not always succeed in rescuing an approach. While Rabbi Shabtai studiously avoids offering his own opinion, his fearless survey of the terrain leaves some opinions without cover. This book forces readers to reconsider their views in light of the clear arguments and facts the author presents. It is the authoritative work on the subject, preparing us to move forward in this contentious discussion.

Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and blogs at

This article was featured in the Winter 2012 issue of Jewish Action.
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