December 2000

THE TORAH PHYSICIAN

by Dr. S.H. Rhodes

Refa'einu - "Heal Us!"

"Heal us, and we will be healed." (from the blessing for healing, cf.Jeremiah 17:14)

This corner on the website has been created out of a need to convey a crucial torah message to all of k'lal Yisrael that they can find safe, convenient and efficient ways to be responsible for their personal and family's health and wellbeing.

For decades now, we have placed our trust outside of ourselves in a controlling and responsible medical model for our health care. Many of us have never spent too much time thinking that we may be able to find creative solutions to our health problems by first finding a better means of preventing illness or living a much healthier lifestyle before illness even strikes.

Our consciousness has been awakening and changing though. And now is the time that people are really looking to truly heal themselves and their families lives. Even though we have made such incredible technological advances, we are finding that our health has been compromised in the process. We are constantly exposed to environmental pollution, electromagnetic energy field disturbances, contanminated and tained water supplies and foods, radiation of all sorts and types, and emotional and physical stresses that we would never have dreamed possible l00 years ago.

Our generation is being called upon to take a serious look at this and change our way of life. We will continue to seek new ways to save the precious resources of the earth, and at the same time, we need to save our own most precious resource, our bodies.

The fast pace of modern life has taken its toll on our bodies and we need to make a serious introspective search on how to restore our vital life force to the perfection that it was at the time of its creation. In our effort to accomplish more and more in life, we have acquired piles of stresses, burdens, and responsibilities. Our physical bodies are calling out for our help now to start to lighten the load and ease the tears and tugs at our life.

It's time to take a better look at how we can heal our bodies. Over the last one hundred years, we have seen tremendous strides throughout the world in medicine. Smallpox and many of the dreaded diseases of the times, such as polio, diptheria, the plague, etc., have been eradicated during the last century. Good hygiene, sanitation, and better healthcare have helped bring these diseases under control. In countries with good medical services, the infant mortality rate has dropped from a quarter of live births to about one and a half percent. Even life expectancy has taken a tremendous rise from around age 50 to 75 years.

Now we have techniques that no one could have dreamed imaginable one hundred years ago. There are organ transplants, laser surgery, blood transfusions to change a person's complete blood chemistry, and even new ways to grow new tissues in the body. Western medicine has shown with great success to offer a great service in conventional health care. It is now a huge multibillion dollar business which was also unheard or thought of over one hundred years ago. They have taken total responsibility as being the authority for our health care throughout the government, and health care agencies everywhere. Most people assume that the medical establishment is the proper authority and that they are the experts in the whole arena of health and sickness care.

The great belief that we hold in the medical system to cure our wounds and our illnesses may have led to a diminished view of the place of spirituality in our lives and how it affects our healing. Even as little children, it is a common conceived thought that their healing comes from medicines like antiobiotics and syrups for their coughs, and bandaids for their wounds, etc. Every house has its own array of drugs, pills, ointments, lotions, and all the first aid paraphenalia for treating the ills that beset the family. If anything were to go seriously wrong, we have been trained to immediately call the physican and turn the responsibility over to her or him, to consult with their expertise. Alot of the times, we seem to have lost our confidence in our ability to take care of our own families the way the old grandmothers used to do in the old world. The thinking today has evolved into one of, now there is medical assistance, we go the medicine we need, or the injection we needed and everything is under control. But is it?

The most prominent physician of the Torah world was undoubtedly the RaMBaM, also known as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Maimonides, 1135-1204.) He wrote extensive books and materials on how to help cure and heal the body. His primary focus was to find ways to treat physical disorders with a physical means. He did stress the importance of not only having a sound good body with good body hygiene, but also the importance of being in a good mood and thinking good thoughts.

One of the rabbis who wrote extensive writings about healing is Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. He wrote about the spiritual dimensions of our health and how the state of our mind affects the state of our body. What Rabbi Nachman put forward in his approach to healing , were ideas that had their roots not only in the Torah, but in many Talmudic passages, Midrash sources, Kabbalah, and Chassidic thinking. He felt that the primary focus in healing was not the body but really the soul. Rabbi Nachman's teachings on healing were basically summed up in one major statement: "All the illness that afflicts people comes only because of a lack of joy....And joy is the great healer" (Likutey Moharan II,24).

When we get ill, we are disconnected in some way from our supreme Source, HaShem. The spiritual part of us is interfered with or disturbed. Regardless of how much a person takes care of the physical part when they are ill, until the spiritual part is healed, you may not be able to achieve the totality of wholeness and complete health that is potentially possible.

Yes, all of us pray when there is illness in the family. And we say tehillim, (psalms) or we make great resolutions to change our lives, or not to stress ourselves beyond the limits anymore, or we give tzedakah (charity). And then we call the doctor, because we have lost trust in the ultimate connection of our spirituality .

The major point that must be emphasized here is that all healing comes from HaShem. The doctor can only use the medicines made from plants, minerals, and various sources that were put here on earth, only by HaShem. HaShem put the power within each of these medicaments to help us to heal. But ultimately, all healing comes from HaShem.

HaShem has given us these resources we can make our re-connection to Him and restore the integrity of the precious life that was given to us.

It is time to reclaim our trust in the healing process of life that was given to us. It is of the essence to learn to use our natural resources, our extensive knowledge of good health practices that are now available to us, and to replenish our bodies and restore good health to ourselves and our families. It is important to make these changes in our lives. But foremost, it is time to make the most important shift, and that is, to really find ways to heal our spiritual selves, our souls, and our children's souls to effect a greater peace to the body.

It is always advisable to seek the advice of a health care practitioner for guidance with health issues. At the same time, become aware of how to create more peace in your lives, and open your consciousness to find new ways to heal your soul. Find ways to gently heal your body through natural gentle means. Guarding our health is a mitzvah, a positive commandment. "Take care of yourself, and guard your soul diligently." (Deuteronomy 4:9) It is important to maintain our good health because physical illness interferes with our ability to perform the mitzvot and to have the right intention in our prayers to HaShem.

The Torah view has always been that sickness or physical injury may have been sent to us to initiate a more careful look at ourselves and what we need to change in our lives. Take a better look at how we have been abusing our bodies. Sleep deprivation, working too hard, improper nutrition, are just a few. The key to bringing more healing and life into our body is through prayer and bringing peace to the soul.

As we attempt to find a cure for an ailment through conventional medicine, we must never forget that there is a much greater focus to look at. How is the soul disconnected from its Source? Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, "People put all the emphasis on the means through which healing comes about - the medicine - as if without medicine God does not have the power to heal. This is not so. The Holy One, blessed be He is the Causes of all causes. " He goes on to state that" even while resorting to a given means of trying to bring something about, we must believe only in God, and not put our faith in the Means" (Likutey Moharan I,62.)

In a future series of articles, we will delve more deeply into ways that we can truly heal ourselves and find our spiritual connection through Torah insights, and gentle, safe, natural means of treating illnesses based on Torah sources.

"Heal us, and we will be healed, save us and we will be saved, for You are our praise. Send complete healing for all our ailments, for You are God, King, the faithful and compassionate Healer. Blessed are You, HaShem, Who heals the sick of His people Israel" (from the blessing for healing, cf.Jeremiah 17:14.)

Dr. S.H.Rhodes can be contacted at dr@labriyut.com