Monday, February 2, 2009

Preventative Medicine

Many years ago before the advent of managed care physicians actually invested in their patients and in return had their patient's complete trust. People so relied on the opinion of their doctors that commonly it was said 'The doctor is playing G-d'......It is interesting to note that in this weeks parsha of B'shalach we find the reverse.... G-d describes His relationship to klal yisrael as being their 'doctor'. In the posuk Hashem says that if you listen to me and keep all the mizvot then "I will put none of the diseases that I have put on the Egyptians upon you for I am Hashem your doctor (alt. who heals you)".

Rashi points out that the verse refers to G-d as being 'your doctor', yet their will be no disease to cure. He goes on to explain that even more than a doctor who cures is a doctor who can tell you how to prevent diseases and keep you healthy. Hashem gives us the way to preventative medicine. And the prescription calls for being aligned with His will and keeping His mitzvot.

The Sages taught that there are 248 positive commandments in the Torah...corresponding to the 248 limbs in the body. The mishna in Oholot goes on to elaborate the 248 limbs...Some later mystics connected the individual mitzvah to the corresponding limb that is nourished through its observance. In fact when a person became ill the Rebbe or mekubal might recommend a specific spiritual practice so as to nurture the specific wounded/diseased part of the body that is aligned with it.

The upshot of all of this is that spiritual practice is core to physical health and the body is directly affected by the well-being or lack of well-being of the soul. Sometimes we are unaware of the health that a lifestyle of alignment with the will of Hashem and of mitzvah observance can afford us. We see many who observe and do not seem to be immune from disease and many who transgress and live a hedonistic lifestyle and seem healthy.

What we do not realize is that the health promised us by Hashem our doctor only comes from a total immersion into the lifestyle of alignment with His will. Preventative medicine requires more than swallowing a singular vitamin or doing a specific exercise...It requires living a healthy lifestyle emotionally, spiritually and physically. Preventative health requires us to live in a climate without pollutants, a workplace without undue stress, a social life with people who care for us and are similarly invested in health.

The promise Hashem our doctor makes to us is no different. If we want to be well we need create a wholistic life in accord with His will...Yes, that means living in Eretz Yisrael....Yes, that means residing in an environment fused with kedusha...Yes, that means working on our midot...It means living a life totally invested in matters of the spirit.
In that context all of who we are will be nourished by the Divine...and we will know the promise of well-being...

Does that mean we will never get sick?...Is there a guarantee?...I believe the answer is that if we live as Hashem wills us then we may get sick but we will never be 'diseased'...We may become ill but we won't suffer...We will die, we must, but without the attending fear. Who we are will always be more than our malady.
True the secular person can practice habits for good physical health. And s/he may live a long healthy life. But s/he is not immune to the ravages of disease or death. S/he has only delayed them. And when they do come s/he will be subject to their ravaging effects the same way as everyone else.

The promise Hashem makes us is that if we become totally aligned with His will and way then we will not know the impact of disease, its attending consequences...We will always feel whole and well within ourselves. We will not suffer! We may get sick but disease and illness will never have reign over us!!!! Can their be a gift much greater than that??

I write that which I have not experienced. And yet it is something I feel closer to knowing inside myself to be true. Galut, in all its forms, makes possible disease of the body as well as the spirit.Geulat hanefesh puts one in a place where disease has no shlita over him/her.

May we all know the health and well-being Hashem wants for us.
Shabbat Shalom!


  1. You've written beautifully what I try to convey to patients every day. We're so stuck in thinking in the physical. Even doctors are called physicians! When we realize that the spiritual is the main power in our physical lives then we can accomplish so much more and be much healthier as well.

  2. very deep and interesting. though, there are numerous stories about people who excel in one specific mizvha, but don't accept the whole God's way, and yet are blessed with the privilage of not being ill, or not have a disease, thanks to this specific mizvha devotion.