The Source of All HealingJanuary 21, 2014 - 5:00 am
If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.—Exodus 21:18–19
The Torah portion for this week is Mishpatim, which means “laws,” from Exodus 21:1–24:18, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 34:8–22.
According to Jewish tradition, there was once a “Book of Healing,” which contained cures for all illnesses. Sometime around 600 B.C.E, King Hezekiah of Judah hid it. Hezekiah felt that when people got sick, they turned to the book instead of toward God, the true source of all healing. Hezekiah wanted the people to learn to depend only on the Lord.
This anecdote opens up a Pandora’s Box of theological questions: To what extent should a person rely only on God? Is it permissible to seek out medical care? Can a person go to a doctor without breaching his or her faith in God? Are we allowed to take medicine, perform surgeries, and engage in other man-made modes of healing?
Judaism relies on a verse in this week’s Torah portion for an answer. In the context of discussing personal injury laws, the verse says, “the guilty party must pay the injured person . . . and see that the victim is completely healed.” In other words, the guilty party must pay the medical bills for the injured person until that person is healed. The last two Hebrew words of the verse, rapoh yirapeh, literally mean “heal and be healed.” The Sages cite this verse as proof that doctors are permitted to heal and that people must seek medical help in order to be healed.
So then, was Hezekiah’s decision against God’s Word?
Recently, someone I know was diagnosed with a cancer that is generally considered fatal. He went through the typical medical protocol, which concluded with surgery. As is the Jewish custom, before surgery, this man went to a rabbi for a blessing. The rabbi said to him, “You will have a successful surgery – as long as you fully believe that no matter how skilled your doctor, God is your healer. You will be a living example and inspiration to others that God can do anything!” And so he is. Miraculously, the doctors removed all the cancer.
The idea is that while we must put in our human effort and go to doctors and search for cures, this can’t be seen as the source of our healing. We must rely completely on God for that. Whenever we are sick with anything from the common cold to a serious illness, we need to see it as an invitation to grow closer to God. Make that doctor appointment, but also make an appointment to talk with God in prayer. Take your medicine, and also get a daily dose of Scriptures. God is the only healer – He just works through the hands of men and woman who facilitate our healing.