See your doctor, take your medication and pray — but don’t rely on miracles.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Mishpatim” (Exodus 21:1-24:18) and it is packed with all kinds of commandments, from ritual to monetary and everything in between.
One major area of focus in the Torah portion is civil law, especially relating to damages and injuries to others.
The Torah tells us that one who injures another person is required to pay for all related medical expenses that the injured party incurs, among other costs and penalties. In telling us this, the Torah makes it very clear that we are to go to a doctor when we are ill.
One might ask why it is permitted to go to a doctor when one is ill. If a person is ill, perhaps it is because that God wants the person to be ill! Is going to a doctor for an examination and prescription for medication going against God’s will? Perhaps the medication will heal the patient faster than God had originally intended?!
Maybe we should leave sick people in God’s hands and forbid seeking intervention? Indeed, there are religions who forbid their followers to see doctors for such reasons!
The Torah is telling us that an anti-doctor attitude is not the way to go.
Sure, God is the ultimate Doctor and Healer but we are never to rely on miracles.
The Torah also tells us that we are to do anything to preserve life. We don’t know why illness or injury befalls someone, whether an act of God or as a result of negligence. Indeed, the Talmud tells us that if a person catches a cold, he is to be blamed for it as it probably came about due to not taking the necessary precaution to keep healthy!
Our job, however, is to preserve life and seek help, to seek out a doctor. One who relies on God (read: on miracles) in such a scenario would crazy.
That being said, we must remember that, as mentioned, God is the ultimate Healer, and that prayer must accompany all medical procedures.
So too, a doctor is not God. If a doctor says that there is no cure or that death in imminent – don’t accept it! Our God is greater than any doctor. We all know stories of people who were given six months to live yet ended up living five or 10 years. Even if the doctors give up, we may not give up. We must plug away with prayer and faith. A doctor is permitted to heal, he is not permitted to condemn. Only God can give a death sentence.
There is a wild statement in the Talmud that says: “The best doctors are destined for hell.” No, this does not mean that if you are a doctor then you should try to be a lousy one in order to avoid going to hell! It is explained that the reason for this harsh statement is because the best doctors often think that they know better than God, or that they are in control (not God), or that life and death is solely in their hands (not God) and based on their knowledge.
Yes, such a doctor may very well be going to hell. Even the best doctor must know that no matter how good a doctor he or she is, everything is in God’s hands. Humility is a prerequisite for success in the medical industry.
It seems that the world of medicine is a partnership between God and man!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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