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    Going to the doctor – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. I know there are many Jewish doctors, but does it not show a lack of faith in going to a doctor when the Torah says, “For I, the Lord, am your healer” (Ex. 15:26)?

    A. The doctor is regarded in Judaism as the agent of the Almighty in bringing healing. In Biblical times the kohanim supervised medical treatment and various remedies are referred to. There were proven or expert healers, and whilst their methods were unsophisticated to modern eyes, no-one tried to ban them on the basis that healing had to be left to God.

    The Talmud is full of medical references and it gives considerable anatomical and physiological information. There were physicians, surgeons, dentist and dietitians and even a rudimentary form of psychiatry. As time went on many of the greatest names in Jewish history, like Maimonides, were leading figures in Jewish learning and at the same time eminent physicians. No-one accused them of usurping a Divine prerogative.

    Indeed the halachah specifically says, “The Torah has granted the doctor the privilege of healing, as it is said, ‘And he shall cause him to be thoroughly healed’ (Ex. 21:19). Therefore the sick person should not rely upon a miracle but is duty bound to act according to the custom of the world and to call in a doctor to heal him, and many of the world’s pious people were already cured by physicians.

    He who avoids calling in the doctor is guilty of two evils. In the first instance he has transgressed the rule forbidding one who is in danger to rely upon a miracle; the other evil is that he manifests presumption and pride in depending on his righteousness to cause him to be healed in a miraculous manner. One should call in a competent doctor and with all his heart he should hope for the help of Heaven and plead for the mercy of the Faithful Healer, blessed be He, and his heart should trust in God only” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 192:3).

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