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    Medical knowledge – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. How did our ancient ancestors derive their medical knowledge?

    A. The Bible is aware of other people’s cultural and scientific findings. Moses, for instance, picked up Egyptian culture as a child in Pharaoh’s court. Though there is much to criticise in ancient Egyptian civilisation, there were areas such as medicine where the Egyptians were experts.

    To what extent the public health measures of the Torah reflected the usages of other peoples we are not certain. But the great axiom of the Torah, that there is one only God, enabled Israelite medicine to become sophisticated and manageable. Other nations had many deities, each of which was thought of as capable of causing disease; placating one deity would offend another, and one never knew how to weave a safe path between them.

    The Torah, on the other hand, attributed everything, both pleasant and less pleasant, to the one God (e.g. Deut. 32:29), and one knew that all that was needed was to follow His prescriptions. These included a range of public health measures that promoted a hygienic life-style and made disease much less rampant.

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