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    It’s all about lifestyle – Tazria

    This sidra is the medical centre of the Torah. Diagnosis, disease, public health, it’s all there.

    The medical experts are part of the structure of Judaism, regarded as doing God’s work. This is why the Talmud says, “Whoever is in pain should go to the physician”, and it also insists that one should not live in a town where there is no doctor, nor should one wait to identify and honour the doctor until one falls sick.

    However, the maintenance of good health is not just the physician’s job. It requires every member of the community to exercise care. The right food should be eaten, contagion should be avoided, people should get adequate rest, personal hygiene should be preserved, and proper sanitation should be instituted.

    All this is axiomatic in the Torah. But there is also, in Jewish tradition, the realisation that physical symptoms can have non-physical causes. Why else would the rabbis suggest that diseases can have social and psychological causes?

    An example is their theory that m’tzora, the leper, is motzi ra, the one who utters evil talk, and that the body responds to the psyche and the psyche responds to the body.

    It is a very modern concept, and yet it has been enshrined in Jewish thinking for hundreds of years. The ancient way of expressing it was to say, “If you are ill, perhaps you have committed a sin”. Today we would say, “If you are ill, perhaps your lifestyle needs attention”. But they are the same thing in different words.

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