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    The whole person – Tazria

    In a series of chapters dealing with the health of the body one would expect a statement of medical philosophy. It comes more by way of hints than explicitly. Towards the end of the portion we read, “When the flesh has in its skin a boil and it is healed…” (Lev. 13:18).

    A rabbi in the Talmud (Sotah 5a) declares, “A person’s prayer is not heard unless he makes his heart soft like flesh, as it is said, ‘And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another shall all flesh come to worship’ (Isa. 66:23)”. Rabbi Zera said, “Concerning flesh it is written, ‘And it is healed’ (Lev. 13:18), but it is not written concerning man, ‘And he is healed'”.

    The moral is that a person whose heart is soft like flesh will be healed, but not someone whose pride cannot give way: pride is like a boil which refuses to be healed.

    The philosophy is twofold. One principle is that body and spirit are intertwined; one cannot be healed without the other. The patient has a part in the healing process: everything cannot be left to the doctor.

    The will to get better is a crucial factor – not that the more serious ailments can be automatically overcome by the will to live, but that without an effort of will on the part of the patient the best exertions of the doctors can be frustrated.

    The second principle is that there is a purpose in the healing – not just to make the body better, but to enable the whole human being to pray and serve God.

    Maimonides – a great pioneer of the interrelationship of body and personality – says a number of times that when a person is physically unwell they are not fully able to think clearly and elevate their soul towards the Divine.

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