Consensus among doctors
Consensus among doctorsiStock

Regarding an individua smtten by another, the Torah (Exodus 21:19) states, "If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed."

While the plain meaning of the verse refers to the law of torts, the Talmud (Baba Kama 85a) amplifies, "The school of Rabbi Yishmael says, when the verse states: 'And shall cause him to be thoroughly healed,'it is derived from here that permission is granted to a doctor to heal."

At first glance, one might assume that if the Almighty decreed that an individual be stricken with illness, one ought not attempt to contravene the Divine will by seeking healing through human intervention.

Rabbi Baruch Epstein, author of Torah Temimah explains that once the Torah includes a license to heal it indicates that the Creator endowed the natural world to include the human power of healing. Hence, one should not misconstrue human healing as a contravention of the Divine will.

Furthermore, Midrash Shmuel (4:1) underscores this point via a fascinating story:

Once Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Akiva were strolling in the streets of Jerusalem along with another man. They met a sick person who said to them, “Masters, can you tell me how I can be healed?” They said to him, "Take such-and-such until you feel better." The man strolling with the two rabbis turned to them and said, “Who made this man sick?” “The Holy Blessed One,” they replied. “And you presume to interfere in an area that is not yours?” the man remarked. “God has afflicted and you heal?”

“What is your occupation?” they asked the man. “I’m a tiller of the soil,” he answered, “as you can see from the sickle I carry.” “Who created the land and who created the vineyard?” “The Holy Blessed One.” And they said, “And you dare to move into an area that is not yours? God created these and you eat their fruit?” He said to them, “Don’t you see the sickle in my hand? If I did not go out and plow the field, water it, fertilize it, weed it, no food would grow!”

"Fool,” the rabbis said, “have you not heard that the days of people are like a harvest. Just as a tree that is not fertilized and weeded and pruned does not grow, and if it grows and does not drink it does not live and dies, so, too, the body is a tree, the medicine is the fertilizer and the doctor is the farmer.”

Nonetheless, the verse on Chroicles II (16:12) states, "In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa suffered from an acute foot ailment; but ill as he was, he still did not turn to the Lord but, rather, to physicians." Apparently, one who ails should merely turn to God rather than seek human healing? The righteous Asa should have turned only to God in his search for a cure?

The medieval scholar, Rabbi Joshua ibn Shu'eib, frames the story as follows: The Talmud teaches that one should not, in the course of his worldly affairs, rely on Divine miracles. Hence, one should strive to work for his livelihood, and to seek human healing for his ailments. In doing so, he should petition the Lord for Divine assistance that his efforts are crowned with success.

Hence, Asa's mistake was not that consulted the physicians; rather, he did so without supplementing his efforts with an earnest prayer to God for success.

We face a terrifying pandemic that has gripped the world for the past year. Thankfully, the medical/pharmaceutical community has developed several vaccines that have proven to be successful in mitigating the ravages of Covid.

Jewish tradition mandates that we follow the best advice of the medical experts and vaccinate ourselves forthwith. In so doing, we turn to God in petition that the Corona virus be vanquished once and for all.

In God we trust; the mandate of "verapo yerape (cause him to be thoroughly healed)" is our directive.

Rabbi Aryeh Weil:serves as Rabbi of.Congregation Chibat Tziyon v'Yerushalayim and lives in Ramot, Jerusalem.

The video clip of his words in Hebrew can be seen here: