Rabbi Helbo once fell ill. Thereupon Rabbi Kahana went and proclaimed: “Rabbi Helbo is ill!” But none visited him. He rebuked them [the scholars], saying,
“Did it not once happen that one of R. Akiba’s disciples fell sick, and the Sages did not visit him? So R. Akiba himself entered [the disciple’s house] to visit him, and because they swept and sprinkled the ground before him, he recovered. ‘My master,’ said the disciple, ‘you have revived me!’ Whereupon R. Akiba went forth and lectured: ‘He who does not visit the sick is like a shedder of blood.'”
Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 39b
Raba on the first day of his illness said, “Do not reveal this to anyone, lest it affect my fortune.” But afterward, he said (to his servants], ‘Go, proclaim my illness in the market place, so that whoever is my enemy may rejoice…..(quoting here from Proverbs 24, 17ff) while he who cares/loves me will ask mercy (pray) for me.
Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 40a
Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai used to visit the sick. He once met a man who was swollen and afflicted with intestinal disease, uttering blasphemies against God. Said Rabbi Simeon: “Worthless one! Pray rather for mercy for yourself!” Said the patient: “May God remove these sufferings from me and place them upon you.”
Avot de Rabbi Natan 4:1
Ask the patient, not the doctor.
From Jaclyn Herzlinger
“Without vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 28). In order for people to thrive, there must be foresight. Without a sense of direction, how then can one know the best road to travel? Nowhere is the Jewish community more in need of vision than concerning the issue of health care.
For too long we have pursued health without a positive vision of what it is we seek. In his digest of Jewish law, the Arba Turim, the medieval halakhist Jacob ben Asher declared health to be a person’s greatest possession. Using this axiomatic assumption, ben Asher justified the practice of medicine based on the mitzvah of returning a lost object to its owner — the role of the healer is to return “lost” health. In making this argument, ben Asher overcame a millennium of rabbinic ambivalence toward the human role in healing. Unfortunately, his negative formulation of the issue created a new set of problems in how Jews think about health care that remains with us to this day.
On the other hand, Maimonides (commenting on Deuteronomy 22:2) suggested that, in effect, all humans have the obligation to heal. To fulfill this mitzvah he identified bikur cholim, visiting the sick, as an act expected of all Jews. Maimonides, a physician, went further, requiring not only a visit, but also the providing of direct care, along with prayer. More importantly, he gave considerable thought to the maintenance of health, to what keeps the human in balance. Thus, for Maimonides, health is about community and spiritual relationships, as well as physical well-being.email print