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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

The Holistic Healer --- and doctors

By Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein





South Africa's Chief Rabbi on man, G0D and those who think they are.

As the Divine's partners, the need to be of this world in order to survive and master it

JewishWorldReview.com | There's a well-known joke about a woman who comes into a large Jewish function and starts screaming, "I'm looking for a doctor, I need a doctor immediately!" A few young men come forward and say they are doctors. She says, "Boy have I got a girl for you!"

This joke, as funny as it is, reflects the truth about our obsession with doctors. The medical profession is held in great esteem and rightfully so — doctors do have tremendous expertise. In a certain respect this admiration is justified because it is a profession that is involved with very important mitzvahs of helping people, healing people, and ensuring that people can live full and productive lives.

However, the veneration that society has for doctors also has a downside. The Talmud warns against the arrogance of doctors, that doctors have to be careful and realize that they are merely G-d's instrument. They must also realize their own frailties and vulnerabilities. They should be open to getting a second opinion, and be sensitive to the fact that they are dealing with human life. They must be very careful and respectful towards their patients; there needs to be a relationship of mutual respect.

G-D IS OUR HEALER
In this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, just as the Jewish People begin their journey through the desert after they miraculously cross the Red Sea and witness the Egyptian army drowning, they run out of water shortly after they reach the other side. They cry out to G-d and start complaining. There was a spring of water there but it was very bitter — that is why they called the place Marah, bitterness. Moses then put a piece of wood into the water; miraculously the waters were sweetened and the people were able to drink. Immediately after that incident, in chapter 15 verse 26, it says "Behold if you will obey and listen to the voice of the Lord your G-d and that which is straight and upright in His eyes you will do, and you will listen to His commandments and observe His statutes then all of the illnesses I placed on Egypt I will not place on you because I am the Lord your Doctor."

The commentators grapple with this verse. What is the promise that is being made here? What does it mean that G-d is the Doctor? Does that mean we don't go to human doctors? After all, if G-d is our doctor and He says He will heal us if we follow His commandments, then why go to a human doctor?

PERMISSION WAS GIVEN TO DOCTORS TO HEAL
That cannot possibly be the interpretation, because there is another passage later on, in the portion of Mishpatim, which deals with the laws of damages when one person assaults another, and it talks about the payments he is required to pay in compensation for having caused damage. It says in chapter 21, verse 19 that part of the payments one has to make in compensation is unemployment, i.e. loss of income, and "you shall surely heal," which the Talmud says means he has to pay for the doctor's bills. The Talmud further states, regarding "and you shall surely heal" that "from here [we learn] that permission was given to the doctor to heal."

Why does the doctor need permission to heal? The reason is because it might appear as though he is overturning G-d's decree. One might say, why should a doctor intervene and try to heal the person? If G-d wants him to be well, he will be well, and if G-d wants him to be sick, he will be sick; so what's the point of a doctor intervening? Nevertheless, it says permission was given to doctors to heal.

There is a repetition in the verse "you shall surely heal," which Tosafos, one of our commentators on the Talmud from the Middle Ages, explains as referring to two kinds of illness: one inflicted by a fellow human being — for example, a wound — which a doctor is given permission to heal because it was damage inflicted by another person, and another type of illness, one that comes from heaven and is not related to human action. In the second case, one may think the doctor is not allowed to intervene. Therefore, a double language is used, "you shall surely heal," to say in all circumstances the doctor was given permission to heal.

This is a very important concept. How do we square that away with the fact that everything is in G-d's Hands, as we say in our portion, "I am the Lord your Doctor"? Either the Divine is the doctor or human beings are the doctors. How do the two concepts work together?

WE MUST NOT RELY ON MIRACLES
Judaism maintains that although everything is in G-d's hands, He nevertheless expects us to work on our own, using the instruments of this world. There are many challenges in this world, many difficulties, many areas of human suffering. We have a commandment — a moral duty — to go out and improve the world. Sometimes that takes place in the form of medicine, literally healing a person. At other times it can take other forms, for example, in the realm of justice. The Talmud says that any judge who dispenses true justice becomes a partner in creation with G-d; the pursuit of justice is a Godly pursuit. G-d calls upon us to become His partners in creation by following His lead, making a difference and improving the world.


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G-d's message to us is, become My partner and do your best to improve the world. But we have to realize all the time that ultimately "I am the Lord your Doctor," meaning, the doctors are the instruments through which G-d works on this earth. Whatever happens, whether the outcome is positive or negative from our personal perspective, it is ultimately G-d's decision and our response is gam zu l'tovah, this too is for the best. Even though we cannot always see it, whatever G-d decides is ultimately for the good.

OUR DESTINY IS IN G-D'S HANDS
We must be careful to realize that while we are commanded to use the instruments of this world to improve it, real faith in G-d means that we understand that He is merely working through us and that we are not in control of our destiny. We have to do our best, but ultimately our fate lies in G-d's hands.

This applies not only in the area of medicine but in all areas of life. Take, for example, the area of business: everyone has to earn a living, yet it does say that livelihood, how much we are going to earn, is determined every Rosh Hashanah. So a person might say, well, if it has already been set aside at Rosh Hashanah, let me put my feet up and relax because the money is coming anyway. The commentators explain, however, that what this actually means — that a person's livelihood is determined on Rosh Hashanah — is that it depends on the effort. G-d is saying, I decree this for you on Rosh Hashanah if you put in a certain amount of effort, but if you put in less effort, then your allocated amount is less. (Of course, there are certain cases where people work very hard and earn very little and yet other cases where people work very little and earn a lot; these are G-d's decrees, and for whatever reason He is allocating a certain amount to a certain person irrespective of how hard he works and irrespective of his ability. That is G-d's Decree for whatever reason and as we say this, too, is for the good.)

Thus, we have to put in our effort. This is the Talmudic principle of ain somchin al ha'ness, we do not rely on miracles. We cannot expect G-d to overturn the normal laws of nature to help us. He may intervene in certain ways and everything that happens in this world is ultimately a miracle, but we cannot rely on His changing the normal course of events to suit our needs. We have to try and earn a living following the normal order of events. We have to try and heal ourselves using normal means, all the while realizing that it is ultimately in G-d's hands.

G-D RELATES TO US THE WAY WE RELATE TO HIM
Rabbii Bachya Ibn Pekuda, one of our great philosophers from the Middle Ages, says in his classic work of Jewish philosophy called Chovos HaLevavos, Duties of the Heart, that G-d deals with us in the same way that we deal with Him. Meaning, if we really believe that G-d has no role to play in the events in our lives and we put all of our hope and faith in the instruments and in human endeavors here on this earth, then G-d says fine, if you want to put all your faith in the physical norms and means of this world, then that will be what will govern your life. I will leave you to the fate of those random forces. If, on the other hand, we believe in G-d and that whatever we do on this earth is really just facilitating G-d's involvement in this world, then G-d says because you put your faith in Me, I will take a personal interest in your life.

Thus, it is very important that we get a proper perspective on G-d's role in our lives because G-d deals with us according to the way we perceive Him. I am the ultimate healer, G-d says. Realize that whatever happens, I am the ultimate doctor. The doctors on this earth are My emissaries to carry out My decrees. But remember, I am the source of all healing.

G-D IS NOT JUST OUR PHYSICAL HEALER, BUT OUR SPIRITUAL HEALER AS WELL
There is another way to understand this, and that is not to read the verse "I am the Lord your Doctor" in the physical sense but rather in the spiritual sense. The Kli Yakar, one of our great commentators on the Torah who lived a few hundred years ago, says that this verse is to be understood on a spiritual level. When the verse refers to the illnesses of Egypt which G-d will never let afflict us, it is talking about the spiritual illnesses of Egypt. Egypt at that time was the super-power of the world. It was also a very immoral society in terms of its worshipping of idols, in terms of its promiscuity, in terms of its blatant disregard for human rights, as evidenced by Pharaoh enslaving an entire nation — he instituted forced labor and wouldn't let the people go. G-d says, I am your healer, your spiritual healer. I am coming to give you the Torah — My word, My principles — so that you do not suffer from the spiritual afflictions and the moral afflictions that you saw in Egypt.

THE PREREQUISITE FOR RECEIVING THE TORAH IS TO KNOW THAT WE DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING AND THAT G-D IS THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE
It is not insignificant that this promise that G-d is our healer was given specifically at Marah, the place of bitterness, where the bitter waters turned sweet by placing a piece of wood in it. According to Talmudic tradition the piece of wood that was placed in the waters was from the olive tree, which is actually bitter. Moshe put a bitter piece of wood in bitter water and made it sweet.

There was a very important message in this incident, in preparation for their receiving of the Torah. They could not just arrive at Mount Sinai and receive the Torah; they needed to learn certain lessons and develop a particular perspective, because they had just been redeemed from being a slave nation, from within a completely immoral society. The Kli Yakar explains that what happened at Marah — Moshe sweetening bitter waters by immersing a bitter wood in it — happened in order to teach that sometimes we see G-d's laws which appear to be bitter and restrictive, but if we stick with these laws, they turn sweet. Sometimes the bitterness that we experience by these laws is because we are unwell — spiritually unwell — and therefore we are bothered by these principles and the laws that G-d gives us, because we are not ready for them. But if we stick with these laws, they eventually turn sweet for us.

The Kli Yakar touches on this point very briefly, but we can elaborate on it further. Often we don't know what is good for us. That the water was bitter and the wood was bitter and it turned sweet doesn't seem to make sense. The message is that we don't actually understand how the world functions. Scientists can describe the world — for example, if you ask a scientist what electricity is, he will describe the flow of electrons to you — but that is only a description of what occurs, and only under certain physical circumstances. Do we really understand exactly what it is? Do we really understand how the world works? The laws of nature are not necessarily understood by simple common sense because they are devised by G-d. By showing the people how the bitter wood sweetens the bitter waters, G-d was demonstrating that we don't actually understand how the world functions.

This was a prerequisite to receiving the Torah. G-d was saying, I am going to give you this Torah. You might think, oh, this law doesn't make sense to me, that law I don't agree with, the other I do agree with. G-d says, I know these laws because I created the world. I can take bitter and bitter and make sweet. You think these laws are bitter to you but they will actually make your life sweet. This is the mindset necessary for receiving the Torah.

THE TORAH IS THE MANUFACTURER'S GUIDE TO LIFE
The Torah is our manufacturer's manual for life. If you use a washing machine, for example, and you don't follow the instructions in the manual, then you cannot fault the manufacturer when the product malfunctions. If you tell them a certain rule in the manual didn't make sense, that you don't understand why you were told to do such and such and therefore decided to do it your own way, the manufacturer won't accept that as a valid claim because they wrote the manual, and since when did you become an expert in manufacturing washing machines?

That is just a washing machine; we don't understand how washing machines work, and we certainly don't understand the complexity of the human being, the body, the soul, the emotions, society — and all of their respective dynamics. G-d in His infinite wisdom has given us all of the instructions on how to deal with these complexities and their dynamics, and we bow before His infinite wisdom because he is the ultimate Doctor.

When a doctor gives us medicine we don't necessarily understand how it works. Sometimes the medicine tastes bitter but it makes us better. He says these pills are going to do this or that; we don't understand, but we take them on faith because we trust the doctor. In a sense, the doctor himself doesn't understand how it works. They describe the reality of how the body functions based on experiments that have been done. It's a description of reality, but there is a domain of reality that even they cannot begin to penetrate. Hence doctors will be the first to acknowledge that medicine is an art and not a science, because they are merely describing physical phenomena and are not fully capable of understanding the depth of those phenomena and the many variables within the human body.

This is the prerequisite to going to Mount Sinai: G-d says, I am your Doctor, trust Me. And if there is one doctor in the world that we can trust that is G-d Himself. That is why, according to Talmudic tradition, some laws were actually given to them while at Marah, at the bitter waters. One of these was the commandment to keep the Shabbes, Sabbath.

THE TIMELESSNESS OF SABBATH
The Kli Yakar explains that the commandment of Sabbath was given at Marah because Sabbath testifies to the fact that G-d created the world. G-d is saying, I am the Creator of the world. I created the world from nothing, and I can make bitter plus bitter equal sweet. Therefore, keep My Sabbath to acknowledge that I am the Creator.

Sabbath especially is one of those laws about which people think they know better, that they can find a way out of it. Some question, why do we have to do this? Why can't we drive a car? Why can't we turn on electricity? And all of these types of questions. But Sabbath is actually amazing in that here in the modern world we have the opportunity of having more than 24 hours every single week, in complete peace and tranquillity: no telephones, no television sets, no noise of cars. We walk wherever we go; families sit around a table together, sing together, study together, chat together, go to synagogue together; families bond, communities connect.

Some people think, well, in the modern world, who needs Sabbath? That was for the olden days. Yet G-d says, I am your Doctor. This law was given for all times and you might not realize it but this is your healing for all times. We need Sabbath. Sometimes people say, "but you know Sabbath just isn't for modern times." I always laugh when I hear people say this, because if anything, Sabbath is more relevant now than it has ever been before.

In olden times, people lived much less pressurized lives. If you wanted to write to someone you sent a letter by boat and it arrived three months later. By the time you got a reply, another few months had passed. Nowadays, if an email comes and you haven't replied by mid-morning, your clients think, what sort of an office is this? Why don't they reply to emails? We are living under much more stressful conditions than in previous generations. Says G-d, I am the Lord your Doctor, your Healer; you need Sabbath, it is good for you.

JUDAISM IS HOLISTIC
These two dimensions of the verse "I am the Lord your Doctor," — that G-d is the source of all physical and all spiritual healing in this world — really go to the heart of what Judaism is about. Judaism is holistic and views a human being as an integrated whole, comprised of body and of soul, intellect and emotion. Judaism does not claim that we are merely intellectual, or merely emotional or physical. We are a combination of all of these and that is what true healing is about: holistic spiritual health. G-d gave us commandments which relate to every dimension of what it means to be a human being.

The trend in medicine today is that doctors should not only focus on healing sickness but on promoting healthy living and fostering health. That is what Judaism is about: not just healing from illness but providing guidelines for healthy living. Healthy living means integrated, wholesome living where every dimension of the human being is functioning well and is given full expression, be it in the social sphere, the family sphere, or the communal sphere, and the intellectual, emotional, and physical realm. Thus we have commandments that relate to marriage, to children, to community, and how to relate to our fellow human beings with kindness, compassion and dignity; commandments that relate to our emotions and characters, such as prayer, not to be arrogant, not to be quick to anger; commandments that relate to the intellectual side, for example, connecting to G-d through Torah study; and commandments that relate to the physical side, namely, commandments we perform by physical actions, such as putting on tefillin or lighting Sabbath candles.

Health is about integrated, well-balanced living. G-d is saying, I have the recipe for good healthy living, I am the Lord your Doctor, your Healer, in every dimension. Thus G-d's laws cover every facet of human existence, with the ultimate goal to be shalem, complete, in every dimension. The commentaries explain that this concept, shalem, being complete relates to the Hebrew word shalom, peace, that magical quality we all seek. This is not referring to peace around the world, but to an inner peace, which comes from being complete. This completeness comes from healthy living, living a balanced, integrated, wholesome life in accordance with the Will of G-d in every aspect of our lives.

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The author is the Chief Rabbi of South Africa and the author of "Defending the Human Spirit: Jewish Law's Vision for a Moral Society," which explores the Torah's legal system compared to Western law. In using real court cases he demonstrate the similarities and differences between Judaism's view of defending the vulnerable and Western legal practice.


Previously:


In the army now . . . and always

Living with ideals --- in reality
Expansion Of Spirit
Laughter And Destiny
Truth Stands the Test of Time







© 2012, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein

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