Parsha B’Shallach –
“He said, ‘If you will listen intently to the voice of ADONAI your G-d, do what he considers right, pay attention to his mitzvot and observe his laws, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians; because I am ADONAI your healer.” Sh’mot 15:26
“I am Hashem your healer”? or “I am Hashem your physician”?
What’s the difference you might ask? In his commentary on this week’s portion, “The Person In the Parsha”, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb shares the following:
“This is what Rashi says, ‘simply put, I am the L-rd your physician, who teaches you Torah and mitzvot so that you will be spared illness, much as a physician would instruct his patient not to eat certain things because they may lead to his getting sick.'”
“I heal you” implies that you are already sick and I am going to make you better. “I am your doctor” implies that I have the ability to prevent you from getting sick in the first place. The Almighty, our Creator, knows His creation best, and He has prescribed a lifestyle that was designed to protect us from all illness, both physical and spiritual.
Dr. Maimonides (AKA Rambam) agrees with Rashi. Maimonides was the court physician for the Sultan Saladin in medieval Egypt. The Sultan was never sick while under Maimonides care, and once demanded that Dr. Maimonides prove himself a great physician. Here is Maimonides reported answer:
“The greatest of all physicians is the L-rd, of whom it is said, ‘I am the L-rd your physician.’ As proof of this it is written, ‘I will not place upon you the illnesses that I have placed upon ancient Egypt.” Who is truly the good doctor? Not the person who heals the sick from their diseases, but rather the one who helps the person from becoming sick and sees to it that he maintains his health.”
Would you rather have a physician who can cure you when you’re sick or one that can tell you how to keep from getting sick in the first place? For me, there is no question here. I prefer to never get sick.
“Most of the illnesses that befall man are his own fault, resulting from ignorance of how to preserve his health – like a blind man who stumbles and hurts himself and even injures others in the process due to not having a sense of vision.” (Maimonides, Essay on Human Conduct, as told by R’ Dr. Weinreb)
As my fellow American, good ol’ Benjamin Franklin once said:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
The mitzvot should be seen as being for our own benefit, for our own ultimate well-being. Hashem is not trying to keep us from having fun. He trying to keep us on the proper path, the one that leads to a long happy, healthy life. A life of Torah observance is one designed to avoid every manner of illness. It is designed to promote spiritual health and material wellness. When one is sick he cannot serve Hashem with his all. Sickness and pain are all-consuming.
“A physician, like a master, demands obedience, but only for the purpose of securing the patient’s welfare.” (Malbim)
I am amazed at how often we blindly use products or ingest foods that are unhealthy, and even poisonous. Just because they are on the shelf and we are told they are good, we are deceived into making bad decisions. I’ll give you an example, one that may or may not shock you. Are you aware the fluoride is actually industrial toxic waste? It is a by-product of aluminum manufacturing, and incredibly toxic. The manufacturers that were once obligated to spend a fortune to dispose of their waste, now sell their toxic waste to water suppliers, dentists, and toothpaste manufacturers.
“It is easier to fool people than to convince people that they have been fooled.” (Mark Twain)
“Primum non nocere“. These are the words of Hippocrates, which mean, “First, do no harm”. In medical ethics this is a guiding principle for physicians, that whatever the intervention or procedure, the patient’s well-being is the primary consideration. I think much of modern medicine seems to have forgotten this concept, but more importantly, we as patients of our Heavenly Physician, need to realize He has not forgotten. He always thinks of our well-being, and that is why He has told us how we should live if we are to experience an optimal life.
“A prudent man will follow the right path.” (Mishlei 14:15)
Realizing that Hashem is the one who orchestrates every minute detail of our lives, I believe that ultimately all sickness and diseases are really just a means to return us to our Creator. When we stray from His path, He gives us these illnesses as an amazing opportunity to wake us up and help us to return to the proper path. By understanding this, we truly can thank Him in all circumstances. We can see His grace and mercy even in our afflictions. He is giving us an opportunity to make some necessary changes. Even our illnesses can truly be viewed as a blessing from Above.
Modern medicine would have us to believe that because we now have scientific advances previous generations didn’t, we are somehow smarter and better suited to heal ourselves. My personal witness is that the drugs prescribed often do as much damage, and sometimes more damage than the illnesses they are supposed to be helping. How can something make you healthier if it simultaneously makes you sicker? Do you know what the leading cause of death in the U.S. is?
“In the US, the total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine has reached 783,936 per year. Shockingly, modern medicine is now the leading cause of death, followed by heart disease and cancer. Of these deaths, 106,000 per year are cause by adverse drug reactions. This includes drugs taken correctly in normal dosage range.” (As reported by Yael Tusk, MSc in her amazing book, that I wish everyone would buy and read, “HEALTH, A Natural Approach” – Mosaica Press/Feldheim).
Treatment should cause us to feel better & healthier. If it doesn’t, I pray we have the discernment to find a safe, natural alternative. It is so important to guard our health according to the natural laws put in place by our Creator. Just as we must guard our soul according to His instructions. Every sound minded person will agree that we need to protect ourselves from clear and obvious dangers, but sometimes the dangers are not so obvious. This holds true for both our body and soul. We don’t always know what is right, and we can easily be deceived. If we have at any point in our life been deceived into thinking that fluoride toothpaste was good for us, just imagine how easily we could be deceived about important spiritual matters. Sometimes we don’t understand why Hashem tells us to do certain things in certain ways, but we can trust that there is a good reason. Fifteen years ago if someone had thrown my fluoride toothpaste away, claiming they were trying to save my life, I guarantee I would not have understood and probably would have argued about the virtues of fluoride in maintaining healthy teeth.
Here is something I want you to think about. Who creates modern drugs? Scientists, right? And the majority of these scientists believe in evolution and deny the existence of our Creator. Why would you accept a cure from someone who doesn’t fear Hashem? I believe that Hashem has provided everything we need to heal our bodies in nature, to both keep us healthy and to heal us. In the same respect, we need to be ever so careful about where our spiritual nutrition and healing comes from.
“I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life!” (Devarim 30:19)
Why would we need to be told to choose life? Would anyone consciously read this and choose death and curses over life and blessings? Maybe that’s the point, we must actually make a conscious choice!! We must give thought to it and truly “chose” to live. We cannot wish to live only by natural instinct or by default. We are commanded to actively choose life; we must make an active choice. To determine to what extent we are actively choosing to live, we can measure the amount of effort we are exerting toward our choice. The more effort one puts forth, the more he is demonstrating that he is choosing life.
“The entire Torah is dependent upon the mitzvah of taking care of your body” (Chafetz Chaim)
The Torah is the cure for all our ailments. Therefore, I pray we learn to listen intently to the voice of Hashem, do what He considers right, paying attention to His mitzvot and observing his laws. If we do, we have His promise that He will not afflict us with any of the diseases He brought on the Egyptians, because He is Hashem our Heavenly Physician.
Be blessed and be healthy, so that you may be a blessing,