Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 6 June 2020 / 14 Sivan 5780

Who's the Doctor?

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From Casey in NYC

Dear Rabbi,

In Exodus 15:26 it says "I am the Lord that heals you." Does going to a doctor contradict this? Thank you.

Dear Casey,

I have a story for you: A man swept away by a flood sees two guys approach in a rowboat. "Hop in!" they shout. "No, thanks," he says, "God will save me." Next, a tugboat passes by. "Climb aboard," calls the captain. Again he refuses. "God will save me," he says. Then the Coast Guard sends a helicopter but he refuses to board, giving the same reason. Finally, he drowns.

Up in Heaven, an angel asks why he refused help. "I wanted to rely on God alone," he replies. "Idiot!" says the angel.

"Who do you think sent you the rowboat, the tugboat and the helicopter?"

G-d acts through the guise of doctors and medicine, just as He acts through the guise of employers to provide us with a living. Would your friends refuse to take money from their bosses, saying they'll get it directly from G-d? I think not. Do they eat food, or do they wait for G-d to miraculously inject their bloodstream with nourishing vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates?

The Torah (Bible) gives explicit permission to engage in healing. The verse (Exodus 21:19) says that if one person strikes another person, the attacker "shall pay for his unemployment and for his medical expenses”.

Our task is to exert the effort and then to recognize that ultimately it is G-d who heals. While seeking proper medical attention, a sick person simultaneously engages in prayer, good deeds, and introspection. We don't accept prayer as "a last resort" – it's a "first resort," along with medicine and the doctor.

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