Talk to God and Fix Your Health
by Rivka Levy
Can I ask you a question? When you get a headache, or a stomach-ache, or a cold, or some other health issue, do you ever stop for a minute to wonder why you’re getting ill? I’m not just talking about the material cause-and-effect, like ‘I got food poisoning from the smoked salmon’; what I’m really asking you is this: did you ever pause for a second, to ask yourself why God would cause you to be sick right now, and what He might be requiring from you, in order to get well again?
I know this sounds like a weird or even potentially sacrilegious idea, especially to those of us who were raised in the West, where human health has increasingly been reduced to one big chemical equation. In modern Western medicine, how the patient actually lives, eats, and acts before they get sick is barely examined, and often completely ignored.
But that’s not the authentic Jewish view of health. Judaism states that God is the Prime mover behind everything that happens in the world, (as set out in the Rambam’s First Principle of Faith), and that He doesn’t do anything randomly, or without a good reason.
The Tanach is full of examples showing that a Jew’s health is intrinsically connected to their character traits, emotions and behaviour. Time and time again, we read that a Jew went against God in some way, and got sick, or even died, as a result.
The good news is, that even with the so-called ‘terminal’ cases, as soon as the Jew figured out why God was making them sick, and resolved to change the way they were acting, speaking, behaving or believing as a result, the illness disappeared, and they returned to the peak of health.
At this point, many people, even orthodox Jews, usually start to get a bit uncomfortable. ‘That stuff happened in the bible, but we’re not on that level these days!’ they say. Or, they’ll tell me how it’s a mitzvah to go to a doctor when you’re sick, because ‘God gave the physician’s permission to heal’.
I’m not arguing! You can keep taking your migraine pills, and your antacid tablets, and your antibiotics and anything else you want, without feeling guilty about it at all. But the point I’m trying to make is this: The authentic Jewish view of health has always been holistic, which means that a person’s physical health is fundamentally connected to their emotional health, spiritual standing and relationship with God.
By contrast, Western medicine is based on a strict separation between body and soul, (and in most cases, even body and mind), which means that Western Physicians – even frum, Jewishly-observant ones – are only trained to treat illness at the physical level, within the body.
You can sum the problem up like this: the Western approach to illness and healing cuts God completely out of the picture.
Instead of viewing illness as some sort of Divine message, or clue, that the patient needs to examine something in their life, and to consider making some potentially big changes in how they think, believe and act, illness becomes a random act, dependent on statistics and devoid of Divine Providence.
Say someone has a heart condition. Even Western-sponsored scientific studies have shown that people who regularly get angry and stressed are at far more risk of developing heart disease.
Yet, when that person makes an appointment with their cardiologist, they’ll usually hear a whole bunch of stuff about how the latest pills, stents and heart bypass surgery can help them solve the problem – but precious little about how reducing their stress, or figuring out why they’re getting so angry in the first place could solve the underlying emotional and spiritual root or it all.
In holistic health circles, it’s a no-brainer that a person’s spiritual health directly affects their mental, emotional and physical health. Yet even in the most observant Jewish communities, we seem to have lost sight of that idea. Instead, we’ve bought into the God-less Western medical model that says: ‘the body is all there is’.
Bernie Siegel MD used to be an archetypal Jewish doctor-surgeon, until a mid-life crisis forced him to re-evaluate how he was practising medicine. Once he started to put God into the picture, it transformed his surgical practice, and led to much better health outcomes for many of his patients.
In his bestselling book ‘Love, Medicine and Miracles’, Siegel recounts the story of Phyllis who was suffering from apparently ‘incurable’ pancreatic cancer, and had been sent home to die. A few months’ later, a healthy Phyllis re-appeared back at the hospital for a check-up, and the shocked surgeon who examined her wanted to know what had happened.
Siegel recalls: “Phyllis told them: “I decided to live to be a hundred and leave my troubles to God.” Siegel continues: “I could really end the book here, because this peace of mind can heal anything. I believe faith is the essence, a simple solution, yet too hard for most people to practice.”
But any small step we take to including God in our healing and health picture – even just acknowledging that He’s actually behind it all – can still lead to some miraculously positive outcomes.
So you can sum up the authentic Jewish approach to health like this: People are far more than just their bodies, which means that true health depends on the following three things:
Strange as it sounds (and challenging as it often is to live), this three-pronged holistic health approach is much more ‘in-line’ with authentic Jewish values, and could give us all a much greater chance of living happy, healthy and meaningful lives.
Rivka Levy is the author of five books on God-based holistic health. Her latest, ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health: The real reasons why we get sick and how to get healthy’, published by the Matronita Press, will be available soon on Amazon.
What do you think? Does God have a role in health care? Please comment below.
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