Prevention & Cure
Can Torah and medical science “get along”? Does the path to wellness conflict with the path to spiritual health? The Avner Institute presents the Rebbe’s wise and kindly letter to a philanthropist, contrasting two fundamental types of treatment, with the advice that the money spent for a Jewish hospital might be better served in the way of Torah education, the ultimate source of healing, and worship of the True Healer.
“Healer of all Flesh”
By the Grace of G-d
15 Tammuz 5746
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter and kind contribution for tzedakah [charity], for which receipt is enclosed.
You surely know the saying of our Sages in the Mishna that “the reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself.” Hence, what can a “thank you” from a human being add to the Divine reward in which everything is already included?
But it is certainly in order to express my inner pleasure at seeing another well-known saying of our Sages so eloquently confirmed in concrete action, namely the saying that “a Jewish heart is always awake” – awake and responsive to Hashem’s mitzvoth, especially as in your case, responsive to the need to spread Torah and mitzvoth for the benefit of the many.
This would be highly gratifying at any time, but even more so at a time when it meets an urgent need that has been waiting for someone to come forward and provide the financial resources necessary to meet it.
This brings me to the question of how best to use your kind contribution in accordance with your intention. My answer has already been briefly conveyed to you over the telephone, and I wish now to outline it also in writing.
The connection between medical science and Halacha is already inherent in the Torah itself, as our Sages declare, “The Torah brings refuah [healing] to the world.” The meaning of this is not that the Torah negates medical science in any way. On the contrary, the Torah declares that in matters of health, it is necessary to consult a physician and follow his instructions – at the same time not forgetting, of course, that the True Healer is Hashem, and the physician is no more than the agent of “the Healer of all flesh Who works wondrously.”
In medical science there are two basic areas of approach: (a) therapeutic medicine and (b) preventive medicine. The first deals with medical disorders brought to the physician’s attention for actual treatment. The second, which has been gaining an increasingly greater role in modern times, is to attain the highest possible level of public health through the prevention of sickness by such methods as vaccination, public and personal hygiene, wholesome diets, and by various other ways and means.
Needless to say, while there is no getting away now from the need of therapeutic medicine, preventive medicine is, ideally, the more desirable method. In the long term, it is surely also more desirable from every point of view, including cost, etc., not to mention the prevention of pain and suffering, G-d forbid. Also, in preventive medicine there is no need for resource to radical means, such as surgery and the like, which, unfortunately is part of curative medicine.
For preventive medicine to be most successful and effective, it is necessary to start it from earliest childhood – beginning with vaccination, brushing one’s teeth to prevent cavities, a balanced diet, and so forth. In regard to Jewish children, it calls for strict observance of the laws of kashrus of food and beverages, and it is well known how it affects mental and physical development.
Thus, when our Sages declare that the Torah brings a refuah to the world, it refers not only to spiritual health, but also to plain physical and mental health as well. Indeed, so we find it explicitly in the Divine promise in the Torah: “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, and will obey his commandments and keep all his statues – none of the diseases . . . will I put on you, for I, Hashem, am your healer. (Exodus 15:26). Here is a clear assurance that the Torah and mitzvoth are the real preventive refuah. Moreover, while the Torah is the most effective preventive medicine, it is also the most pleasant one, as it is written, “Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.”
Needless to say, this is not the only, nor the main, purpose of the Torah and mitzvoth, which, essentially, have to do with kedushah [holiness] and G-dliness, and are primarily concerned with the eternal life of the neshama [soul], etc., etc. But we are speaking here of Torah in relation to physical health, especially that of children, which was your original intention in suggesting that your tzedakah be used for a hospital for children, run in accordance with the Halacha.
Aside from your practical considerations, the best way of implementing your intention and to achieve even incomparably greater results than can be imagined is to apply your contribution in the area of Torah chinuch [education] for children.
As you know, one of the most vital activities of Chabad-Lubavitch is Torah-true chinuch, both for the young in years as well as for the young in Torah knowledge and Yiddishkeit experience. These activities thus cover a wide range, from kosher nurseries to helping the aged.
In light of all above, it is my considered opinion that if your tzedakah is used in this way, it would be in the real spirit and letter of your idea and intention. For, used in this way, it will help ensure healthy children, physically, mentally, and spiritually, so that there would be no need to establish a special hospital for children according to the Halacha, since they will be raised fully in accordance with the Halacha.
The Chabad-Lubavitch activities and programs cover a sufficiently wide range as to offer a choice of options within that range. I would suggest that you not limit yourself to one area, but preferably to two areas within that range. Hashem will surely grant that it be the right and choice and will have his generous blessings for hatzlocha [success].
The present month of Tammuz, the month of the geula [release] anniversary of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of saintly memory, which we have just celebrated on 12-13 Tammuz, is particularly auspicious for the above. In his letter on the occasion of the first anniversary of his geula, the Ba’al HaGeula wrote that his deliverance was not just a personal one, but embraced all our Jewish people from oti [me] to the Jew who is as yet “a Jew only in name.” The Ba’al HaGeula has given assurance that everyone who follows in his footsteps and participates in his work of spreading and strengthening Yiddishkeit is assured of Hashem’s blessings for hatzlacha in these endeavors, as well as in one’s personal needs, both materially and spiritually.
Thus, your tzedakah comes in a most auspicious time, and the zechus [merit] of it will endure forever.
With esteem and blessing,
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