Belief plays an essential role in healing. Having confidence in my doctor when he assures me that I am doing fine encourages a more rapid recovery than if that spiritual factor is absent.
I wasn’t surprised to read an article in BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, revealing that about half the doctors in the United States, Denmark, Israel, and the United Kingdom dispense placebos.
The great 19th century American psychologist William James wrote of the efficacy of these chemically inert prescriptions. Placebos are particularly effective in pain management activating the same regions of the brain as opiate-drugs. Brain scan research reveals a common neurological reaction to both placebo-induced pain relief and narcotic-induced analgesia. Indeed, the body’s health and physical well-being flows from the brain, the mind, and the soul.
Ancient Jewish wisdom assures that our physical bodies and spiritual souls are welded into one. Bodily realities impact our souls. More importantly for health purposes, spiritual realities impact our bodies.
This physical-spiritual parallelism is revealed in our physical bodies. God placed male genitalia externally while concealing those of the female, corresponding to spiritual differences between men and women. Men are innately more sexually aggressive while women more naturally possess reticence. Advertisements for menswear simply don’t mention modesty while it is quite common in female fashion.
Our eyes project an upside-down image of whatever we see onto our retinas. The spiritual reality thus highlighted is that our eyes are untrustworthy. What organ is chiefly responsible for stuff you’ve bought and don’t really need? Are sales catalogs heavier on words or pictures? Why are home shopping programs found on television, not radio?
God placed our balance mechanism in our ears. Evolutionarily speaking, this makes little sense. Our heads are in constant motion. The only reason you don’t lose your balance when you tilt your head is the equivalent of thousands of lines of software compensating for your head’s motion. Evolution should have ensured that our balance mechanism would be in our shoulders or hips.
However, God’s design teaches the spiritual lesson that we can better retain our balance in life by relying more on information we gain through our ears than that which we gain through our eyes. I am only half joking when I say that any man looking to marry should talk to a woman on the telephone before meeting her and allowing his eyes to become blinded by her beauty.
Our bodies are symmetrical externally about our vertical axis. However, internally, there is little symmetry. Our heart, liver, pancreas, spleen, appendix, kidneys, and even lungs are not symmetrical. This teaches us that while externally we find comfort and beauty in superficial order, in the world of the spiritual and invisible, a far more complex elegance exists.
When it comes to our health, ignoring the spiritual can literally be fatal. When Moses’ sister, Miriam, gossiped about her brother, God punished her with a skin malady (Numbers 12:1; 10). While often incorrectly translated as leprosy, Leviticus chapter 13 makes clear that Tzara’at is not a physical disease. That chapter introduces the idea of psychosomatic disorder, when the body sickens because of a non-physical problem. Naturally, Miriam was healed, not by medicine but by her brother’s prayers and her atonement. (Numbers 12:13) While we do not share Miriam’s closeness to God and cannot expect the direct Divine punishment or forgiveness that took place in the Exodus generation, we can add these four steps to our ordinary health maintenance procedures.
- Meditate daily on the miraculous unity of body and soul.
- Establish a trusting relationship with a doctor who views you as both body and soul.
- Feel spiritually worthy of health, and consider areas of spiritual self-improvement along with physical care.
- Enlist prayer; your own and that of loved ones.
According to ancient Jewish wisdom, the body/soul connection is magnified in the forty days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Prepare yourself for this annual opportunity, which commences mid-August, by absorbing the teaching in our Day for Atonement audio resource. May God provide a complete healing of body and soul to all who need it.
…for I am the Lord, your Healer.
(Clash of Destiny sale extended for one more week.)
This week’s Susan’s Musings: Happily Neanderthal:
Have you ever done something that seems completely ordinary to you, only to find people looking at you as if you were an apparition from Neptune?
A few months ago, my husband and I were Shabbat guests of a synagogue far from our home. We were graciously befriended and hosted by a couple in the synagogue. (For info on why strangers would welcome us into their lives, see Strangers and Friends.) My husband was scheduled to speak at the buffet lunch after prayer services on Saturday. But the odd reaction was not to his words…READ MORE
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.
Hello Rabbi and Susan,
If a child say 2yrs. old or younger dies and his parents are not believers, does the baby go to hell because of the parents’ lack of faith? I was asked this question. READ MORE