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Science and Faith Converge at the Doctor's Office

Thursday, 10 May, 2018 - 4:07 pm

This past week we had the pleasure and privilege to hear from Yossi Goodman, a man with an astounding story of salvation through Divine Intervention. Briefly, Yossi was plowed over by a drunk driver going 60 MPH. He was thrown 70 feet through the air and landed in a pool of blood with his head smashed and legs and torso broken beyond belief. He was brought to the hospital where his parents were advised not to waste a room or machines by hooking him up to life support. A neurologist, who was a declared atheist, told his mother that he had never seen a case this bad and there was no hope. His parents, with the support of the community and prayers from all over the world, along with the advice and blessing of the Rebbe, elected to fight for his life. Many procedures and disheartening and scary moments later, he emerged from the danger and started to mend. He made a complete recovery, leads a normal life, ran a marathon, got married and has two children, (one of whom was born in the same hospital room in which he lay comatose) and shares his story all over the world. The only remnant of his ordeal is the mark on his throat where they punctured it to insert the tracheal tube. As he was leaving the hospital, months after the accident, the neurologist came over to his parents and declared, “I now believe there is a G-d, because medically there was no way for this to happen.”

This story got me thinking about the role of doctors from a religious standpoint. If G-d is the healer why do we go to doctors? If doctors are the healers, do they have the right to make blanket pronouncements about the case? If not, where does the doctor fit into the G-d’s plan for our health and wellbeing?

Clearly the Torah instructs us to use the services of a doctor. To quote the sages of the Talmud, “G-d gave permission to doctors to heal.” Since G-d created this world to operate within the natural order (primarily), therefore we do what we can within nature to resolve our issues. So when we are sick we seek medical care. At the same time, we believe, that just as all of nature is really the hidden Hand of G-d, so to with medical care. G-d works through the agency of the physician to bring us the blessing of healing. Since we are instructed to work within the natural order, we seek the best possible care, just like we do our best to earn a living and the like.

Within this context the role of the doctor is clearer. The doctor needs to view himself or herself as an agent of G-d. Doctors must do the best they can within nature to heal. A doctor who combines medical expertise with faith has the most optimal tools for success. I know a surgeon who has told me that at times she steps back from a procedure for a moment to say the Shema and pray for G-d’s help for success.

However, when they have exhausted the options available to them, it is not within their purview to declare that there is no hope. Rather they should say, that there is nothing left we can do medically. But G-d is not bound by the rules of nature or medicine and miracles can happen. This then is the role of prayer and good deeds for the sake of the person who needs the blessing of healing. By seeking the best medical care along with calling out to G-d for salvation we can give ourselves the best chance for achieving our goal of healing.

May we all be blessed with good health and prosperity for a long a happy life!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

 

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