3/16/11

Is Medicine Permitted?

In the 14 Adar issue of Simcha Lerner's Machshovos Zoros ("Outside-the-Box Thinking") there is a very interesting essay which I have excerpted below.

Toward a Halakhic Theory of Medicine

The study of medicine is an important and often enjoyable way to learn about humanity and illnesses but it is also morally dubious. Most people enjoy discovering important details about the workings of the human body, complex diseases from different times and places that inform their health and life expectancies. But because learning about the body involves discovering and repeating uncomfortable facts about bodily functions and human desires, we must ask whether Judaism permits it. Are we allowed to publicly discuss unclean biological and physiological acts merely because someone is sick? For example, Rabbi Shtraussfogel, in his work "Fees for Divine Service," points out that if we discuss sexually transmitted infections, we might come to permit mixed dancing. Also, medicine might teach us that homosexuality is not an illness to be cured and genital herpes is a communicable disease. According to Rabbi Shtraussfogel, medicine serves to inspire. "We do not need tales of death, we need stories of miraculous cures." Rabbi Shtraussfogel's son-in-law, Rabbi Zamdkopf, used to say, "If God wanted there to be Jewish doctors,  He wouldn't have made people sick on Shabbos." Indeed, Rabbi Shtraussfogel used to make sure that he would fall ill only in a town that was at least 51% non-Jewish or non-observant.

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