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Medicine: Miracle or Nature?

by Dr. Hillel Laks


Library » Philosophy » Miracles | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A thirty-five year old vibrant mother of three sustained a massive intracerebral hemorrhage resulting in brain death.  Her heart becomes available and is used to save the life of a 65-year-old woman dying of heart failure.  A modern "miracle of medicine".   Was it the Providence of G-d that provided the heart just in time to save the recipient?  Where was the Providence of G-d,  too late to save the donor from the effects of undiagnosed hypertension?  And what was the role of the surgical team who performed the transplant?  Should they take credit for saving the recipient’s life?  And when the recipient unexpectedly developed a fatal infection due to the use of immuno-suppressant drugs is the medical team to blame?  And if they had treated her appropriately was this "an act of G-d"? –  a term sometimes used by doctors when everything appropriate was done but the patient died.

So what is the role of G-d’s Providence in the context of modern medicine and what is the role of the doctors?  Is there a place for prayer and faith, both for the patient and the physician?

The paradigm for life, since we were banished from the Garden of Eden,  is one of struggle and the need to provide the necessities of life through the sweat of one’s brow.  We are obliged therefore to take action not only to feed ourselves but to maintain our health.  Maimonides stated that healing the sick was no different from the actions of a man curing his hunger by procuring bread to eat.  The physician is not interfering with divine will any more than is a person who gives charity to the poor. 

The Torah and Talmudic sources sanction the role of the physician.  "The Torah gave permission to the physician to heal; moreover this is a religious precept, and it is included in the category of saving life". The code of Jewish law states "the physician’s right to heal is a religious duty and that he who shirks this responsibility is regarded as shedding blood".

The physician therefore is authorized to play this role in the healing process but is considered the messenger of G-d, "the physician is G-d’s messenger in healing people in need.  Therefore, the motivation of a physician is geared toward more and better knowledge in order to glorify G-d in this world; in this way the physician can best fulfill his or her duties to others in need." (Yad Avraham 4, pg.21) He is therefore obliged to be as good a physician as he can possibly be by learning and by hard work.  And all his successful outcomes are attributable to the healing powers of G-d.  He cannot point to the hand of G-d when medical efforts fail - as G-d has empowered man to play a powerful role in the treatment of disease.  He should pray that G-d will give him the insight and creativity to find solutions for medical problems where none existed before.


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Posted by: Jack Barkstein, Bayonne, NJ on Jun 06, 2005

In today's day and age, we are so inundated with the "outer trappings" of life such as entertainment, TV, movies, music, fast food and the like that we tend not to pay attention to the little things in life, the "little miracles".

In reality, every breath of fresh air (especially in metropolitan cities) is a miracle. A flower in bloom, is a miracle. A birth of a child is the most miraculous of all.

We should take the time to focus on these little miracles and not take them for granted.


Miscellaneous » Health Issues » Medical Ethics

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.