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What is the Jewish view on alternative medicine?

by Rabbi Baruch Emanuel Erdstein


Library » Miscellaneous » Health Issues » Medical Ethics | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The Short Answer:

It's not about which medicinal method you use, but about how you use it.

The Askmoses Answer: 

Today many are exploring traditional healing practices that are novice to conventional Western healing. Whether employing meditative techniques, herbology, and/or understandings of the body and spirit utilizing points of spiritual energy, age old practices have become new age medicine.

Many of the traditions involved in developing these techniques are rooted in forms of paganism, which leads many a Jew to question the permissibility of such therapies. Needless to say, one would never pursue a remedy that requires idolatrous ritual worship, but what about innocent looking healing agents that might stem from pagan beliefs; is that a form of idolatry?

Truth be told, by focusing on anything other than the Divine when seeking healing or practicing medicine, one runs the risk of practicing a form of idol worship. By turning to a healing spirit, homeopathic treatment, or even a Western doctor to heal, one runs the risk of putting trust in the agent rather than in G-d.

Our task then is to view all medicinal techniques as tools, provided by G-d, enabling us to serve Him in wellness
In fact, so sensitive is this issue that the Talmud questions whether a person is allowed to “take healing into his own hands,” rather than strictly rely on Divine Providence to grant a person what his soul deserves. The Talmudic sages conclude that it is permissible -- nay required -- to seek medical attention, simply because the Torah commands us to. I.e. the medicines, healing techniques, and ability to use them, are all ultimately from G-d too. The Talmud therefore goes on to communicate a grave warning to those who arrogantly see themselves as the healers, rather than as G-d's agents to heal.

Our task then is to view all medicinal techniques as tools, provided by G-d, enabling us to serve Him in wellness and to see His divine providence as humankind is empowered to rectify, or “heal,” Creation. Rather than being distracted, the search for a cure is an especially ripe time for building the faith so necessary to arouse benevolence from the most supernal healer, G-d.

Given this general principle, Judaism doesn't prefer one healing agent or the other. One should put his trust in G-d and follow the advice of medical experts. If and when a particular method of healing raises noteworthy suspicion, a proper Halachic authority should be consulted.

As with all medicine, one must also determine whether a particular remedy is, or needs to be, Kosher.


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Miscellaneous » Health Issues » Halachah for the Ill

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.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
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.