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“If men quarrel and one strikes his fellow with a stone or a fist, and he does not die but falls into bed. If he gets up and goes about outside under his own power, the one who struck is absolved. Only for his lost time shall he pay, and he shall provide for healing” (Shemos 21:18-19).
The Gemara (Berachos 60a) infers from the commandment for one who harms another to pay for his medical treatments that, “From here we may derive that permission was given to a doctor to heal.”
The Tosefos Harash asks why a doctor needs permission to heal. Why would I even think that he should not use his expertise to help people who are sick?
We find a similar discussion in another Gemara (Bava Basra 10a). The wicked Turnusrufus debated with Rabbi Akiva contending that we will be punished by Hashem for giving charity to the poor. He compared it to a king who was angry at his servant and, imprisoning him, ordered that he not be given any food or drink. Along came someone and fed him. Surely the king will be angry at him.
But Rabbi Akiva argued that it should really be compared to a king who was angry at his son and, imprisoning him, ordered that he not be given any food or drink. Along came someone and fed him. Surely the king will be pleased with him. “And we are called sons, as it says (Devarim 4:1), ‘You are children to Hashem, your G-d.’”
Surely Rabbi Akiva’s retort was good; but so was Turnusrufus’s argument a logical one. If Hashem punishes someone, do we have the right to interfere and to better his lot? Will He be pleased or angered? For this reason, explains the Tosefos Harash, the Sages had to learn from the Scripture that a doctor was, indeed, granted permission to heal someone whom Hashem made sick.
It is told that someone reported to the Vilner Gaon the deteriorated state of a sick person, commenting that the doctors had lost all hope and were in despair regarding his well-being. The Gaon responded, “For this they were not given permission. They were given permission to heal; not to despair of healing!” A short time later, the sick man recovered.
Actually, this is not just a cute expression of the Gaon but a very deep foundation of Judaism. A doctor is one of those who must be very careful not to misconstrue his position. He is not the healer – for only Hashem can heal. He is merely His shaliach (representative) and can only do that which he is allowed to.
In the marvelous sefer, Lulei Sorasecha, a story is told that Hagaon Harav Shach z”l once told a heart specialist that he is jealous of him. The professor asked why. “We thank the Almighty for having created Man with His vast Wisdom; equipping him with openings and cavities; parts of the body which are so complicated and remarkable. We simple people,” Rav Shach continued, “only see with our eyes the exterior of the body and imagine what it is like inside. But a scholar like you examines with his scalpel the very essence of Man’s body; seeing daily the greatness of G-d’s works and the marvels of His Wisdom. This strengthens one’s belief and brings him closer to His Creator. It makes his appreciation of Hashem greater and creates a bond of love and fear between them.”
The Professor looked at Harav Shach in amazement, not grasping his words at all. “I don’t understand what the Rosh Yeshiva is talking about,” replied the doctor. The heart is nothing more than an elaborate pump!”
“That’s exactly what I meant,” replied the Rosh Yeshiva, surprised that the highly educated person before him didn’t understand such a simple declaration. “Look at this elaborate pump, how it is built with such preciseness; divided into sections, with doors, entrances and exists. It is absolutely mind-boggling.”
“I don’t understand what the Rosh Yeshiva is talking about,” repeated the doctor. The heart is nothing more than an elaborate pump.”
“But that’s exactly the point,” continued Rav Shach, shocked at the professor’s apathy. “Someone created this ‘elaborate pump.’ Someone designed it, produced it and keeps it running.”
“I simply do not understand what the Rosh Yeshiva is talking about,” concluded the doctor. The heart is nothing more than an elaborate pump!”
This was a doctor who did not comprehend that he was merely an emissary of the One Who gave him permission to heal.
But it is equally important for the patient to realize that the doctor is only a shaliach of the real Healer of the sick. Sometimes a sick person goes to a doctor. When the treatment does not seem to help, he goes to a specialist. When it seems that no one can cure him, he remembers to pray to Hashem and then he gets better. Had he recognized the first doctor for what he is, and turned his attention to Hashem from the start, while going for the treatments, he might have spared himself a lot of pain, time and money.
May we always be healthy. But in case of illness, G-d forbid, let us place our faith where it belongs and Hashem will heal us quickly.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network