Candles Friday April 24th 7:25pm
Havdalah April 25th 8:21pm
The two sections we read this week both focus on the human body and the sorts of changes it is subject to. We start with miracle of childbirth. But the Torah recognizes that this amazing and frightening transformation that motherhood brings to the body and the mind is so powerful that it needs time for one to adjust back to normality. The great gift of life starts with pleasure but then proceeds through the incredible extended distortion of the female body and the pain of childbirth. The body and the mind need time to heal.
The Torah goes on to discusses other things that affect the human body outwardly like diseases of the skin, limbs and body. They are all occurrences that change us as we feel ourselves and as we are perceived by others. Because in Judaism we look at the world holistically we realize that the body affects the mind and vice versa. That is why the priests who also the doctors of those days sought to heal emotionally and spiritually as well as physically. And that is why in addition to the medical steps taken to heal and cure, there were also ceremonies and procedures to help ones mind and spirit recover too.
We never took the view, like some Christian denominations, that we should not try to cure but leave it all to God and prayer. We always believed in both. One needs the best medical treatment available but one also needs to be spiritually healthy too.
We are so very aware nowadays how things like stress and pressure can themselves cause the body to deteriorate and decline. It has taken thousands of years for us to realize that psychological illnesses are as significant as physical ones, that they interact and need treatment too.
But the Torah teaches that the other dimension, the spiritual one, also needs to be nurtured and be healthy. Otherwise simply treating the physical symptoms will not lead to a permanent cure, only a temporary one. We need doctors of the soul as well as of the body.