In the spirit of the month of Iyar, traditionally known as the “Month of Healing”, we present a letter of the Rebbe in which he gives encouraging advice to a sculptor about caring for one’s health – in light of the parsha and the teachings of the RAMBAM. Also a letter in which the Rebbe explains the meaning of the Torah giving a doctor the competence to heal (rappo ye’rappeh). The letters, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
15th of Menachem Av, 5731
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Greeting and Blessing:
I am in receipt of your letter in which you write about a certain patient, a member of your community.
There is a well known opinion of several Gedolei Yisroel to the effect that a doctor who declares that he cannot do anything for a patient, thereby loses his competence granted to him by the Torah, as it is written אפרי אפרו on the basis of which our Sages ruled that this gives a physician the authority and competence to heal but only to heal.
In the light of the above, needless to say, one must never lose trust in G-d, but must find a doctor who is willing to try and treat the patient.
As for those you mention in your letter, who offer certain methods of treatment, it would be well to discuss this with the family doctor of the patient, as to which of the methods to try.
I trust you will be able to impress upon the patient and his family that the daily conduct of the Jew in adherence to the Will of G-d, “The Healer of all flesh Who works wondrously” Who heals through His agents, the human physicians, is the way to receive G-d’s blessings. Every additional effort in this direction will, therefore, bring additional Divine blessings to make the treatment successful. Of course, in matters of goodness and holiness, there is always room for improvement, since they are infinite, being derived from the Infinite.
I would also like to suggest that the tefillin and mezuzoth in the family should be checked to make sure they are kosher, and that special care should be taken by the males to put the tefillin on every weekday morning.
In compliance with your request, this letter is sent to you ahead of its turn.
By the Grace of G-d
25th of Shevat, 5732
Greeting and Blessing,
I was sorry to hear that you were not feeling too well, but I trust that by the time this letter reaches you, your health will have improved satisfactorily. In as much as there is always room for improvement in all things, I wish you further improvement and a refuo shlemo.
Not knowing what sort of a patient you are, I take the liberty of expressing my confident hope that you follow your doctors’ instructions. Even if this may entail an enforced period of rest and interruption in your work, which no doubt you would be inclined to militate against, nevertheless I am confident that you will overcome this, so as to expedite your complete recuperation.
It is customary for Jews to connect everything with the Weekly Portion of the. Significantly, we read in this week’s Sedra (rapo ye’rapeh)‚ which our Sages explain to be the mandate of physicians to heal and cure. Moreover, our illustrious teacher the Rambam, who was a famous physician in the plain sense, as well as a great spiritual healer, made it a point in his great Code (he’yot ha’guf bori ve’sholem, midarkei Hashem hu Hil. Deot 84).
To paraphrase the Rambam, and apply it in the area which we had occasion to discuss, we may say that what the Rambam is expressing here is that in order that the physical body be fit to serve G-d, that is to say to elevate and sublimate the physical into the spiritual, or to bring out the spirituality of the material, which is the key to the all-embracing Divine Unity – it is necessary that the physical body be in a good state and healthy. I might add that in your own sphere of sculpture, this is also self evident. For, in order to create an idea out of a piece of inert matter, whether metal, wood or stone, it is of course necessary that the material be in a good state.
I trust you will not consider me presumptuous in trespassing upon your domain. However, I only wish to impress upon you the essential thing, namely the need to follow your doctors’ instructions.
Wishing you a refuo Shlemo, and with kindest regards to you and your family,