Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Alternative medicine official Chabad stuff?

A Chabad pamphlet, Lchaim, published this in 1992, Parshas Trumah:

"Traditional" modern medicine has ingrained within most of the medical profession and many of us lay-people a skepticism toward alternative medicine. Acupuncture, chiropractics, holistic and herbal medicine, etc., predate vaccinations, antibiotics and surgery-as-the-only-option; yet many of us balk when the suggestion is made to consult an alternative health professional. And woe to the MD who uses or encourages alternative methods; he may well be ostracized by his peers in the medical community. All this despite the fact that recent findings--by modern medical doctors no less--have shown that some of these alternatives really do help!

In the area of medicine, modern has become traditional and we have become so intransigent as to not even consider alternatives. After all, human nature makes us feel comfortable with what we know, and nine times out of ten the amoxicillin will cure the ear infection. And if that doesn't help there's always another, newer antibiotic to try.

For many Jews, the modern definition of Judaism--like medicine--has become the norm, the family "tradition." We're comfortable with mixed seating in the synagogue, kosher in the house and non-kosher out, and the 11 o'clock news after a sumptuous Shabbat dinner. On Chanuka we light the menora but are not necessarily even aware that Jewish law dictates the shape of the menora and the length of time the candles must burn. Purim means dressing up and eating delicious hamentashen, but when it comes to listening to the Megila--the Scroll of Esther--one of the actual mitzvot of Purim, there's minimal interest. The list goes on, and we can all add our own family "traditions" to the repertoire. All of these customs despite the fact that Jewish observance, as set forth in the Torah, predates modern Jewish traditions.

Being reluctant to try alternative medicine limits one's options and closes off an entire world to a person. The same can be said when we're hesitant about delving into and even practicing the Torah's laws and customs.

But, when you show a willingness to learn Torah even though it's not necessarily accepted among your peers, to observe Jewish holidays according to ancient Jewish traditions though they might not be a part of your family's traditions, to respect Jewish beliefs stemming from a traditional Jewish perspective, you are actually expanding your own horizons.

Modern medicine is slowly beginning to recognize the possible value of alternative medicine. The same can be said of modern Judaism. We all know about the recent studies within the Jewish community. They have found that only through such traditional Jewish values as a strong Jewish education, "hands-on" holiday observance, Jewish marriages, etc., does the younger generation have a chance at becoming or remaining committed Jews.

Imagine how much we can expand our horizons, how enriched our lives can be, if we are willing to open up to the ancient traditions of Judaism."

Ad kan lshono.

While this pamphlet was obviously written by a magic medicine advocate and overstates the value of this pursuit and its acceptability in the medical community, it is scary that this was published in a semi official Chabad publication.

Did the Chabad Rebbe advocate that people pursue placebo cures for real diseases? In 1992, when this was published, the Rebbe had withdrawn from the public scene and, presumably, regular editting duties largely due to his failing health. (No offense to those who are known to be offended by this statement.) The evidence would suggest that he did not.

Advocates point out that he permitted people to pursue the profession and gave blessings to heal.

I would point out, though, that the proof of pudding is in the eating. The CR was ill numerous times, heart problems, foot problems, etc. over the years. No one, NO ONE has ever shown me that he pursued "alternative" medicine, oriental traditional medicine or any other type of magic cure, including those mentioned in the Talmud or in "secret kabalistic" writings. As I understand, he went to REGULAR MEDICAL DOCTORS, and he underwent REGULAR MEDICAL TREATMENT.

I would also point out that, when thousands asked his medical advice, he told them to follow the advice of the doctor or to pursue a different avenue of REGULAR MEDICAL TREATMENT. I have not found anyone who has told me that the CR told them to abandon the care of doctor and seek out an accupunturist, an alternative medicine advocate, a naturopathist, or any other "professional" in magic medicine. The closest I could find were people who claim that the CR allowed them to continue complementary methods that they were already involved in. This would fit with Rambam, who says that even though certain practices are opposed to Torah practice, he would them in cases where they would act as a placebo. (e.g. Hilchos Avodah Zara 11:12).

This only shows that modern magic has taken on a life of its own.


  • I don't think anyone would suggest that articles printed in L'Chaim were subject to the approval of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. They didn't emanate from his office, so they weren't even approved by people under his direct supervision.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:27 AM  

  • Thanks Joe (Yosef?)

    It seems the matter has, indeed, taken on a life of its own.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:55 PM  

  • Biur Chametz has uncovered a lovely paper for the benefit of the alternative medicine lovers. Tefillin, it seems, are a form of acupuncture.

    (P.S. Thanks for the link.)

    By Blogger The Observer, at 1:50 PM  

  • observer

    That illustrates an immensely important point. It shows that when one engages in apologetics, anything can be made into anything. In this case, we have imaginary "acu points" on the arm, and we have a percentage of the arm being covered with straps. We also have a large number of variations of the acupuncture tradition. The logic of the article is akin to the proverbial stopped clock being exactly right twice a day locally, and exactly right for solar time somewhere in the world at all times.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 4:10 PM  

  • By the grace of G-d
    Shalom uBrocha!
    1)If you'd read the article in Forward about Dr. Schram you'd realize that it wasn't his purpose to engage in apologetics for Teffilin.
    2) Acupuncture realy works for a wide variety of ills this is becoming undenieble to the "establishment" to the extent that it's being covered by insurence in many states now.I also have expirienced it personaly and have friends and family members who were helped thru it.
    3)It's strange that a person who describes himself as an Orthodox Jew would compare G-d's Mitzvah to a broken clock...Doesn't it say in the Torah many times that mitzvot have tangible beniffits for body and soul? How hard is it to believe that G-d designed Teffilin in such a way that it naturaly good for the person to put them on as can be seen thru Chinese Medicine which is one of the branches of Devine wisdom clothed in nature.
    4)I have seen letters and stories of the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a and also Previous Rebbe sending people to herbalists and other natural medicine practitioners This is also mentioned in "Mind over Matter"
    Naturopathic Doctors 33

    Question: Is it desirable to turn to a naturopathic doctor for assistance?

    Response: It depends on how much success he has had in the past.

    Mind over Matter
    By Rabbi Joseph Ginsburg and Prof. Herman Branover

    « Previous Next »


    Artificial Insemination1

    The Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, wrote to us, that although for many years the Rebbe’s attitude towards artificial insemination was negative,2 “however, some time before the 27th of Adar, 5752, a couple turned to the Rebbe with a question: The insemination would be done in Jerusalem under the supervision of several G-d-fearing Rabbis, from start to finish. The main issue of the supervision was to ensure that they would not mix into the husband’s semen anything in any way questionable. They received the Rebbe’s agreement, and his holy blessing.

    “When the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu visited the Rebbe, in Cheshvan 5752, to the best of my recollection the Rebbe’s response about a supervising organization in this matter was that if Rabbi Eliahu would personally take responsibility he could be relied upon.”

    Blood Transfusions3

    Question: Blood transfusions have become very common, and are becoming increasingly more so. Why aren’t we careful about whom the blood is coming from? Theoretically, this would “dull the heart” much more than, say, an infant nursing from a non-Jewish nurse.4

    Response: Possibly the reason why people are not particular about this is:

    a) Usually blood transfusions are reserved for cases of critical need, or at least for the seriously ill;

    b) The blood transfusion is only a one-time event, as opposed to the ongoing nursing described in the Shulchan Aruch there.5

    Contact Lenses

    The Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, relates that the Rebbe refused to use contact lenses. Similarly, he responded to several Chabad women and girls: “It’s not worthwhile.” “Don’t use them (if possible).” “My opinion against using them is well known.”6

    According to Rabbi Groner, the Rebbe did not seem to differentiate between ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ lenses. [Parenthetically, the issues that the doctors point to, such as infections, etc., are also not specific to one type.]


    Regarding the earache you write about, according to your description, it sometimes results from eczema in the ear, and the holes that it causes. If this is the case, there are doctors who deal with this, and heal it with ointments, and through ensuring that water does not enter the ear, etc.

    Environmental Psychology8

    The doctors have a rule: If a patient has spent too much time in the same environment, the doctor instructs him to get away for awhile, or engage himself in some other activity. This helps to strengthen his health.

    That doesn’t mean that what he was doing until now wasn’t good. Even if everything was fine, the boredom itself can have a negative effect. The same is true spiritually: “A constant enjoyment is not enjoyable.” We must always move higher, and break out of our previous boundaries.

    Gastric Surgery9

    Question: Should an overweight person undergo a surgery removing sections of his stomach?

    Response: It is a wonder that there can even be a question about getting involved with such a surgery, especially since the results are uncertain (to the degree necessary), etc! and especially since the only reason for it is since she is heavy?! The whole idea is out of the question.

    Health Foods10

    Question: Should one keep to a diet of health foods only?

    Response: Regarding diets, etc: What one eats is not so important (as long as it is properly Kosher). What is important is the intent of his eating: is it to fulfill his desires, or to satisfy his hunger, or does he eat in order to be healthy, and thereby to do good deeds, etc. See also Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 231 [where it says that all of a person’s actions must be for the sake of Heaven].

    Normal life for any Jewish man or woman is only if their lifestyle is in accordance with Torah and Mitzvot (as elaborated upon in the Shulchan Aruch). Any lack or deviation therefrom puts the person in a situation comparable to a fish that has jumped out of the river or sea onto dry land;11 even during the moments that it is still alive, it is only floundering around, and not living a true, normal life.


    In response to your letter, in which you write about your health, and especially your hoarseness: You write that you consulted several doctors and they could not find a cause. They instructed you to rest — at least rest as far as limiting speech. You explain in detail the unique hardships that this would create for your work and your job.

    In such situations one may say, to use our Sages’ phrase13, “the loss is outweighed by the gain,” i.e. by seemingly losing temporarily (through heeding the doctor’s instructions), you will be gaining much more in the long term. Surely they are not demanding that you don’t talk at all, but rather just that you cut down on it.

    It is also worth asking your doctor about talking only from the lips outwards (of course, only in the physical sense, and not, Heaven forbid, in the spiritual/internal sense of “lip-service”). For the past several decades, they have tried to teach this method to speakers, especially those who speak relatively a lot — even if they are completely healthy. The general idea is learning how to talk — though with a loud voice and with vitality — using only the external organs of speech, such as the lips and tongue, etc., without inner strain. This will certainly benefit you greatly, also with regard to your particular issue. And, this benefit will probably continue even after you are healed, and back to your full strength.

    Kidney Stones14

    You are correct that in many cases like yours, and possibly in even more serious instances, the stones passed from the kidneys without surgery, just by certain lifestyle changes. Included in these are hot baths, and considerable liquid intake. Some people ensure that the liquids should have some vegetable fats, etc. It would be worthwhile to consult with the doctors about this.

    From your letter it is unclear where the stone is located. Sometimes it may be reached and broken into pieces, which makes it easier to pass afterwards.


    Our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were shepherds. Our Sages explain16 that they were completely absorbed in G-d’s will.17 Living a pastoral lifestyle spared them from the distractions and tumult of most worldly concerns, so that they would be able to serve G-d wholeheartedly.

    The same is true for us. We must separate ourselves at least every now and then from the “rat-race,” from the noise and confusion of city life, and find some quiet time for relative solitude for a couple of hours a day. At that time, one should think about matters that bring serenity to his soul, and not issues that upset him or make him nervous. Such conduct strengthens the health of the soul, calms the nerves, and frees one’s thought from disturbances.

    As in every other area, regarding meditation too, one may apply the verse18 “Behold I have placed before you today life and good” as well as the converse. Hence one often finds aspects of idolatry connected with meditations.

    It is a famous question: Why does G-d allow the sun, moon, and stars to exist? After all, there are people that bow down to and worship them. The Sages’ response was:19 “Just because there are fools, G-d should destroy His world?!”

    Meditation is often practiced in conjunction with rituals such as burning incense, bowing down to forms or to human beings, etc. It has thus become a terrible calamity, which has spread throughout the United States and other countries, including the Holy Land.

    They chose a nice-sounding name for it, “transcendental meditation,” implying something above the intellect, beyond limitation, despite the fact that it includes outright idol worship, or at the very least derivatives of idolatry. In this present darkness of exile, people don’t even imagine how many sons and daughters of Israel, young and old, have fallen into this trap, not only in the United States, but even in the Holy Land and in the Holy City of Jerusalem, where they have erected a popular center which they proudly promote here in the Diaspora.

    Our Sages say,20 Idolatry is compared to leprosy. Indeed, the affliction continues to spread. Since each Jewish soul is a “complete world,” one must sacrifice his life to save it.21 This is especially so with respect to idolatry, which is a sin where “one should be killed rather than transgress.”22 Nonetheless, many people are afraid to get involved, viz. “They were in their own eyes as grasshoppers;”23 i.e., they stand at the side and remain silent. In fact, rabbis are even afraid to rule what types of meditation are permitted, since it is possible that through the permitted kind, people will, Heaven forbid, get involved in the forbidden kind.

    On the other hand, we must remember that we are not talking about healthy people. Indeed, one should not prescribe meditation for a healthy person, which would take him out of his regular sphere of work in Divine service; since “Man was created for toil.”24 Such a prescription could be the opposite of Judaism, and especially the opposite of the path of Chassidut. We believe that people should work amongst others, and not separate themselves. Someone who is capable of work should do so, and should feel that it accomplishes a purpose. In fact, the Talmud relates that the people of Mechuza, who used to carry heavy loads, fell ill when the opportunity to work was withheld from them, and those who caused the problem were forced to pay damages.25

    Thought and meditation have their place, as a part of Divine service. The law is26 that before each prayer we are to meditate upon the “lowliness of man” and “the greatness of G-d.” Obviously, it is impossible to meditate while sitting in the middle of Times Square in New York, amidst the tumult of day-to-day life. Meditative solitude is beneficial at specific times, and for the sake of specific purposes.

    However, the discussion here is about people who need a cure, who need to settle their nerves and spirits. There are also others who have convinced themselves that they require meditation, and that too is an illness. If it is withheld from them, they will turn to the gurus who perform it in a manner of idolatry. On the other hand, if one grants their desire, and presents meditation to them in a Torah manner, such as the explanation of the words “Shema Yisrael,” and the like, it will again turn into a meditation about the greatness of G-d or the lowliness of man, and the patient may become depressed. This is obviously not healthy for the spirit.

    It is therefore necessary, at least as a start, to compromise and ensure merely that the treatment is a kosher one. It is a fact that all those who attempted to cure themselves with a kosher treatment were successful. We must explain to people that the cure is not dependant on incense or gurus and the like, Heaven forbid.

    The counselor must be an expert from a medical standpoint, and also an expert in this area of Halacha. He must be able to rule regarding which aspects of this treatment may be applied, without derivatives of idolatry. He must apply this treatment sparingly, just like all other remedies that are applied only under direction from a doctor.

    This is a holy obligation for all doctors who work in the area of ailments of the mind and the treatment of neurological problems. Whether doctor, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, etc., each must acquire knowledge and expertise in meditation treatments. They must then advertise properly, as is the custom in this country. When a person comes to them to be healed, they should not connect the meditative treatment with other issues, even if they are indeed good and holy; not even with Kabbala, Chassidut, or the secrets of the Torah. For if we set any additional requirements other than the treatment itself, it is almost a certainty that the vast majority of Jews who desperately need to be saved from the idolatrous methods will not agree to forsake them.

    Even those few who can be taught these concepts as well, need not receive it immediately at the first stage. They should first be saved, and only then can they be taught the secrets of Torah.

    Nowadays, for the most part, people aren’t willfully rejecting the right path. If the opportunity exists to do something in a kosher manner, they will not choose to purposely do the opposite.27

    When there will be success in this regard, it will become possible to start saving even Jews who have already fallen into their nets. This is especially true if we will not wait until people come to ask for treatment, but rather approach those who are in need — even if they haven’t recognized their need yet — and talk to them in their language, and tell him the truth: that we are interested in spiritually healing him without any strings attached. If he puts forth an effort, he will see that this is true.

    “Do not be embarrassed by the scoffers”28 is a condition that is prerequisite to all four sections of the Code of Jewish Law. Don’t be embarrassed by those who scoff and sow doubts: Who says you will be able to convince the doctor? Who says the doctor will be successful with the treatments? Who says there is a basis for this altogether? All of these doubts are Amalek — “who cooled you off along the way”29 — who tries to cool people off and convince them that they should worry only about themselves. This characteristic is the root of all evil characteristics, and we should not be affected by it at all.


    Regarding the migraine headaches from which you are suffering. In addition to the many new medicines, including various types of nicotinic acid, it would also be worthwhile for you to get a small mezuzah that was checked and found to be kosher. Wrap it in layers of felt, and carry it with you (of course, only when one is permitted to carry, and not in the public domain on Shabbat, etc.). This will certainly have a positive effect on your health.

    Multiple Sclerosis31

    Recently it came to my attention that a new approach to the treatment of M.S. has been made by means of the drug “Interferon.” Although at present it is believed to be helpful in controlling the disorder, it is expected that in similar situations, it will prove helpful also as a cure.


    Regarding your letter about moles: Many doctors feel that cutting it off may aggravate the situation, causing it to re-grow, etc. On the other hand (at least in their view), if one doesn’t touch it — not even scratching or picking at it — it is much better. It is also a good sign that yours are not causing you any discomfort. Therefore, you should consult with another expert doctor about all of the above. If there end up being differences of opinion amongst the doctor, taking the passive route (i.e. doing nothing) is better.

    Naturopathic Doctors33

    Question: Is it desirable to turn to a naturopathic doctor for assistance?

    Response: It depends on how much success he has had in the past.

    Non-Kosher Injections34

    Question: Is one permitted to inject into the body medicines that include non-Kosher ingredients?

    Response: This too is common practice, without question, by people who are extremely observant and careful. One may derive benefit from things that are only forbidden to be eaten, but may be used for other purposes.


    Inasmuch as you ask my “advice” in this matter, I can only say in a general way that I am not in favor of radical treatment if there is any possibility of treating a patient in some other way.

    I must also add that it is customary among Jews that when there is a difference of opinion among doctors as to the urgency of an operation, or whether to operate or not, it should be treated as any other Shaala [halachic question], to consult with a competent practicing Rov, with whom the various aspects and details of the case could be personally discussed, and he can then state his opinion in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch.


    In my opinion:

    a) The doctors exaggerate in their estimation of the damage caused by a person being overweight.

    b) Putting it out of mind — at the very least making sure not to constantly obsess about and focus on it —

    * will make it easier to withhold from excessive eating and drinking,

    * will strengthen your serenity and peace of mind, thus leading to a better metabolism, which will cut down on the extra fat.

    * And, equally imperative, will allow you to serve G-d with joy.

    Perinatal Jaundice

    The Rebbe’s secretaries relate, that if a child came down with jaundice, not only with the infection itself but even with the perinatal condition, the Rebbe would emphatically state that they should wait seven complete days after the baby has healed before performing a circumcision.37

    Preventative Medicine38

    Question: Is it permitted to perform medical procedures or treatments only for a sick person, or may one use preventative medicine, i.e. methods to strengthen the body so that it will not fall ill?

    Response: This is something that is done every single day, even by Jewish leaders and Torah greats. Maimonides’ De’ot chapter 4 deals mostly with preventative medicine. Indeed Scripture is replete with such references, viz., “All the diseases… I will not place on you, for I am the L_rd your healer,”39 i.e. preventing a disease is also considered a treatment.


    Re your letter that someone is being treated by a doctor who deals with mental health. Though it is not certain from your letter which doctor you meant, unfortunately there is a segment of these doctors who begin immediately talking to the patient against G-d, honor of Heaven, honor for one’s father and mother, etc. A lot of research and clarification is necessary to determine what kind of great benefit will be derived from this treatment, and even if it is indeed valuable, whether it is not outweighed by the losses caused over time.

    However, it is obvious that some of these doctors have healed and helped very properly and directly. This is especially true every since a certain professor41 found the inner fortitude to announce that (contrary to the beliefs of the famous originator of this treatment42): “Belief in G-d, and overall religious persuasion which lends meaning to life, etc. etc. — are among the most effective steps towards healing.” Nevertheless, for various reasons, this approach has not yet reached broad sections of such doctors, which is why clarification is necessary.

    Psychic “Healers”43

    Question: Should I continue to study and practice healing through parapsychology, scientology, telepathy, etc.?

    Response: Although the Torah recognizes that such powers do exist, and can have an effect — though not from a holy source — it is absolutely inappropriate for Jewish people. The verse says,44“From the signs of the heavens do not tremble, for the non-Jews shall tremble from them.” In other words, Jews have no reason to fear or worry, since they have a direct connection to G-d through the Torah, and they receive their vitality, support, and assistance directly from Him. Thus, they do not need any of these roundabout ways.


    Every now and then I get the opportunity to see some of the fruits of your pen in newspapers, regarding matters relevant to mental health. For someone like you — and especially according to my recollection of our talks in the past — there is no need to stress that mental stability and healing — for every single Jewish soul — is related to the degree of his connection to Torah, about which it says,46 “For they are our life and the length of our days,” and the fulfillment of its Mitzvot, about which it says,47 “You shall live through them.” If every person’s bodily health is dependent on the health of their soul, how much more so is this emphasized and highlighted in the case of a Jew.


    Treatment through “radium” waves (radiation), especially for young children, requires great care. If one of the doctors says not to do it, you should not.49

    Generally, between the two treatment options that you mentioned, surgery or radiation, I would be more inclined to the first. Obviously, this is only after receiving approval on the specifics from a Halachic authority. The reason for this is because with radiation one cannot always foresee the way the treatment will unfold, and it is not always certain that they are careful of the things they should be careful about.

    As is customary in such situations, you should get a decision from two doctors who are expert in this field, in addition to the approval of a Halachic authority, as mentioned.

    RH Factor During Pregnancy50

    “…I do not agree at all with the suggestion that your wife undergo an operation on her tubes, since that would almost certainly preclude the possibility of her ever becoming pregnant. You mention other options, seemingly methods of birth control. You should consult a Halachic authority, and share with him in detail the doctor’s opinion.

    “It should be noted, however, that often what they assume to be a clash between the bloods, actually has no effect upon the baby. Also, sometimes the situation improves before birth.

    “In this case, since you write that your wife is having medical problems, it is very possible that the symptoms that you wrote about are being caused by her poor health, and have nothing to do with a rejection of the baby’s blood by the mother’s. If that is the case, then through her recovery in her general health, there will be nothing to worry about at all…”

    Ruptured Disk51

    Regarding your husband’s health, as he is suffering from a ruptured disk:

    Here in the US they now try to avoid surgery, and try instead other forms of treatment.

    Salk Vaccine52

    Question: What is the correct approach to the Salk Vaccine that they have started giving to children?

    Response: This has already become the custom here in the US for many months, even amongst the most observant groups. In other words, there is no question as far as issues of Kosher and the like are concerned. Obviously (from a medical perspective) one should make certain that the vaccine is from a good and reliable company.

    Side Effects53

    Regarding uncertainty about cortisone (which was administered over a sustained period of time, and caused delay in the child’s development): The same is true of the other antibiotics, although obviously the side effects aren’t the same with all of them. In any case, recently the doctors avoid using them, and seek alternatives. One of the ideas is to switch medicines periodically.

    Skin Problems54

    … I will mention your son at a good time at the holy resting place of my father-in-law the Rebbe, for a blessing for all of his needs, and especially for an improvement in his health with regards to the issues you raised. You will undoubtedly consult with doctors regarding the recent new treatments in this area, and ask whether they can be utilized in this case.

    With your forgiveness, I must state the truth, which is that in most cases such conditions (skin problems) come as a result of the parents not having kept the laws of family purity properly while the mother was pregnant. If, Heaven forbid, this was true in your case, you can still correct it to some extent by being extra careful from now on about these laws, and by attempting to increase other people’s care in these areas as well.

    May G-d — Who sees what takes place in a person’s heart, and sees your resolution to improve and to have a positive influence on your surroundings — cause the medical procedure to be successful as much as possible. And, when you do your part fully, He will send also a complete recovery. I hope that you will find the right words to explain this to your wife as well, and may it be G-d’s will that you be able to share good news about this matter…”

    Sleep Apnea55

    It is almost certain that this is related to your nerves. If you read the Bedtime Shema with a general intent that you are turning to “He who stands over you” — as we say in the Bedtime Shema, “G-d is your shadow on your right hand56” — it is certain that there is no place for anything negative. That will cause the same in health issues, for “they will melt as wax.”57

    Obviously, this does not take away from the natural means, i.e., heeding the doctor’s instructions, since that is the way G-d established His world. [The reason for this is explained in Kuntres Uma’ayan,58 on the verse59 “And G-d will bless you in all that you do.”] You should also ask the doctor whether you should make a bigger separation between eating and sleeping than you have been accustomed to in the past.

    Sleep Disorders60

    Regarding the disturbance of your sleep, etc., about which you consulted a doctor and it did not help:

    First of all you should check the mezuzot in your home, as well as your tefillin, to make sure they are properly Kosher. Every weekday before your morning prayers you should set aside a few coins for charity. After prayers every day, even on Shabbat and holidays, you should recite the portion of Psalms as it is divided into the days of the month. It would also be beneficial if you wore Tzitzit not only by day, but also when you are sleeping, as the Arizal dictates.61 When you do these things, I have strong hope that everything will work out.

    Spirituality and Health62

    A doctor who was interested in Chassidic philosophy once wrote the Rebbe about the fact that joy has been scientifically linked to hormonal secretions which are carried by the blood to the brain, and that this lessens — in his opinion — the spiritual implications of joy. The Rebbe responded:

    Since the body and the soul are bound together, integrated into one composite entity, it is obvious that every event occurring to the soul will set off a similar occurrence in the body. I hope you will agree that this integration within the “microcosm,” man — who exemplifies the true unity in the macrocosm — is not, as Spinoza’s pantheistic approach would claim, because everything, even the spiritual, is truly natural and material, but rather just the opposite: Everything is really spirituality. And beyond this, indeed everything is really G-dliness, as the Alter Rebbe points out in Tanya63 when explaining the verse64 “one nation in the land:” “Even in material matters they are not separated from the true One.”

    It is worth pointing out that those who espouse “materialism” get very excited whenever they find some supposedly spiritual quality manifest in physical bodily changes, such as electrical impulses, etc.

    The truth is, however, that not only does this not pose any contradiction to the Jewish approach, but on the contrary, it is a logical result of the true unity of G-d. G-d is one, and there is nothing else besides Him. Not only is there no other god besides Him, but there is nothing else — no true existence — besides Him. This is one of the fundamental concepts of Chassidut, as explained in the second section of Tanya, Sha’ar HaYichud Ve’HaEmunah.

    [In a letter to a conference of observant doctors the Rebbe again wrote about this issue:65]

    As doctors, you should completely negate the theory that the material is dominant, taking into account the dependency of the body’s well-being on that of the spirit. If in the past there was a clear need for “a healthy spirit in a healthy body,” in our times we have come to yet a greater recognition of how even slight damage to the spirit causes a much greater damage to the body. The healthier the spirit is, the greater control is it able to exert over the body, and the greater is its ability to correct failings within the body. This is why many physical medical procedures have a much greater impact upon the body when accompanied by a strong will and strong spirit on the part of the patient.

    This concept of form (quality) over matter (quantity) is further highlighted by the fact that there is growing recognition, even in areas of physical well-being, that some treatments etc. are not necessarily dependent on quantity, for example, hormonal and vitamin treatments and the like66 which are administered in minute quantity.

    By the way: It is stated that “from my flesh I see G-d” — from the recognition of the soul’s dominance over the body, it is only a small step to recognizing G-d’s control of our world. As our Sages said67: “Just as the spirit fills the body, tolerates it, and sees but is not seen, so too the Holy One Blessed Be He fills this world, tolerates it, and sees but is not seen.”


    Re your letter about stuttering: Since a person must do everything he can within nature, you should ask a doctor and follow his advice. However — most importantly — you should also add in your diligence and application to your Torah studies, both the revealed aspects of Torah and Chassidut. This study should be in accordance with the instruction of our Sages69 “a study that leads to action” — to the fulfillment of Mitzvot with extra care and devotion. In addition to the fact that the above is G-d’s command, it is also the conduit through which to receive G-d’s blessings — “who heals all flesh and performs wonders.”70 The flesh-and-blood doctor is no more that G-d’s agent.

    We see plainly that especially the ailment of stuttering is greatly helped by strengthening one’s trust in G-d, that He oversees every single person with particular Divine Providence, since a major factor in the above ailment is a lack of serenity and self-confidence.

    Testicular Surgery71

    Regarding the surgery that is called “testicular,” you should follow the advice of two expert doctors with success, but you should first consult with a Halachic authority as to whether this indeed has anything to do with the testicles, etc.


    Early in the Rebbe’s leadership, Rabbi Leibel Bistrizcki suffered greatly from toothaches and inflammations. All the doctors and medicines were to no avail. When he told the Rebbe, he responded: “Check your tzitzit.” He checked them, and found them to be perfectly valid. He even showed them to several of the elderly Chabad Rabbis, Rabbi Shmuel Levitin and Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson, o.b.m., and they confirmed that the Tzitzit were completely kosher.

    When he related this to the Rebbe, he told him that he should continuously check them himself. He explained that the Chernobyl Chassidim used to check their Tzitzit several times a day, for the checking itself helps the teeth.73


    It is well known in this country that diet can help with ulcers if it is maintained scrupulously. The benefit is not just in quieting the pains, but also in healing the ulcer. The pills that they prescribe along with the diet are only to speed the healing, to strengthen general health, and to make up for the vitamin deficiencies that may be caused by the diet, etc.

    Various Treatments75

    Regarding the medical treatment, you should act according to the agreed-upon advice of (at least) two expert doctors (and, in any event, not during the ‘Three Weeks’).

    Regarding your varicose veins, you should try elastic stockings, injections, etc.


    In general, this is not a proper mode of behavior according to Kaballah and Chassidut. Every person is obliged to “refine” [from evil, and elevate to holiness] his portion of foods. Through not eating meat, he is not refining it — except for certain individuals or holy people.

    1. See some of the specific responses and some discussion about them in the Assia journal, vol. 61-62 (Nissan, 5758), p. 47.
    2. For instance, on the 27th of Adar, 5751, the Rebbe responded: “Is this permitted according to the Torah?”
    3. Igrot Kodesh, vol. 14, p. 108.
    4. Cf. Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah, 81:7.
    5. The issue is discussed in Shu”t Chelkat Yoseph, vol. 2, 40.
    6. If the Rebbe ever gave approval at all, it was rare.One of the Rebbe’s secretaries related that he was once present at a discussion between the Rebbe and a renowned ophthalmologist. The doctor discussed a patient of his, a woman who had serious eye problems, and whose only hope (in the doctor’s opinion) to assure her continued sight was through getting contact lenses. Despite all of his explanations, etc., the Rebbe responded: “You will not succeed to get approval from me. In my opinion, it is not worthwhile for her to use lenses.” Obviously, when the patient heard that the Rebbe disapproved, she rejected the notion, and her eyesight improved without them.

    On another occasion, the Rebbe showed that same secretary a report from an Israeli newspaper where they wrote about two cases where medical problems were caused by the use of contact lenses. After the secretary read the report, the Rebbe said: “From this you can see that I am correct about my objections.”

    7. Igrot Kodesh, vol. 22, p. 54.
    8. Sichat 13 Tammuz, 5711 (Sichot Kodesh5711, 246).
    9. Heichal Menachem, vol. 1, p. 189.
    10. Tzaddik L’Melech, vol. 7, p. 219.
    11. This parable was employed by Rabbi Akiva in Berachot, 61b. cf. Ta’anit, 24a.
    12. A reply to an educator. Igrot Kodesh, vol. 18, p. 189. See there the lesson that the Rebbe suggested may be derived from this situation.
    13. Avot, 5:12.
    14. Ibid. p. 259.
    15. Sichat 13 Tammuz, 5739.
    16. See Rabeinu Bachye, Bereishit, 46:30.
    17. Bereishit Rabba, 47:6.
    18. Devarim, 30:15.
    19. Avoda Zara, 7:4.
    20. Vayikra Rabba, 17:7.
    21. Sanhedrin, 4:5.
    22. Sanhedrin, 74a. Yoreh De’ah, 157:1.
    23. Bamidbar, 13:33.
    24. Iyov, 5:7.
    25. Bava Metziah, 77a.
    26. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 88:1.
    27. Chullin, 4a.
    28. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 1:1.
    29. Devarim, 25:11. Lit. karcha — who met you. However, kar also means cold.
    30. Igrot Kodesh, vol. 10, p. 239.
    31. L’Chaim Weekly, 15 Tevet 5763 (Dec. 20, 2002) letter dated 25 Cheshvan, 5742 [November 22, 1981]
    32. Igrot Kodesh, ibid. p. 269.
    33. Kovetz Heichal Menachem, vol, 2, p. 191.There was once a situation with a critically ill patient, where the opinions of the regular medical doctors and those of the naturopathic healers were diametrically opposed to one another. They asked the Rebbe what to do. The Rebbe instructed them to ask a Halachic authority, and agreed that they should consult with Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach of Jerusalem. He ruled that they should follow the opinion of the regular doctors, since more people work in that field, and they are therefore able to invest much more in research and development.

    [Heard from Rabbi Mendel Gluckowsky, Rav of the Chabad community in Rechovot, who was involved in the story.]

    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:51 PM  

  • B"H
    Shalom uBrocha!
    I'm sorry I didn't mean to paste the whole page in my previous post just the part about the Naturopathic Medicine.
    Yechi haMelech haMoshiach!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:53 PM  

  • Ariel

    Why do you think the Rebbe ZT"L (Sheyichiyeh? Zol zein gezunt?) never used acupunture himself, even though he had many ailments where, according to the practitioners of this ancient magic, should have helped him. If it helps people get pregnant, why did he not tell his many followers who came for his advice in this matter to such a magician? He very simply did not. Why didn't our sages know about this miracle art of healing, and the amazing facts about chi, meridians and imaginary pulses and organs in the body. Answer: It is nonsense and real treatment is a much better option than this placebo. What you likely experienced was the placebo effect, heightened by countertrauma and the power of suggestion. It is powerful stuff but has no real long term effect. It just gets you through the moment, and needn't be more than a 2 cent sugar pill. The Rebbe never told anyone to abandon medical treatment and seek magic medicine, as far as I can ell.

    That which you say about Tefilin is nice, but it simply has no source other than hope and imagination. I do not believe the sages ever ascribed healing in particular to Tefilin. The CR did on occasion say that Tefilin helped with strength, and began a campaign during the six day war for Jews to put on Tefilin. The connection of Tefilin as healer with a method which is not healing says only that it trivial to connect imagination and nonsense.

    Even the part about naturopathic doctors sounds less like a ringing endorsement of the method that a plea for the buyer to beware.

    I have seen far too many people filched out of their money, and it is nothing more than stealing from people who are in a vulnerable situation by conning them into building false hopes on products and services that will do little to help them.

    I also fail to see what we, as Orthodox Jews, stand to gain by advocating and sustaining such garbage, FROM TORAH NO LESS!

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:03 AM  

  • Oh and while we at it, if you can communicate with Rebbe, why don't you ask him to settle this magic medicine debate once and for all? Although, I'll bet we get different answers, even if we pull the same page in Igeros.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:06 AM  

  • B"H
    Shalom uBrocha!
    I have setled a number of arguements by using Igros.In this case I have no question or doubt in my mind so if you have a question go and ask here for example and send me a copy of the reply or just tell me the synopsis of it.If you study American history you'd see that accupuncture homeapthy etc. were diliberatly pusued by "traditional medicine" since it was cheaper and unwelcome competition if you do research these types of medicine are succesfully used in many other parts of the world and don't even have title "alternative" speak with my friend Stas Gavronsky here excelent accupuncturist and naturapthic medicine dr. and very intelegent and nice Russian Jew succesfully treated olympic champions as well as my grandmother :-)
    PS:Both of my grandmothers were doctors in Russia one was a family phisician and a cardiologist another was a pediatrician very good and respected in their fields both of them often prescribed herbs and sometimes recomended people to undergo accupuncture and sometimes use it themselves it's not a placebo.
    Don't be so arogant to dismiss something you don't know or understand without further study of the subject (same aplies to identity of Moshiach, geocentricity and other things you make fun of for that matter)
    Have a gut Shabbos and happy Purim!
    Sincerely Yours :
    Ariel Sokolovsky
    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!
    (this is being posted in portland so it's not Shabbos yet here but the blog may show otherwise since it may be set up for Eastern Time)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:05 PM  

  • Ariel

    Geocentricity - has a fine observation

    Acupuncture - Did the Chabad Rebbe EVER use these methods himself???? Was he not as open minded as you are?

    I realize that this is evidence from the Rebbe's life, when he expressed himself with words and actions, rather than with self interpreted references in Igros, but it is of at least equal validity, IMHO. Please reread my analysis of anecdotal evidence, since that seems to hold quite a bit of sway with you. Most of all, consider that, as Jews, we do not believe that meridians and the flow of chi is real.

    Lourdes - Do you discount the thousands of stories of people leaving their crutches next to pool after immersing and kissing the Virgin's getchka? See where anecdotal evidence takes one?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:01 AM  

  • Ariel

    I would never make fun of the identity of Moshiach. I have nothing against Chabad or its venerable late Rebbe. I do not even have anything against its philosophical wackiness, as long as I am not charged with defending it.

    If the Rebbe is Moshiach, and is coming At at, as he said more than 12 years ago, I am right there with him.

    But, I have studied the bases of acupuncture and other magic medicine, rather more than one of my time constraints should allow to such silly subjects. I have also learned about the ways people fool themselves and others, even very brilliant and educated people. It is a matter of psychology, not intelligence, ask any performing magician.

    I put it to you again. Did the Rebbe ever use magic medicine for HIS OWN AILMENTS, cardiac problems, problems with his foot et al. ?????? If not, I have indication that he had no particular love for these methods, then why would you, supposedly his follower, support them?? Are you his follower or his LEADER? Is he or you, your Bubbe, etc. the more knowledgeable in this matter?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:11 AM  

  • By the grace of G-d
    Shalom uBrocha!

    I don't know every single doctor who ever treated the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a and certainly don't know every single treatment used.Truth is it's irelevant to me as a Chossid if the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a ever used accupuncture or any other treatment himself all that matters to me is the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a sugested to various people from time to time to use various types of medicine and sometimes the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a even said not to undergo any treatment (sometimes against the "expert" opinion of renown doctors, as a prophet he can do that you know...) and it was discovered later people were healed without treatment or the diagnosis was totaly mistaken in the 1st place.I read a story where the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a agreed that a person should participate in a trial of an untested treatment for a serious decease something like cancer I think this person was the only one for whom this treatment worked to make a point that in reality the person is healed because G-d wants him to be healed and not because of a particular treatment or a particular genious doctor.It's probably hard for you to accept this since You seem to have all symptoms of the disease described in the second half of the Chapter 8 Likutei Amarim Tanya
    The cure for which would probably be a miracle thru Igrot Koidesh yet it seems you'll probably not ask a question unless you are sick and tried everything else or in other desperate condition (chas ve'sholom!) somewhat like a Jewish Communist would all of a sudden come to shule and pray to G-d when nothing else would help(It says in Midrash Rabba one must have as much faith in the leader of the generation as one has in G-d which is why I think the anology is apropriate).
    You think there is no source in Judaism for asking questions this way yet even Vilna Gaon used to ask questions from G-d by opening Tehilim at random left a special method of interpreting the answers it's called Garal haGra.Perhaps to be consistent you should make fun of him too as well as Ramban, and all other Rishonim and acharonim who hold like this.Better yet make fun of Urim veTumim which is very similar to this and can be probably made fun of same way like you make fun of Igros by a bigger skeptic then you.:-)
    In fact as a matter of practical halocha it's permited to do so.And the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a himself quotes that in a Sicha see Sefer haSichos 5749 page 489
    see footnote 109 here:
    or find the expanded uncensored version in original Yidish or Hebrew translation somewhere on
    or if you want you can read this article in Hebrew listing many sources for this custom in Jewish tradition.
    brocha ve'hatzlocha:
    Ariel Sokolovsky
    PS:It seems aparent to me that the leaders of the modern Orthodox movement to which you seem to belong teach the most "rational" posible explanations for everything in Judaism to ponder to their particular audience of Jews with the spiritual condition mentioned above in Tanya Chapter 8 and since you were probably educated in this enviroment it gives you the illussion that these explanations are normative Judaism and everything that can't be rationaly explained belongs to the "lunatic fringe".
    PPS:Shmuel haNovi cured Neeman from tzaras by telling him to go dip in Yordan 7 times and the man was angry that he was not getting the cure he imagined and it took his servants to convince him to do the right and smart thing to listen to the prophet of G-d even if his advice makes no logical sense to you.Ne'eman was cured eventualy became a righteous gentile and his grandchildren were high-priests in Beis HaMikdash.Are you dumber and more arogant than an ancient Aramean general, that's the question?:-)

    If you don't object I'm also posting this under your article about Igros since it deals with both of these issues.
    brocha ve'hatzlocha
    Ariel Sokolovsky
    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 9:06 AM  

  • See response under post on Igros, higher on the log.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:04 PM  

  • I know quite a few lubavitchers into this non sense. I went to a doctor a couple times who was a lubavitcher and into alternative medicine. The next time I got sick I said no thanks and went somewhere else that would actually prescribe medicine. I felt much better in the end :)

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