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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

The Siddur and Health Care

Posted by rabbiart on September 5, 2009

I was sitting in shul this morning thinking about  the Torah and healthcare.   Thinking about the Torah portion’s repeated admonitions to be mindful and take care of the most power-less classes in society, I was lamenting that there was not a verse that spoke directly about taking care of the sick.  The siddur addresses this mandate in a number of places.At our shul we daven from what is now the “old” Siddur Sim Shalom. Like many siddurim it includes the traditional mishna and gemorah passages to be read in the very early part of birchot hashachar. In our version of the passage found in Talmud Brachot 127a, we read about the deeds that yield immediate fruit and continue to yield fruit in time to come – הקרן קימת לעולם.  Sure enough, right in between attending the house of study and helping the needy bride is visiting the sick. (Here’s a great article about this mitzvah, including that there is a dispute – of course 🙂 – whether it is one of the official 613 mitzvot.)

I suppose one could argue that the existence of a mitzvah of bikur holim even if officially one of the 613 mitzvot, doesn’t mean that rabbinic Judaism, or the Torah for that matter, mandates a particular healthcare system, or any kind of “right to healthcare.”  The mitzvah is based – as Rabbi Tranin’s article points out – on HaShem’s visit to Avraham Avinu on the third day after his (Avraham’s) circumcision.  The other Torah source for this mitzvah is Vayikra 19:18’s commandment – v’ahavta l’re-echa kamocha – you shall love your fellow human person as you love yourself.

Therefore we visit the sick because HaShem visited the sick, and because we would want to be visited when we are sick.So what about healthcare for all? (BTW – Does this mean that its advocates want to turn the U.S. into a socialist country.  State ownership of all means of production, state ownership of all capital?  It’s a great boogeyman, for people who check under their beds and in their closets each night looking for same.) In the second paragraph of the amidah, daily, festival and shabbat, we read that HaShem heals the sick – rofei holim – along with lifting up the fallen, clothing the naked, and freeing the bound.  What does the tradition say?  We should strive to be like – in a human way – HaShem.  As HaShem heals the sick, we should heal the sick.

Again, how can one take the Siddur seriously, take וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ seriously, and have an attitude of “you don’t have health care?” too bad for you?  In a country where so, so many people take pride in saying that it they are “religious”, or where people take pride in claiming the Unites States is a “christian country”, then how can these same people turn a blind eye to all the failures of our health care system?  Yes, it is from 2000, and the World Health Organization has stopped doing these rankings, but in 2000 the richest, most well-off country in the world ranked all of 37th, two spots ahead of Cuba.

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One Response to “The Siddur and Health Care”

  1. Shirley Gould said

    So many complaints about long waits and similar bureaucratic snafus, but we have them now, with our so-called system. My experience with Medicare, especially this past year, makes me want EVERYBODY to have this kind of medical treatment. Without it, I shudder to think of what might have become of me.

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