Parashat Metzora

Is It Blasphemous To Heal People?

Even if we view leprosy as a punishment, we must work to heal the afflicted, allowing our sense of compassion to override justice or logic.

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According to Midrash Temurah, the psalmist compares people to grass because "just as the tree, if not weeded, fertilized and plowed, will not grow and bring forth its fruits, so with the human body." The fertilizer is the medicine and the means of healing, and the tiller of the earth is the physician."

The Talmud understands the biblical injunction "not to stand (idly) by the blood of your brother" as mandating medical care. Rambam sees that obligation in the verse, "Let your brother live with you" and in "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

Perhaps Judaism's rejection of the 'logical' position reflects a different notion of how God and people are to relate. Rather than viewing God as an unchanging monarch and humanity as the passive recipient of whatever happens, the Jewish view of God and people is much more that of mutual lovers--both of whom desire the other to take an active role in developing their relationship and in making their house a home.

Judaism understands that we human beings have an active role in making our house--this earth--a home. By caring for its occupants, we demonstrate not blasphemy, but love--both for God and for God's creatures.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.