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The Torah and medicine



The Torah, one of many documents defining a Jew, the nature of God, and the elements of faith. It could be the blueprint for a Godly Israel. And a key source of the rule of law in Israel--or it should be. Is the ingathering of the Jews in the offing? But these Jews must turn to God, Whom their leaders, and the public in Israel, seem to have forsaken. (What parallels exist between Judaism and George Lucas' Jedi ideal?) It names many heroes, including Abraham and Sarah.

In The Secret Life of the Jew (1930), Rabbi David Miller writes: “In the Pharmacological Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University … it has been recently established, apparently as a new discovery, that menstruous women generate and carry menotoxin throughout their systems. Even in their pre-menstrual state, the onset of the period, they contaminate by contact to such an extent that it retards the development of and even kills plants” (The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, January 1924).

According to the Torah a person or an article becomes “unclean” by contact with a menstruous woman.

Other medical insights from the Torah

An open Torah scroll. This ancient manuscript has insights still valuable today.

Open Torah scroll. Photo: Lawrie Cate on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License

Other quotes from Rabbi Miller follow.

  • Dr. Peter Frank, known as “the founder of the modern science of public health,” writes:  “Very often do I read the rules of the Mosaic medical policy and their valuable sanitary laws which by far surpass many of our contemporary public health institutions  …”
  • Dr. E. Hortzka of Germany:  “We have to admit the stupendous knowledge and the perfect competency of the Hebrew law-givers in hygiene and sanitation. Everyone who is only slightly acquainted with the history of medicine will admit that many hygienic measures which we have introduced only in the last fifty years were known … [in] biblical laws.”
  • Charles W. Elliot: “Modern sciences are only corroborating the ancient Hebrew precepts.”  Sir James Cantlie agrees: “We have never upset one of Moses’ laws in regard to hygiene, sanitation, or medical teaching.  All that the scientists of today, with their microscopes and text books, did was to prove that the ancient lawgiver was right…. We had been trying hitherto to cure disease instead of preventing it, as Moses did.”
  • Rabbi Miller extols the Jewish laws of family purity as “a great boon to woman according to medical standards.” It is a preventative of many diseases of the female organs, including cancer. “It conserves her natural faculties and prolongs her youth and attractiveness,” more so in view of the limits and obligations which the Torah imposes on a Jewish husband in regard to conjugal relations with his wife. These limits contribute to her dignity, privacy, and independence.☼
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