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La mística ancestral y sus enigmas ¿Sabias que.....hace 1.800 años se realizaban intervenciones quirúrgicas? En el Talmud está escrito: Rabí Elazar, el hijo de Rabí Shimón dijo: «Entrañas mías, os aseguro que no seréis comidas por los gusanos». Sin embargo, interiormente, no estaba totalmente aplacado. Por tal razón le dieron a beber un anestésico y lo ingresaron a una sala de mármol. Abrieron su vientre y le extrajeron una gran cantidad de grasa con la que llenaron numerosos recipientes. La colocaron al sol en pleno verano boreal, en los meses de Tamuz y Av, y la misma no se deterioró. (Talmud, tratado de Babá Metzía 83b). ¿Sabias que... ...se recomienda ser dócil como el junco y no duro como el cedro? En el Talmud está escrito: Rabí Elazar el hijo de Rabí Shimón, venía de casa de su maestro, y montado sobre su burro paseaba por la orilla del río. Estaba alegre y colmado de orgullo, pues había estudiado mucho. Súbitamente, se apareció en el lugar un hombre de aspecto grotesco, –era el profeta Elías disfrazado, e hizo eso para adoctrinar al alumno–. El hombre le dijo: «La paz sea contigo Rabí». Pero el estudioso no le respondió el saludo, sino que le dijo: «Caramba, que horrendo ese hombre» y añadió: «¿Quizá todos los habitantes de tu ciudad son tan horrendos como tú?» El hombre le respondió: «No lo sé. Pero ya que consideras que soy tan horrendo, dirígete al Artista que me hizo y dile: Que horrendo ese hombre que has hecho». Cuando el hombre le dijo esto, el estudioso se dio cuenta que había pecado. Descendió del burro, y se postró ante él, le dijo: «Te he afligido, perdóname». El hombre le respondió: «No te perdono hasta que te dirijas al Artista que me hizo y le digas: Que horrendo ese hombre que has hecho». El estudioso lo siguió hasta que llegó a la ciudad. En es momento, los habitantes salieron a recibir al letrado y le decían: «La paz sea contigo Rabí. Rabí, maestro». El hombre les dijo: «¿A quien llaman maestro?». Le dijeron: «A ese que marcha detrás de ti». Les dijo: «Si ese es Rabí, que no se incrementen individuos como él en
Israel». Le dijeron: «¿Por qué?» Y el hombre les contó lo que le había hecho. Le dijeron: «Aunque así sea, perdónalo, porque es un individuo que sabe mucha Torá». El hombre dijo: «Lo perdono por ustedes, pero que no se acostumbre a actuar de ese modo». Inmediatamente Rabí Elazar el hijo de Rabí Shimón ingresó a la academia y disertó en público: «Siempre hay que ser dócil como el junco y no duro como el cedro». (Talmud, tratado de Taanit 20ª, Tosafot). ¿Sabias que... ...en la antigüedad no existía la vejez? La vejez surgió en el mundo como consecuencia de un pedido del patriarca Abraham. Pues desde el momento en que el Santo, Bendito Sea creó el mundo, hasta la época del patriarca Abraham, durante esas veinte generaciones, no existía la vejez. Como consecuencia de ello, cuando el hijo crecía junto a su padre, los individuos no reconocían quien de ellos nació primero. Lo mismo sucedía con un maestro y su alumno, no sabían a quien rendir honores. Pero Abraham, viendo lo que sucede, dijo: Amo del universo, si te parece bien, haz que se pueda distinguir entre el pequeño y el grande, entre el maestro y el alumno. El santo Bendito Sea dijo: Es propicio otorgar este fenómeno a través de este hombre justo. Y así aconteció. Como está escrito: “Abraham era anciano, bien entrado en años, y El Eterno lo había bendecido en todo”. (Génesis24:1) (Reshit Jojmá Jupat Eliahu Raba).
Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology
Liver Disease in the Talmud
Westreich, M. M.D.
ARTICLE: PDF Only Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: Home > February 1990 - Volume 12 - Issue 1
Annals of Plastic Surgery
Rosner, Fred MD, FACP
September 2000 - Volume 45 - Issue 3 - ppg 237-239 Special Article: PDF Only
Annals of Plastic Surgery
Special Article: PDF Only
Cleft Lip in the Talmud
Westreich, Melvyn MD; Segal, Samuel MD
Home > September 2000 - Volume 45 - Issue 3
Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology
Home > February 1989 - Volume 11 - Issue 1
Ben Achiya: The First Gastroenterologist in Ancient Israel?
Hoenig, Leonard J. M.D.
Special Article: PDF Only
A Case of Cranial Surgery in theTalmud
Author: Adam Weinberga
The history of Jewish discourse on law and philosophy was transformed from an oral teaching to a written teaching around the beginning of the Common Era. The result of these written laws and commentaries is known today as the Talmud. Many pages of the Talmud discuss illnesses and diseases and their potential treatments, however very few of these potential treatments involve invasive surgery. In one instance, involving a painful skin ailment called ra'aton, the authors of the Talmud suggest cranial surgery as the cure and describe the preparation of a potential anesthetic, the surgery environment, and the removal of a growth. Although this account raises several questions about the ailment itself, it provides us with a rare look at invasive cranial surgery dating back nearly 2,000 years. Keywords: Talmud; Gemara; cranial surgery; brain surgery; history Español CALIFORNIA MEDICINE Vol. 74, No. 4
Medicine in the Talmud
ABRAHAM BERNSTEIN, M.D.. and HENRY C. BERNSTEIN, M.D., San
THE TALMUD1,2 is a commentary on the Bible and also an encyclopedia. It includes portions on jurisprudence, history, ethics, mythology, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, theology, medicine, anatomy and botany. It was compiled by a number of Jewish scholars. The Talmudic teachings, for centuries transmitted orally, were finally placed in definite literary form at the end of the fifth century as a collective labor of many generations. Much attention was given in-the Talmud to medicine, to study of principles and theories which were later discussed by modern scientists and clinicians. Rabbis of considerable erudition and sagacity evolved a system of treatment and hygiene which in scope and quality stood far above the period of civilization in which they lived. The Talmud contains no medical treatises as such; medical subjects are discussed in connection with religious rites and ceremonies. As guides to an understanding of stages in the development of medical lore, the. Talmudic statements have great historical value. Many old methods applied by the Talmudists were strikingly like those with which medical science is occupied at present. The medical instructions and directions of the Talmud are so positive and so concrete that it is quite evident that the Talmudic
physicians were versed in etiology and pathology; their medical knowledge was based not only on hypotheses and traditions, but also on observation, dissection, and experimentation. The wealth of Talmudic medicine is best revealed when it is compared with the methods of modern medicine, for many of the views, hygienic rules and methods of treatment of the ancient Talmudic physicians stand inspection in the light of today's scientific knowledge. The diagnosis of diseases was made on the basis of palpation, observation and, sometimes, the application of physical and chemical reagents. Blood tests were made with a number of reagents composed of seven chemicals. The diagnosis of stomatitis was made on the basis of the redness, swelling and tenderness of the inflamed area. In cases in which the diagnosis was doubtful, the patient was isolated for observation. The diagnosis of skin diseases was made on the size, shape, exudation and color of the lesion. Clinical observation took from one to three weeks. The Talmud suggested that a thorough examination was necessary for correct diagnosis. "A physician who treated without examination brought harm.", "A physician who heals for nothing is worth nothing." The Talmud considered that the prognosis of an illness depended upon the cause and the site affected. Internal diseases were more serious than external. The most dangerous were angina pectoris, meningitis, inflammation of the spinal cord, and gallbladder disease. Heart disease was recognized as a grave malady because the function of all organs depended upon the heart. Open wounds were treated as a serious disease; cancer was considered dangerous. Diseases of the eye were also regarded as grave. Perforations of the heart, esophagus, stomach or volvulus were believed to be fatal, as was injury of the spinal cord. Atrophy or abscess of the kidney caused death, but extirpation of the spleen, removal of the uterus and accumulation of transparent fluid in the kidney were not considered fatal. The Talmud considered hygiene to be of the utmost importance. Cleanliness, bathing, proper food, regular living, isolation of infected patients and prevention of contagious diseases were urgently advised. "Be careful of the flies near the contagious patient." "The amputated organs of the contagious should be buried." Patients with leprosy were isolated. Persons who had been in contact with a leper were isolated during the incubation period. To drink water which flowed through a filthy place was forbidden because of the danger of contamination. The drinking of dish water was not permissible. Wine or milks left uncovered should not be drunk because of the danger of a hidden snake entering and drinking the liquid and polluting it with venom. It was advised that hands be washed before each meal and lips and mouth washed after meals to prevent diseases of gums and mouth.
"Water suspected of containing germs should be boiled befpre using." "Do not drink from unclean glasses." "If you taste soup, do not return remains to the pot." To prevent an offensive odor from the mouth, plenty of fresh water to drink and frequent mouth washes were recommended. The food for eating must be prepared fresh and clean. It was recommended one should not live in a town where there were no vegetable gardens. The Talmud also warned against living in a town where there were neither physicians nor bathing facilities. It was suggested that the food to be eaten should be varied. Carbohydrates and vegetables were regarded as unsatisfactory, but together with fats they were recognized as a source of energy, producing power. "Do not eat immoderately," was an admonition then as now. Other statements seem even today to have been born of studious observation: "Wine in small amounts is a remedy; in large amounts it nis poisonous"; and, "The following seven objects are beneficial if used moderately and harmful if used excessively: travel, luxury, work, wine, sleep, warm water, and venesection for medical purposes." The Babylonian Talmudl states that the causes of diseases are uncleanliness, cold wind, improper food, worry, fear, trauma, hereditary weakness, and infections. Unhygienic conditions are considered important factors contributing to sickness. The ancient rabbis found that diseases were prevalent in unclean places; cold and heat were factors in many maladies. Living in damp places and dwelling where there was insufficient sunshine was observed to be injurious to health; and ingestion of unripened fruits and contaminated water was noted to be dangerous and the cause of many severe diseases. Tapeworms entered the body when beef that had not been boiled thoroughly was eaten. Other observations of etiologic import: More diseases come from overeating than from hunger; lack of exercise results in weakness and nervousness; fright causes palpitation of the heart; trauma of the spinal cord produces limping, while softening of the cord causes tremor of the head; a fall may cause injury to the internal organs with fatal results; hemophilia and epilepsy are hereditary and prevalent only in certain families; the food, utensils and clothing of persons afflicted with contagious diseases are the sources of the spreading of those diseases. The Talmud speaks of minute organisms and insects as the cause of certain diseases and states that "there are many germs and insects that are dangerous to health; minute organisms existing everywhere in abundance; if man could see them all, he could not exist." It is remarkable that the Talmudists were the first to state that symptoms of all diseases are merely external manifestations of internal changes in the tissues or organs and that they observed that the nature of the change varied with the disease. At about the same time, the contemporaries of the writers of the Talmud, Hippocrates
and his disciples, created a theory that the body contains four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. The improper proportion or irregular distribution of these humors caused disease. Later, Galen stated that the normal condition of the body depended upon a proper mixture of the four elements, heat, cold, moisture, and dryness; all symptoms and all diseases were explained on this theory. The ancient medical schools knew very little about pathologic changes. They did not suspect that structural changes appear in the body during disease. The Talmud established a religious rule forbidding the eating of meat of an animal afflicted with a disease. Therefore, all animals slaughtered were thoroughly examined as to the condition of their internal organs. Thus, much valuable scientific knowledge about diseased structures and morbid processes was made available. The pathological changes of organs with regard to color, position. consistency and cavities were noted. Bones, muscles, glands, and internal organs were carefully described as to histologic and topographic features. The exact number of bones in the human body was determined when Rabbi Ishmael dissected the body of a woman who had been executed as a criminal. In 1855, Wilcker suggested a method of determining the total quantity of blood in the body. This consisted in washing the blood from the vessels with water and estimating the amount of hemoglobin in the washings. A similar method, by which the color of all the blood in the body mixed with a measured amount of water was compared with samples of blood and water in known rates, was used by the Talmudists some 1,500 years earlier. And they obtained more accurate results than Wilcker. Rabbi Ashi discovered the presence of '*elastic threads" in a case of pulmonary disease. The rabbis were able to determine whether bleeding was from the lungs or from other organs by observing the color of the blood. Hemophilia was first reported by Fordyce in America, in 1784. Hippocrates and Galen made no mention of this disease, and in the medical literature of the Middle Ages there is no reference to it. The Talmnudists, however, described the disease 2,000 years ago. In connection with the rite of circumcision there were instances of death traceable to excessive loss of blood. The rabbis characterized such victims as descendants of a bleeder's family. In such instances parents who had lost two sons due to loss of blood were enjoined not to observe this rite for any of their sons born thereafter. The rabbis knew that this disease was transmitted from mother to son, and that women, although not themselves bleeders, transmitted the disease to their sons. The cause of death was explained to be a lack of viscosity of the blood which interfered with the protective property of clotting.
The Talmudists considered that in illness the prognosis depended upon the cause and the site of lesion. They predicted the course and end of certain diseases in accordance with the varying pathological conditions. Blue and light green discolorations of the lung were not considered dangerous; black indicated that the lungs had begun to disintegrate; a bright yellow color was an indication of almost certain death. Softening of the lungs was mortal; an empty cavity was not dangerous to life. In the case of collapsed lungs in an animal, the Talmud gave the following rule: If after the lungs have been immersed in water they can be inflated with air, the flesh of the animal is fit for food; if they cannot be inflated, it is unfit. The ancient Greek physicians claimed that inury to the trachea or removal of the spleen was fatal. The rabbis stated that a wound in the trachea heals quickly and that removal of the spleen will not cause death. This is in accordance with medical knowledge of today. Galen supposed that the thoracic cavity was filled with air; he believed that from a physiological point of view such a condition was necessary for the normal process of respiration. The Talmudists, however, stated that such a condition was evidence of a pathological process. In light of the variety of medical lore and the conflict of theories among the ancients of separate civilizations and cultures, one cannot but conjecture how much fuller and more exact medical knowledge might have become in that day if there had been then the wholesome forums which today stimulate advances in medicine.
350 Post Street.
1. Babylonian Talmud (completed at the end 2. Palestinian Talmud (completed in 390 A.D)
of the fifth century).\
Complementary Therapies and Traditional Judaism
FRED ROSNER, M.D.
MARCH 1999 NUMBER 2 VOLUME 66:102–105
Director, Department of Medicine,Mount Sinai Services at Queens Hospital Center, Jamaica, NY, and Professor of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY. Address correspondence to Fred Rosner, M.D., F.A.C.P., Queens Hospital Center, 82-68 164th Street, Jamaica, NY 11432.
In Jewish tradition, physicians are obligated to heal the sick and patients are obligated to seek healing from physicians. Judaism also sanctions certain complementary therapies such as prayers, faith healing, and amulets, when used as supplements to traditional medical therapy. Confidence in the healing powers of God through prayer and contrition is encouraged, provided that the patient uses prayer alongside traditional scientific medicine, not as a substitute for it. Key Words: Prayers, faith healing, amulets, nostrums, quackery.
In Jewish tradition, a physician is given specific divine license to practice medicine. According to MosesMaimonides (1138–1204) and other codifiers of Jewish law, the physician is obligated to use hismedical skills to heal the sick. Not only is the physician permitted and even obligated to minister to the sick, but the patients are also obligated to care for their health and life. Men and women do not have title over their lives or bodies, since they are charged with preserving, dignifying and hallowing these. They must eat and drink for sustenance and must seek healing when ill. Thus, the physician has an obligation and authority to heal, and the patient has a coresponsibility to maintain health. Another cardinal principle in Judaism is that human life is of supreme value. In order to preserve a human life, even observation of the Sabbath and the DayofAtonement maybe suspended, as well as all other rules and laws except the biblical prohibitions against idolatry, murder and forbidden sexual relations. Since everymoment of human life is of infinite value, one is prohibited from doing anything that might shorten a life, even for only a very short time. Nor may a person turn to treatments known to be ineffective, since this would, by inference, be shortening life. Traditional Judaism does not distinguish between extending a healthy life and extending the morbid phase of life (by artificial means). How does traditional Judaism view the use of complementary or alternative therapies? It may be somewhat awkward to speak of alternative or complementary therapies in the traditional world of the Bible and the Talmud. Todaywe refer to practices as “alternative therapies” when they are used instead of, or in conjunction with the accepted normative practice of medicine, which is codified in the world’s knowledge base of medical science defined by the canon of instruction in accredited medical schools. Although the concepts of “science” or “scientific” as we know them today first emerged in the
nineteenth century, Moses Maimonides, seven hundred years earlier, clearly distinguished between “therapies which heal by nature and whose efficacy is proven by clinical trials” and “therapies of unproven efficacy” (M. Maimonides’ Mishnah Commentary on Tractate Yoma 8:6). In talmudic times (2nd – 6th centuries, CE), healing arts were taught primarily through apprenticeships and frommedical books, some of which were written by famous Greek and Persian physicians. None of these precluded a search for other healing modalities. Although the term “complementary or alternative therapy” has a decidedly modern ring to it, a rich biblical, Talmudic and post-talmudic literature exists about prayers, amulets, incantations, astrology and nostrums for the healing and prevention of certain illnesses. Does Judaism condone their use, either as a supplement to or as a substitute for conventional medicine? This essay examines this question and concludes that some forms of what we consider “unorthodox therapies” are acceptable in Judaism, whereas others, such as quackery, superstition, sorcery and witchcraft are not. The criterion for rejection is the theological test of God as the Ultimate Healer. Those therapies that rely on God’s healing power are acceptable in traditional Judaism, even if they are considered complementary today.
At one time or another, most human beings offer prayers for the relief of their own illness or that of others. These prayers may differ in content and in the manner in which they are offered, by both religious and non-religious people (1). Recourse to prayer in Judaism during illness is not necessarily an indication that the person lacks confidence in traditional medical therapy. The patriarch Abraham prayed for the recovery of Abimelech (Genesis 20:17), and God healed him. David prayed for the recovery of his son (II Samuel 12:16), but his son died. Elisha prayed for the recovery of the Shunamite woman’s son (IIKings 4:33), and the boy recovered. King Hezekiah prayed for his own recovery (IIChronicles 32:24), and God added 15 years to his life. The shortest healing prayer on record is the famous one uttered byMoses for the recovery of his sister Miriam, who was afflicted with leprosy. Said Moses: El na r’fa na la [O God, heal her, I beseech thee] (Numbers 12:13), and she recovered. These incidents are anecdotal and hence do not constitute scientific, statistical evidence for the efficacy of prayer, but they are certainly worthy of mention. One should never be discouraged from praying, even under the most difficult and troublesome conditions. The Talmud says (2) that “even if a sharp sword rests upon a man’s neck, he should not desist from
prayer.” On the other hand, a person should never stand in a place of danger and say that a miracle will be wrought for him. One should not count on being cured by direct intervention by God without first having sought out the advice and treatment offered by conventional human medical practitioners. The Jewish attitude toward prayer is succinctly summarized by Jakobovits (3) as follows: ...while every encouragement was given for the sick to exploit their adversity for moral and religious ends and to strengthen their faith in recovery by prayer, confidence in the healing powers of God was never allowed to usurp the essential functions of the physician and of medical science.
Since antiquity, people have attempted to ward off misfortune, sickness, and “evil spirits” by wearing pieces of paper, parchment, or metal discs inscribed with various formulae which would protect or heal the bearers. Such artifacts, known as amulets or talismans, are frequently mentioned in talmudic literature, where they are called kemiya. Consisting either of a written parchment or of roots or herbs, the amulet is worn on a small chain, in a signet ring or in a tube. It was considered to be of proven efficacy when a physician certified that it had cured either one sick person on three different occasions or three different patients. In the ancient world, amulets were considered part of the legitimate therapeutic armamentarium of the physician (4). According to most rabbinic authorities, there is little or no objection in Jewish religious law to the use of amulets for healing purposes. The rabbinic literature of the past several hundred years is replete with references to amulets as preventives to ward off the “evil eye,” to avert demons, to prevent abortion, and to cure a variety of diseases such as epilepsy, lunacy, fever, poisoning, hysteria, jaundice, and colic (5). Even Maimonides, who seriously questioned the efficacy of amulets, allowed them to be worn and/or carried, even on the Sabbath, because of their possible psychological and placebo effects on the patient’s illness (Code of Maimonides, Laws of the Sabbath 19:13–14). The use of amulets is quite widespread even today, particularly among Jews of Moroccan origin living in Israel, and other Sephardic Jews.
The generally prevalent belief in astrology in ancient and medieval times was fully shared by the Jews, many of whom believed that the celestial bodies had the power to influence human destiny. Astrologers ascribed occult virtues of heavenly bodies to earthly objects. Treatment for various illnesses consisted of a special image made by an artist, with due reference to the appropriate constellation.
For example, Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Adret, known as Rashba, writes that people used to engrave the image of a tongueless lion on a plate of silver or gold to cure pains in the loins or in the kidneys (Response Rashba 1:167). Moses Maimonides was one of the few authorities who not only dared raise his voice against this almost universally held belief, but even branded it as a superstition akin to idolatry He unequivocally prohibited anyone from being influenced by astrology, and claimed that such practice was an offense punishable by flogging. He categorically rejected astrology (and other superstitious practices and beliefs), and denounced it as a fallacy and delusion (6), an absurd idea (7), and an irrational illusion of fools who mistake vanity for wisdom, and superstition for knowledge (8). Many talmudic and post–talmudic rabbis believed in astrology; a few, such as Maimonides, did not. Traces of the belief are found in words and phrases such as mazal tov (meaning a good star or planet), still used by Jews today.
Medical Charms and Incantations
An incantation is a recitation over a patient, designed to neutralize harm or illness, and intended to induce healing. The medical effectiveness of incantations in classic Jewish sources was never in doubt. Incantations to heal a scorpion’s bite are permitted even on the Sabbath, as is charming a snake or scorpion to prevent injury or harm. The Codes of Jewish Law of Maimonides and of Joseph Karo (1488–1575) point out that such incantations are absolutely useless, but are permitted because of the patient’s dangerous condition, so that he should not become distraught. The main question concerning the permissibility of incantations in Judaism is whether or not they represent a form of forbidden heathen practice, since Jews are commanded not to go in the ways of the Amorites (Leviticus 18:3). Some talmudic sages declared that if one whispers a spell over a bodily illness, one is deprived of everlasting bliss, i.e., the world to come. On the other hand, the Talmud clearly states that whatever is used for healing purposes is not forbidden. Zimmels (9) lists a variety of diseases supposedly cured by medical charms and incantations, including certain eye diseases, headache, infertility and epilepsy. .
Zimmels (9) also describes the custom of transference, whereby an illness can be transferred to an animal or a plant by a certain procedure with or without the recitation of an incantation. For example, patients with jaundice were told to put live fish under their soles to transfer the jaundice to the fish. In more recent times, pigeons have been placed on the abdomen of jaundiced patients to
transfer the illness to the pigeons and facilitate recovery of the patient (10). This type of remedy is called a segulah or nostrum, a form of medical treatment that has no rational or scientific basis other than as a placebo. Nonetheless, the efficacy of this unorthodox therapy is not in doubt to those who recommend it. A segulah is an alternative or unconventional or unproven medical therapy having a place in traditional Jewish practice alongside traditional scientific medicine. The current popular belief among some Jews of the therapeutic efficacy of pigeons in the treatment of jaundice is based on the concept of organic disease transference from the patient to a nonhuman living animal; it has its parallel in the transference of sins from humans to animals in certain religious rituals. The subjects of charms, incantations, nostrums, magic and other similar topics are complicated. There are rabbis who believe in them, those who oppose them, and those who say they do no harm. The interested reader is referred elsewhere for more details (11–12).
Quacks and Quackery
Jewish law requires a physician to be skilled, well educated and ethical. And Judaism has always held the physician in high esteem. Ancient and medieval Jewish writings contain many expressions of admiration and praise for the “faithful physician.” In contrast, quacks are those who lie and deceive by pretending to have knowledge and skills that they lack. Therefore, it is not surprising that the derogatory talmudic statement “the best of healers is destined for Gehinnom” (Tractate Kiddushin, Chapter 4:14) generated extensive discussion and commentary throughout the centuries (13). (Gehinnom is the name of the locale reserved for the wicked after death.) Jakobovits states that this phrase was never intended as a denunciation of the conscientious practitioner, but rather is addressed to quacks who claim to be “the best of healers.” Physicians are among a group of communal servants who have heavy public responsibilities and are warned against the danger of negligence or error. The talmudic epigram with its curse is limited to physicians who are overly confident in their craft, who are guilty of commercializing their profession, who lie and deceive as do quacks, who fail to acknowledge God as the true Healer of the sick, who fail to consult with colleagues or medical texts when appropriate, who perform surgery without heeding proper advice from diagnosticians, who fail to heal the poor and thus indirectly cause their death, who fail to try hard enough to heal their patients, or who otherwise fail to conduct themselves in an ethical and professional manner (14).
Summary and Conclusion
Judaism considers a human life to have infinite value. Therefore, physicians and other healthcare givers are obligated to heal the sick and prolong life. Physicians are not only given divine license to practice medicine, but are also mandated to use their skills to heal the sick. Failure or refusal to do so with resultant negative impact on the patients constitutes a transgression on the part of the physician. Physicians must be well trained in traditional medicine and licensed by the authorities. Patients are duty bound to seek healing from a physician when they are ill; they must not rely solely on divine intervention or faith healing. Patients are charged with preserving their health and restoring it when ailing in order to be able to serve the Lord in a state of good health. Quackery is not condoned in Judaism, even when it is practiced by physicians. On the other hand, Judaism seems to sanction certain complementary or alternative therapies such as prayers, faith healing, amulets, incantations and the like, when used as a supplement to traditional medical therapy. However, the substitution of prayer for rational healing is condemned. Quackery, superstition, sorcery and witchcraft are abhorrent practices in Judaism. However, confidence in the healing powers of God through prayer and contrition is encouraged and has a place alongside traditional scientific medicine (15).
Alternative or complementary medicine continues to be hotly debated in the scientific community (16). Many practitioners of herbal and other alternative therapies are physicians. Others argue that alternative therapies must never displace or replace proven conventional treatment (17). This essay presents a religious perspective based on ancient and medieval Hebrew writings on this modern debate.
1. Rosner F. The efficacy of prayer: Scientific versus religious evidence. J Relig Health 1975; 14:294–298. 2. Rosner F. Medicine in the Bible and Talmud. 2nd ed. Hoboken (NJ) and New York: Ktav and Yeshiva University Press; 1995. pp. 204–210. 3. Jakobovits I. Jewish medical ethics. New York: Bloch Publishing Co.; 1975. pp. 15–23. 4. Preuss J. (F. Rosner, translator). Biblical and talmudic medicine. Northvale (NJ): Jason Aronson; 1993. pp. 146–149. 5. Zimmels HJ. Magicians, theologians and doctors: Studies in folk medicine and folklore as reflected in the rabbinical responsa (12th–19th centuries). London: E. Goldston and Sons; 1952. pp. 135–137.
6. Halkin AS. Moses Maimonides’ epistle to Yemen. New York: American Academy for Jewish Research; 1952. XX and 111 pp. 7. Garfinkle JL. The eight chapters of Maimonides on ethics. New York: AMS Press; 1966. XII and 104 pp. (English); 55 pp. Hebrew. 8. Marx A. The correspondence between the rabbis of southern France and Maimonides about astrology. Heb U Col Ann 1926; 3:311–358 and 1927; 4:493–494. 9. Zimmels HJ. Ref. 5. pp. 140–142. 10. Rosner F. Pigeons as a remedy (segulah) for jaundice. N Y State J Med 1992; 92:189–192. 11. Rosner F. Encyclopedia of medicine in the Bible and the Talmud. Northvale NJ: Jason Aronson; 1999. in press. 12. Roth C. Encyclopedia Judaica. Jerusalem: Keter; 1971 13. Rosner F. The best of physicians is destined for Gehenna. N Y State J Med 1983; 83:970–972. 14. Jakobovits I. Ref. 3. pp. 202–203. 15. Rosner F. Modern medicine and Jewish ethics. 2nd ed. Hoboken (NJ) and New York: Ktav and Yeshiva University Press; 1991. pp. 419–432. 16. Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C, et al. Unconventional medicine in the United States – prevalence, costs and patterns of use. N Engl J Med 1993; 328:246–252. 17. Angell M, Kassirer JP. Alternative medicine – the risks of untested and unregulated remedies. N Engl J Med 1998; 339:839–841.
A Bibliography of Sources on Jewish Environmental Law*
A Selected Bibliography of Classical Sources with Annotations Compiled by: Ilana and Yehuda Attia This is a selected list of sources of classical Jewish legislation on environmental appreciation, preservation, and regulation. Not all of the following precepts were legislated solely for environmental reasons. Often, ecological or aesthetic measures were prescribed to achieve a necessary level of social order or sanctity.
I.The Conceptual Basis
Genesis 1:28. “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the land and conquer it. Dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land.” Genesis 2:15. “G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and guard it.” Leviticus 25:23. “The land is Mine.” Deuteronomy 20:19. “Do not [needlessly] destroy.”
Exodus 23: 10-11 and Leviticus 25:1-7. The seventh year is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for the land. Leviticus 29:14. “Do not put a stumbling block before the blind.” Leviticus 19:18. “Love your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 4:15. “Preserve yourself and your life.” Leviticus 25:36. “Let your brother live alongside you.” Exodus 21:33 ff. Liability for causing damage to others. Isaiah 45:18. “He did not create it for desolation. He formed it to be settled.” Talmud Shabbat 133b. “Beautify your mitsvot; make a beautiful sukka, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful tallit, a beautiful Sefer Torah.”
II.Practical Legislation: General Sources
Mishna Bava Kama. Damages caused by man, animals, and inanimate objects, including dangerous waste materials disposed of in the public domain, in the air or in waterways. Mishna Bava Batra Chapter 2. Preventive environmental legislation. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Shoftim, Law of Kings 6:8-10. “Do not destroy” prohibits needless destruction of nature and also artifacts, i.e., utensils, clothing, buildings. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Nzikin, Laws of Property Damages. Summarizes Talmud tractates Bava Kama, Bava Metsia, and Bava Batra, which legislate direct and indirect damages caused by man and his property. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Kinyan, Laws of Neighborly Relations, Chapters 9-11. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 6:8-10. Expansion of “do not destroy” to include utensils, clothing, buildings. Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat Chapters 153-156. Damages to neighbors. Evonne Marzouk | * This list is reprinted and updated with permission from B’Or HaTorah. 60 | Compendium of Sources in Halacha and the Environment
III. Specific Rulings
This Representative list by subject is not comprehensive. A. Air Quality Odors in the public domain: Mishna Bava Batra 2:9 Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Kinyan, Laws of Neighborly Relations 10:3. Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 155: 23. Rashi on Talmud Bava Batra 25a
Dead animals, cemeteries, and tanneries must be placed outside cities, and not to the west of them (the side the wind usually comes from). Noise, smoke and odor in the courtyard: Mishna Bava Batra 2:3 Talmud Bava Batra 23a Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Kinyan, Laws of Neighborly Relations 11:5 Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 155:39 Ribash Responsum 196 Smoke and odor: Mishna Bava Batra 2:3 Tosefta Bava Batra Chapter 1 Talmud Bava Batra 25a Air pollution: Mishna Bava Batra 2:8-9 and Rashi there. Talmud Bava Batra 24b and 25a Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Knyan, Laws of Neighborly Relations 10:2 Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 155:22 and 34. Permanent threshing floors must be distanced from cities and from neighbors’ fields. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Kinyan, Laws of Neighborly Relations 11:1. Any work causing dust or ash must be conducted at a distance from other people so that the wind will not carry waste particles to them. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Tmidin U’Musafin 2:15. The ashes cleaned out from the Temple altar must be removed from the city to a place where the wind will not disperse them. Abraham Ibn Ezra on Exodus 12:22. Hyssop drives away mold. B. Water Quality Water pollution: Tosefta Bava Metsia, end of Chapter 11. Rosh, Responsum 108:10. Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 155:21. Maintenance of water quality: Tosefta Shkalim 1:203 Drinking contaminated water: Talmud Avoda Zara 12b
Water rights: Talmud Bava Batra 81a. One of the ten regulations established by Joshua for settling in the Land of Israel was that non-residents of Tiberias were allowed to fish in the Kinneret with fishing rods only and not nets. Tosefta Bava Metsia, end of Chapter 11. Talmud Bava Kama 81b.Canfei Nesharim | 61 Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Gzela V’Avoda 6:13; Hilkhot Nizkey Mamon 5:3. Water shortage: Neot Deshe Responsum 134. C. Soil Quality Sabbatical of the land: Leviticus 25: 1-7 Exodus 23: 10-11 Soil pollution: Mishna Bava Batra 2:10. Prohibition against soaking flax near soil where vegetables are planted. D. Disposal of Solid Waste Mishna Bava Kama 3:2 Talmud Bava Metsia 118b Talmud Hulin 12a Talmud Bava Kama 50b Tosafot Bava Metsia 11-5 Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 414: 1-2 Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Nizkey Mamon 13:22. Special disposal of thorns and other dangerous objects. E. Protection of Trees and Vegetation Tosefta Psahim, s.v. makom sh’nagu Talmud Bava Kama 91b. Cutting down any (fruit or non-fruit) tree is punishable by Heaven. Orchards: Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 6: 8-9 on Deuteronomy 20:19. Do not destroy fruit trees and do not deprive them of water. Foliage destruction by goats and sheep: Mishna Bava Kama 7:7 Talmud Bava Kama 79b-80a Industrial air pollution and vegetation:
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Mlakhim 6:14-15. Soldiers must carry a spade with their weapons to dig holes and cover their excrement. Toilet odor and seepage: Talmud Bava Batra 23a. Rosh Responsum on Tur, Hoshen Mishpat 155:20-26 Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 155:21. Baraita on Bava Kama 20a and Rashi there. Talmud Bava Batra 24b. Permanent threshing floors must be built at a distance from neighboring crops so that chaff will not smother the vegetation. F. Animals Exodus 23:5. Help unload the fallen donkey of even your adversary. Leviticus 7:26. Do not eat blood. Leviticus 17:13. Spilled blood of a slaughtered kosher domestic animal must be covered by earth. Leviticus 19:19. Prohibition against cross-breeding. Sefer Ha’Hinukh: this prohibition is a warning not to change the way of nature. Deuteronomy 12:21. The basis of the laws of kosher slaughterompendium ofources Rashi on Deuteronomy 12:23. Do not eat flesh from living animals. Deuteronomy 22:10. Do not plow with an ox and donkey yoked together. Deuteronomy 25:4. Do not muzzle an ox when it is treading grain. Animals during the sabbatical year: Leviticus 25:7 Torat Kohanim 9, Parashat Be’Har 1:8 Talmud Psahim 52b Jerusalem Talmud Shviit 9:2. During the sabbatical of the land all crops can be eaten freely by domestic and wild animals. Pest control: Talmud Bava Kama 80a. It is permissible to raise dogs that are not dangerous, cats, monkeys, and martens because they keep the house clean [of rats –Rashi]. Talmud Psahim 112b. Do not go into a house in the dark that does not have a cat, lest a dangerous snake be hiding there. G. Urban Planning Greenbelt: Leviticus 25:34.
Numbers 35: 1-5 Mishna Bava Batra 2:7 Talmud Bava Batra 24b Jerusalem Talmud Bava Batra 2:7. A greenbelt of permanent width – not containing fields or vineyards – must be built around the cities of the Levites. Mishna Arakhin 9:8; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Shmita 13:12, 4-5. The greenbelt command applies to all cities in the Land of Israel. Rashi on Talmud Sota 27:2. The urban greenbelt was a “wide space free of agriculture, buildings, and trees to beautify the city and let it have air.” Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Kinyan, Laws of Neighborly Relations 10:1. H. Damages to Neighbors Mishna Bava Batra, Chapter 2. The entire chapter legislates how to prevent domestic environmental hazards so that one neighbor will not bother other neighbors. Talmud Bava Batra 24b. Construction: Talmud Bava Batra 60a. Prohibition against building porches or beams extending into the public domain. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Nizkey Mamon 13:24. Intrusions into the public domain are forbidden only if they obstruct camel [traffic] or block sunlight. Construction debris and fertilizer: Mishna Bava Metsia 10:5 Talmud Bava Metsia 118b. Mishna Shiviit 3:10 Mishna Bava Batra 3:8 Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Nizkey Mamon 13: 13-17. Shulchan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 414: 1-2. Rashi on the above sources. Builders must commence work immediately after construction materials are brought to the work site. Prevention of contagion: Yehuda He’Hasid, Sefer Hasidim, article 161 (in Mkitsey Nirdamim edition). Zeev Wolf Leiter, Bet David, (Vienna 1920) Responsa 22 and 108. Noise prevention: Mishna Bava Batra 2:3 and Albek there.
Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 156:4. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Kinyan, Laws of Neighborly Relations 6:12. Neighbors can stop any kind of noise being made in their courtyard except for that caused by teaching Torah to [25 or fewer] children. Talmud Bava Kama 29b. A person who leaves a dangerous object in a public place cannot avoid responsibility by disowning the object. I. Higher Level of Environmental Quality in Jerusalem and the Temple Talmud Psahim 7a. The markets of Jerusalem must be cleaned every day. Talmud Bava Kama 82b and Rashi there. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Bet Ha’Bhira 7:14 and Rashi there. Garbage dumps, furnaces for burning limestone, and gardens and fruit trees – except for rose gardens from the times of the prophets – are not allowed inside the walls of Jerusalem. Trees and gardens are not allowed because of the odor caused by fertilizer and decaying debris. Kilns for preparing limestone are not allowed because they would blacken the city walls. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Tmidin U’Musafin 2:15. The ashes cleaned out from the Temple altar must be taken outside the city to a place where the wind will not disperse them. Talmud Tamid 29b. Vine and olive wood are forbidden to be burned in the Temple because they make too much smoke. Recycling: Mishna Sukka 5:3. The material of old priestly garments is made into wicks for the Temple lamps. J. Public Sanitation Talmud Bava Batra 24b. Permanent threshing floors must be built at a distance from neighboring crops so that chaff will not smother the vegetation. Deuteronomy 23:13-14.
IV. Blessings on Natural Phenomena
Talmud Brakhot 43b: “How do we know [that we should] bless a [good] aroma? Because it is written, ‘Let every being that has a soul praise the L-rd, Halleluya’ (Psalms 150:6). What does the soul enjoy but not the body? You must admit that the answer is ‘smell.’” Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 226:1: “Upon going out during the month of Nisan and seeing trees in blossom, one says, ‘Blessed are You, O L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, Who re-enacts the work of Creation’ or ‘…Whose power and might fill the world…’”
Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 228:1-3: “On seeing rivers, mountains, and deserts which evoke the might of Creation, one says the blessing’ …Who re-enacts the work of Creation.’”
V. Selected Midrashim and Sayings of the Sages
Talmud Bava Kama 50b: “A landowner was clearing rocks from his field to a public thoroughfare. On seeing him do this, a certain Hasid [righteous person] asked him, ‘Fool, why are you throwing rocks from property that is not yours to property that is yours?’ “The landowner laughed at the Hasid. Eventually the landowner had to sell the field. While walking along the same thoroughfare, he fell on the rocks he had once thrown there. ‘That Hasid was right,’ he said to himself, ‘when he asked me why I was throwing rocks from property not mine to property that is mine.’” Sifrey on Deuteronomy 20:19: “‘Is a man a tree of the field?’ teaches us that human life is sustained by trees.” Talmud Eruvin 44b: “A city with no greenery is not a suitable residence for a Torah scholar.” Talmud Sanhedrin 17b: “A city without fruit is not a suitable residence for a Torah scholar because fruits brighten the eyes.” Talmud Brakhot 57b: “Three things give a man peace of mind: a nice home, an attractive wife, and good utensils.” Midrash Shoher Tov 137: “‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept’ (Psalms 137:1) Why did the Jews cry by the rivers of Babylon? Rabbi Yohanan said, ‘The Euphrates killed more of them than the wicked Nebukhadnetser did. When the Jews lived in the Land of Israel, they drank only rainwater, freshwater and springwater. When they were exiled to Babylon they drank the water of the Euphrates, and many of them died. Midrash Rabba on Genesis 10:8: “Even things which seem extraneous such as snakes, scorpions, flies, fleas, and mosquitoes are part of the Creation, and G-d makes use of all of them.”
For Further Reference:
David Solomon, Yaakov Weinberg, Meir Batist, Meir Zikhel, Menahem Slae, and Tsvi Ila Eikhut Ha’Sviva (Ekologiya) B’Mkorot Ha’ Yahadut (Ramat Gan, Israel: University of Bar Ila Responsa Project, 5750) in Hebrew. The most comprehensive review of Jewish environmental law, constructed from a database of all Oral Law from the Torah to the present. See also:
Aryeh Carmell, “Judaism and the Quality of the Environment” in A. Carmell and C. Don editors, Challenge (New York/ Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1976), pages 500-525. Yehuda Feliks, Teva Va’Arets Ba’Tanakh: Prakim B’Ekologiya Mikrait (Jerusalem: Rubin Ma 1992) in Hebrew. Illustrated and with a listing of references to nature in Scripture. E.C. Freudenstein, “Ecology and the Jewish Tradition” in Judaism Volume 19 (1970) pages 406-414 Nahum Rakover, “Ecology in Judaism” in Encyclopedia Judaica Decennial Book (1973-1982) pages 227-229 Nahum Rakover, Eikhut Ha’Sviva B’Mkorot Ha’Yahadut (Jerusalem: Israel Ministry of Justice 1993) in Hebrew. Nahum Rakover, Haganat Ha’Sviva (Ekologiya) (Jerusalem: Israel Ministry of Justice, 1972) in Hebrew. Ora Sheinson, “Lessons from the Jewish Law of Property Rights for the Modern American Takings Debate.” In Columbia Journal of Environmental Law (26 pg 483, 20 pgs
Bad Breath ± A Major Disability According to the Talmud 1 Arie Shifman DMD 2 Shmuel Orenbuch MA 3 and Mel Rosenberg PhD 1 Department of Oral Rehabilitation, Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel 2 The Research Authority, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel 3 Department of Oral Biology, Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel Key words: bad breath, halitosis, oral malodor, history of medicine, Talmud IMAJ 2002;4:843±845 Bad breath (halitosis) is a common condition today. Millions of people either suffer from bad breath or think that they do. This concern has spawned a multi-billion dollar market of commercial products, including mouth rinses, toothpastes, sprays, chewing gums, mints, etc. Interestingly, bad breath is considered a serious medical problem in the Talmud, seemingly out of proportion to its medical
significance. The present article reviews Talmudic teachings in the context of our current understanding of the problem. Origins of bad breath, now and then Today, most cases of bad breath (perhaps 90%) originate from the mouth itself (oral malodor), with some 5±10% coming from the nasal passages. While many other medical conditions can cause bad breath, they are responsible for only a small fraction of cases. In most instances, the odor is related to bacterial putrefaction within the oral cavity. In the initial phase, glycoproteins may be deglycosylated by Gram-positive bacteria, exposing the naked proteins to proteolysis by enzymes secreted by Gram-negative bacteria (Sterer and Rosenberg, submitted). The amino acids can then be further broken down, yielding foulsmelling molecules, such as hydrogen sulfide (from breakdown of cysteine), methyl mercaptan (from methionine), cadaverine (from lysine), indole and skatole (from tryptophan) . Currently, the tongue appears to be the major source for bad breath. Postnasal drip, food debris and desquamated epithelial cells can collect on the posterior area of the tongue dorsum, and they are subsequently putrefied by the large resident microbial population . Advanced cases of gingivitis and periodontal disease may contribute to oral malodor . Mouth dryness, which increases during fasting (e.g., ``Yom Kippur breath'') or sleeping, is an important factor in oral malodor. In contrast to popular opinion, the stomach is not considered to contribute to bad breath, except in rare circumstances . Of course, one can only guess at the various causes of bad breath at the time of the Talmud. For example, acetone breath due to uncontrolled diabetes, which is currently a rare phenomenon, may have been widespread in ancient times. Advanced perio- dontitis may similarly have been more common then. Furthermore, ulcerating gingivitis and other necrotizing oral infections, common causes of morbidity until the last century, may have contributed to cases of particularly foul breath. These conditions may have been exacerbated by dietary insufficiencies (e.g., vitamin C). Finally, insufficient water supplies, in some areas, may have led to chronic oronasal dryness. There are, however, indications that bad breath during the time of the Talmud bears some resemblance to the current condition. For example, several of the remedies suggested in the Talmud have potent antibacterial properties (see ``Remedies''). Bad breath in the context of marriage laws In the Talmud (Ketubot 72b and 77a)*, bad breath is considered a serious disability, particularly regarding spouses and priests. The Talmud considers bad breath to be a major ground for divorce, and prohibits priests with bad breath from carrying out holy duties. In the Jewish marriage, the husband gives his wife the ketuba, a marriage contract that details the amount he must pay in the case of divorce. According to Talmudic law, if ± after the wedding ± the husband detects a serious disability that was not disclosed previously, he can
annul the marriage and summarily void the marriage contract. These include ungainly breasts, a thick voice, non-obvious lesions of the head and neck, sweat (body odor?) and oral malodor ( Ketubot 75a). In general, women do not have the reciprocal prerogative of unilaterally divorcing their husbands. However, bad breath is considered such a major problem (alongside affliction with boils, and engaging in "foul-smelling" professions such as leather curing, copper work, and collection of dog dung) that a woman is entitled to seek divorce ( Ketubot 77a). In this context, the Talmudic sages consider whether nasal malodor should be included as a type of bad breath and given the same legal stature as oral malodor. The great Jewish scholar, philosopher and physician Maimonides (1138-1204) later decided that both types should be considered* We refer throughout to the Babylonian Talmud, unless otherwise stated; page numbers are equivalent to the Hebrew numbering in the accepted Vilna format. IMAJ. Vol 4. October 2002 Bad Breath in the Talmud 843
Some Jewish Quotes From Over the Centuries Related to Bodily Health
Pulled together by Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW © 2009
So take good care of your n’fashot/whole beings…
There is no wealth like health.
Apocrypha of Ben Sira, 30:16
If a gourd has a hole as tiny as a needle’s eye, all its air escapes; Yet man, with so many cavities and orifices, retains his breath. Verily, “You do wonders!” (Psalms 86:10)
R. Tanhum bar Hiyya in Midrash B’reishit/Genesis Rabbah 1:3
If you marvel at the waters of the sea, that the sweet and salty do not mingle, Think of the tiny human head, where the fluids of its many fountains do not mingle.
Midrash B’midbar/Numbers Rabbah, 18:22
Once, when Hillel was taking leave of his disciples, they said to him: “Master where are you going?’ He replied, “To do a pious deed.” They asked, “What may that be?” He replied, “To take a bath.” They said, “Is that a pious deed?” He replied, “Yes. If, in the theaters and circuses, the images of the king must be kept clean by the person to whom they have been entrusted, how much more is it a duty of a person to care for the body, since we have been created in the divine image and likeness.” (In a parallel situation, Hillel answered the disciples’ question:) “I am going to do a kindness to the guest in the house.” When the disciples asked whether he had a guest every day, Hillel answered, “Is not my poor soul a guest in the body? Today it is here, tomorrow it is gone.” Drink plenty of water with your meals..
Tosefta Sotah 4:13
Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 40a
Three, if drawn out, prolong life: praying, eating, easing.
R. Judah ben Ezekiel in Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 54b
Three things restore a person’s sounds, sights, and smells.
Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 57b
Cold water for the eyes in the morning and hot water for the limbs at night Are far better than all the salves in the world.
R. Samuel in Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 108b
The Sages said in the name of Rav: It is forbidden to live in a city that has no bathhouse.
Babylonian Talmud, Mishnah Kiddushin 4:12
A Simple Explanation of the Evil Eye
Copyright Russell Jay Hendel 2003
Section I - Introduction: The Evil Eye
A cornerstone of the monotheistic belief of Judaism is the denial of idolatry and superstition.1 Judaism advocates that its adherents walk simply with God2 -- their life should be based on moral ideals and reason. Demons, charms and spells have no place in ones considerations.3 It therefore comes as a surprise to the religious Jew when certain laws appear to be based on the supernatural. A simple example will suffice -- the following may be found in the code of Jewish law: It is prohibited to give two brothers (or a father and son) consecutive Aliyahs (calling to the Torah) since we fear that this might invite the evil eye.4 This is certainly perplexing! First it is counterintuitive -- the religious Jew does not expect concepts like evil eye to enter into his required practices. This law however, also seems contrary to the Biblical law against superstition. Compare the following citation: It is Biblically prohibited to divine. What is an example of divination: A person who says: A black cat crossed my path; therefore I will not embark on a new business deal.5 What indeed, is the difference between abstaining from a business deal because of the black cat that passed my path versus the person who abstains from receiving an Aliyah because his brother just received the last aliyah. Aren’t these abstentions one and the same? Why is one classified as Biblically prohibited while the other is rabbinically required? It seems that we must clarify more than an intuition here--we must clarify the actual source of prohibition. Our goal in this short essay is to rationally explain the concept of the evil eye in a manner consistent with the rest of Jewish law and Biblical language.
Section II: Background - Tort Laws
Our starting point will be a review of Jewish tort laws. Jewish civil law has a large spectrum of actions considered damaging. In the sequel we will review 4 such laws. In each case we will ask three questions: - Issue A: Prohibition: Is the act Biblically or Rabbinically prohibited? - Issue B: Sue: If a damage takes place can the person be sued?
- Issue C:Waiver: Does the damagee have the right to waiver (allow the damaging act without consequence)? The review of these 4 laws will sharpen our focus and understanding of the three issues: Prohibition, Sue and waiver. We can then reexamine the evil eye using our new understanding.
Example 1: Breaking my arm
Issue A: It is Biblically prohibited for another person to break my arm.6 Issue B: If another person does break my arm they must pay me damages in 5 categories.7 Issue C: I do not have the right to waiver. In other words if I sign a valid Jewish contract(witnessed and signed) allowing someone to break my arm it is not binding. I can turn around and sue the person who breaks my arm even though I waived it.8
Example 2: Breaking my vase
Issue A: It is Biblically prohibited for another person to break/destroy my property.9 Issue B: If another person does break my vase I can sue them for damage.10 Issue C: I do have the right to waiver--that is I can allow a person to break my vase--if he then breaks then he has not sinned and he owes me nothing.11
Example 3: Privacy
Issue A: After a lengthy Talmudic debate the conclusion is reached that violating privacy is a tort.12 I cannot for example build a window overlooking my neighbors courtyard.13 I also cannot leave our two adjacent courtyards unfenced.14 Issue B: My neighbor can sue me for privacy. He can force me to shut down the window I build overlooking his courtyard.15 Similarly he can build a fence between our two courtyards and then sue me for 50% of reasonable expenses.16 Issue C: A variety of waiver vehicles are sometimes permitted. For example: If my neighbor gives me some window cleaner after I build my new window then he is deemed to tacitly approve of it and can no longer require me to shut it down. Similarly if he is silent for several weeks after the window is built he loses his right to sue me (His silence is considered a tacit approval)17
Example 4: Nuisances
Issue A: It is prohibited for me to create nuisances on my property if they annoy my neighbor. For example I can not perform woodcutting work if the sawdust travels to his property.18 Issue B: My neighbor has the right to sue me to abstain from the work (However he cannot collect damages except under special circumstances)19 Issue C: A strong waiver is possible but a weak waiver is not possible: If my neighbor has put up with my woodcutting activities for several years he can still turn around and sue me(to stop). However if he contractually agrees to allow me the woodcutting then the waiver is binding.20
Summary: Let us summarize what we have learned: Issue A: It is prohibited for me to damage--this prohibition exists whether I damage a persons body, a persons property, or just cause a nuisance. Issue B: Certain damages carry with them the right to sue for monetary compensation (with from 1 to 5 dimensions of lawsuit damages possible). Other damages carry with them the right to sue for cessation but not for monetary compensation. Issue C: In general one can not waive ones right to damage. In certain circumstances a waiver is allowed but Jewish law may require an assertion of seriousness of intent (Such as a contractual agreement).
Section III: The Evil Eye revisited
Quite simply I suggest that the evil eye prohibitions are damage prohibitions similar to privacy. The acts prohibited due to the, evil eye, seem to all involve conspicuously placing a person in the public light. As such they resemble invading their privacy. We would therefore suggest translating evil eye as public eye. Like privacy damage, public eye damage creates a feeling of unpleasantness and uneasiness--Jewish law protects people from such public eyes. True there is no right to sue for compensation if one is given two consecutive aliyahs--but we have already seen that many damages only confer rights to sue for cessation. Similarly we have seen many damages for which no waiver exists so it does not come as a surprise if public-eye damages cannot be waived. To defend our thesis that the evil eye is the public eye we review the 2 dozen occurrences of public eye in the Talmud.21 We will see that our suggested translation of public eye fits these laws well. We first revisit the consecutive Aliyah prohibition.
Example 1: Consecutive Aliyahs
If two brothers or a father and son get two consecutive aliyahs it unnecessarily puts them in the public eye. People may feel that this family is getting too much honor.
Examples 2,3,4: Business Anxiety
We all know how uneasy we feel when we are about to consummate a big business deal. We are nervous something might go wrong. We are also nervous that once people find out how much money we have they will start asking us for favors. Succinctly, we are nervous about being in the public eye. Compare the following three Talmudic laws Our Rabbis taught: He who trades in cane and jars will never see a sign of blessing. What is the reason? Since their bulk is large, the [evil] eye has power over them.
Rashi: Market traders are exposed to the public gaze, and so to the evil eye, which is a potent source of misfortune.22 A similar explanation would hold for the following law One may not stand over his neighbors field when its crop is full grown.23 Finally, anxiety over people knowing about possessions which may lead to their theft is also found in the following law He may not spread it [a lost article] upon a couch or a frame for his needs, but may do so in its own interests. If he was visited by guests, he may not spread it over a bed or a frame, whether in his interests or in its own! Because he may thereby destroy it, either through an [evil] eye or through thieves.24
Example 4: Joseph
Several places in the Talmud reference is made to the fact that Joseph and his descendants could not be affected by the public eye.25 Using our conceptual model this is not hard to understand. Joseph was a religious Jew in a high public position of the Egyptian government. Such a person is in the public eye anyway. So Joseph got use to the public eye -- it did not cause him the anxiety it causes the rest of us. Furthermore adding a bit more of publicity to these already public officials does not affect them the way it would affect those who are not in the public eye. Still another way to look at the Joseph immunity is the following: Public eye is not intrinsically evil--public figures sometimes help people. Thus the desire to be blessed like Joseph and be free of the public eye is a simply a desire that one should appreciate publicity as a force for good instead of possible threat. Nevertheless, this is a personal decision and Rabbinic law protects those of us who are not yet at Josephs level from the public eye. A similar perspective holds in the privacy laws. Privacy is not intrinsically evil. True, I may nmind my neighbor seeing what I do in my courtyard; but I might also want a good neighbor who can oversee my yard and help me when I need it. Hence the privacy laws allow the concept of waiver even though other personal torts do not allow waivers.
Section IV A Harmonizing Approach
We have identified the Talmudic concept of evil eye with public eye. We have equated the avoidance of the evil eye with avoidance of anxiety due to excessive publicity. We have classified the public eye as a damage similar to the privacy torts. Our goal in this last section is to show a complementary harmony between the rational and supernatural explanations of this law. First we consider a Biblical precedent. King Saul is described as being possessed by an evil spirit.29 Examination of his symptoms (a) his
mistrust of his son-in-law26, David, and (b) his excessively aggressive tendencies27 suggests that in fact evil spirit refers to the biochemical disturbance of paranoia. Indeed, this is consistent with the Talmuds exemption of Saul from moral responsibility for his actions28 as well as with the fact that Saul used musical therapy.29 It is easy in this case to harmonize the physical explanation of paranoia with the supernatural explanation of an evil spirit. Saul had murdered a city of Priests.30 Their souls caused him guilt and it is this guilt which manifests itself in paranoia. Thus we see a complement of the two approaches: The supernatural-- the souls of the dead causes guilt, and the rational--the guilt manifests itself in a biochemical disturbance of parnaoia. Such a dual approach is also possible with the public eye prohibitions. True a person has anxiety from these prohibitions---but this anxiety is caused by not following in the footsteps of Joseph who helped the community with public service. Thus we see that the rational understanding of these laws should lead to greater appreciation of them and a fuller religiosity
The basic idea expressed in this article, appeared in various forms, several times on the email group Torah.Form located at www.TorahForum.Org. The author expresses his gratitude to the moderators of Torah-Forum for hosting a site where original Torah ideas can develop. The present article develops the thesis more fully with complete references This article was also published in the September 2003 issue of Kol HaShomrim – a periodic publication of Congregation Shomrei Emunah of Baltimore.
1. e.g. The Rambam includes all prohibitions against superstition in the Laws of Idolatry (Chapter 11) 2. Deuteronomy Chapter 18 Verse 13 3. Compare Rambam Idolatry Chapter 11 Paragraph 16 4. This law does not occur in the Talmud but is brought down in the Code of Jewish law in the Laws of Torah leining and is commonly accepted in all synagogues. 5. Rambam Idolatry Chapter 11 Paragraph 5. Note that this prohibition is Biblical: Deuteronomy 18:10 6. Rambam Torts Chapter 5 Paragraph 1 7. Rambam Torts Chapter 1, Paragraph 1 8. Rambam Torts, Chapter 5, Paragraph 13 9. Rambam Torts, Chapter 6, Paragraph 1 10. Rambam Torts Chapter 6, Paragraph 1 11. Rambam Torts, Chapter 5, Paragraph 12 12. Rambam Neighbors, Chapter 2, Paragraph 13
13. Rambam Neighbors, Chapter 5, Paragraph 6 14. Rambam Neighbors, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1 15. Rambam Neighbors, Chapter 5, Paragraph 6 16. Rambam Neighbors, Chapter 3, Paragraphs 1-4 17. Compare Rambam Neighbors Chapter 2 Paragraph 13 Chapter 7, Paragraph 6. (Thus there is a waiver by silence for the window but no such waiver for a fence) 18. Rambam Neighbors Chapter 11, Paragraph 1 19. Rambam Neighbors Chapter 11, Paragraph 2 20. Rambam Neighbors Chapter 11, Paragraph 4 21. I used the Davka Soncino CD Rom. It found 51 instances of evil-eye covering 25 distinct Talmudic portfolio. Several of the portfolio had identical citations. The citations are from the Soncino Talmud. 22. Pesachim 50b 23. Baba Metziah 107a 24. Baba Metziah 30a 25. e.g. Beracoth 20a and many others 26. e.g. Samuel 1, Chapter 20, Verses 30-31 or Samuel 1, Chapter 18, Verses 6-9 27. e.g. Samuel 1, Chapter 18, Verses 10-13 or Samuel 1, Chapter 22, Verses 17-19 28. See Talmudic comments on the verse,1 Samuel 28,19 Tomorrow you are with me (In Paradise), implying that Saul was not punished further for his actions 29. Samuel 1, Chapter 18, Verse 10 30. Samuel 1, Chapter 22, Verses 17-19
HOW GREEN IS JUDAISM?
EXPLORING JEWISH ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS
David Vogel Haas School of Business University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, California, 94720 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 510-642-5294 November 1999
A different version of this article appeared in Business Ethics Quarterly
This article explores the Jewish approach to environmental ethics.1 It draws on the extensive contemporary literature on Judaism and the environment, including threearticles which have been published in Judaism. This literature includes more than a score of scholarly and popular essays and articles as well as two volumes of es says.2 In addition, the Jewish environmental organization Shomrei Adamah: Keepers of the Earth has published A Garden of Choice Fruit, a collection of 200 classic Jewish quotes on human beings and the environment, and Let The Earth Teach You Torah, a guidebook for teaching Jewish perspectives on the environment.3 The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life represents a large number of Jewish organizations and engages in environmental advocacy and education in both the United States and Israel. The Jewishoriented left-of-center monthly Tikkun has also periodically published articles which present Jewish perspectives on bio-diversity as well as on other current environmental issues.4 Clearly, environmental ethics represents an important Jewish issue: it links the Jewish tradition of ethical analysis to a significant contemporary problem. The Jewish tradition makes a distinctive and important contribution to our understanding of contemporary environmental ethics and the complex relationship of man to nature.
Both the biblical corpus itself, which extends over seven or eight centuries, as well as postbiblical exegesis contains not one normative view of nature but a variety of views. Many ancient and medieval Jewish texts both express and are consistent with a strong environmental ethic. Far from providing a blanket endorsement to man’s domination of nature for his own benefit, Judaism imposes numerous restrictions on how, when and to what extent people can use the natural environment. Rather than simply expressing anthropocentric values, many of its ideas and principles either explicitly or implicitly evoke themes that are consistent with eco - or biocentric understandings of the relationship between people and nature.5 Indeed, the latter ethos, rather than representing a major new departure in or challenge to western religious thought, is actually prefigured in both ancient and medieval Jewish religious texts. But while Judaism may be consistent with many contemporary environmental values and doctrines, its teachings are not identical to them. Specifically, Judaism does not regard the preservation or protection of nature as the most important societal value; it holds that humans are not just a part of nature but have privileged and distinctive moral claims; it believes that nature can threaten humans as well as the obverse; it argues that nature should be used and enjoyed as well as protected. In short, the Jewish tradition is complex: it contains both “green” and “non- green’ elements. It is both inappropriate to over-emphasize the former, as have some Jewish environmentalists, or the latter, as have some environmental critics of western religion. 6 In the Jewish tradition, humans have both moral claims on nature and nature has moral claims on humans. But neither claim is absolute: nature both exists for the sake of humans and for its own stake. While the natural world must be respected and admired, its challenge to human interests and values must also be recognized. The key contribution of ancient and medieval Jewish texts to contemporary environmental discourse lies in the concept of balance – balance between the values and needs of humans and the claims of nature, and between viewing nature as a source of life and moral values and as a threat to human life and social values. The teachings of Judaism challenge both those who would place too low a value on nature as well as those who would place too high a value on it. Anthropocentrism and Eco-centricism “When you besiege a town for many days, waging-war against it, to seize it: you are not to bring-ruin upon its trees, by swinging-away (with) an ax against them, for from them you eat, them you are not to cut-down – for are the trees of the field human beings, (able) to come against you in a siege? Only those trees of which you know that they are not trees for eating, them you may bring- to-ruin and cut-down, that you may build siegeworks against the town that is making war against you, until its downfall.” (Deuteronomy 20:19-20)7
This is perhaps the most frequently cited passage in contemporary writings on Jewish environmental ethics and is often evoked as a textual basis for Jewish environmental ethics. Yet it contains an important ambiguity. Put simply: why should one not destroy the fruit trees? One interpretation of this passage, expressed by the medieval Jewish commentator Ibn Ezra (1089-1164 ), is that we should not destroy the fruit trees because our lives are dependent on them and the food they produce. Thus destroying the fruittrees is forbidden because it is not in the long-term interest of humans. However, the medieval Jewish scholar Rashi (1040-1105), offers a rather different interpretation. He asks rhetorically: “Are trees like people that they can run away from an advancing army and take refuge in the town? Of course not – they are innocent bystanders. Therefore don’t involve them in your conflicts, and don’t cut them down.”8 In short, the trees have a life of their own: they don’t just exist to serve human needs. The former interpretation is anthropocentric. It evokes the concept of sustainable development: we are permitted to pick the fruit, but not destroy the fruit tree because the fruit is a renewable resource while the tree presumably is not. The later interpretation is eco-centric or biocentric: it makes no reference to human needs. It posits that trees have an intrinsic value which is independent of human welfare or concerns. Not only can one locate both perspectives within the Jewish tradition but the very ambiguity of Deuteronomy 20: 19-20 contains an important key to understanding the Jewish approach to environmental ethics. The diverse interpretations of this passage suggests that Jewish environmental ethics incorporates both anthropocentrism and biocentrism. To argue that nature exists only for the bene fit of man is to refuse to acknowledge all nature as God’s creation. But it would be equally misguided to claim that humans ought not use nature for their own benefit. Thus even if one were to agree with the eco-centric interpretation of the prohibition against destroying fruit-trees, i.e. that they are to be valued for their own sake, the fact remains is that is permissible to cut down the non fruit-bearing for the purposes of waging war. But these trees are no less a part of nature than fruit-bearing trees. Neither are able to run away. Why are we then permitted to destroy them? Are they not equally innocent? Why are they not also valued for their own sake? Clearly God does not want us to live in a world in which we are forbidden to chop down all trees, since such a prohibition would make the preservation and sustaining of human life impossible. At the same time, neither does God want us to assume that the entire natural world exists to satisfy our material needs, for as Psalm 24 reminds us: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” The Torah’s distinction between fruitbearing and non- fruit-bearing trees seems to suggest
both ideas: nature exists both for the benefit of humans and has a value which is independent of human needs. Both interpretations also inform the exegesis of Deuteronomy 22: 6– 7, another Biblical text frequently cited in contemporary discussions of Jewish views on ecology: “When you encounter the nest of a bird before you in the way, in any tree or on the ground, (whether) fledglings or eggs, with the mother crouching upon the fledging or upon the eggs, you are not to take away the mother along with the children. Send-free, send- free the mother, but the children you may take for yourself, in order it may gowell with you and you may prolong (your ) life.” Once again: why should one take the young but let the mother go? According to Don Isaac Abravanel, (1437 – 1508) “God has commanded us not to destroy that which generates progeny” adding that “this commandment is given not for the sake of the animal world but rather so that it shall be good for humankind when Creation is perpetuated so that one will be able to partake of it again in the future.”9 To translate this interpretation into a modern idiom, Abravanel has invoked the concept of sustainable development. Yet Nahmanides, (1194-1270) another Medieval commentator, views this commandment in terms of an eco-centric understanding of the value of species preservation. According to his interpretation of this passage, “Scripture will not permit a destructive act that will bring about the extinction of a species, even though it has permitted the ritual slaughtering of that species for food. He who kills the mother and offspring on one day is considered as if he destroyed the species.”10 Thus according to Nahmanides, species extinction is intrinsically wrong – regardless of how or whether it affects humans. The Relationship of Humans to Nature A similar ambiguity informs various interpretations of the creation story. Specifically: what is the significance of the fact that man was created on the sixth day – after the creation of the entire natural world? According to the talmudic tractate Sanhedrin, “Our masters taught: Man was created on the eve of the Sabbath – and for what reason? So that in case his heart grew proud, one might say to him: Even the gnat was in creation before you were there.”11 Yet a Midrash (a tale created for interpretative or pedagogical purposes) compiled in the early Middle Ages offers an anthropocentric perspective. It has God showing the Garden of Eden to Adam and saying to him: “All I have created, I created for you.” Why did God create man at the end of the work of creation? “So that he may directly come to the banquet. One can compare it to a king who constructed palaces and embellished them and prepared a banquet and only then did he invite his guests.”12 Indeed, both relationships of man to nature are expressed at the very beginning of the Pentateuch: “Let them (humankind) have dominion
over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the heavens, animals, all the earth, and all crawling things that crawl upon the earth! (Genesis 1:26) This passage has been frequently cited as the basis for the claim that the Bible legitimates, even commands, the exploitation of nature by humans. However a classic rabbinical midrash on this passage suggests a more nuanced interpretation: “When God created Adam he led him past all the trees in the Garden of Eden and told him, `See how beautiful and excellent are all My works. Beware lest you spoil and ruin My world. For if you spoil it there is nobody to repair it after you’”13 Moreover, it is followed in verse 30 by a clear restriction on man’s domination of nature: people are only permitted to eat plants. And in the second creation story in Genesis 2:15, God places man in the Garden of Eden and instructs him “to work it and watch it” – which explicitly invokes the principle of stewardship. The same complex relationship of people to nature also informs the environmental ethic implicit in the laws of the kashrut which distinguish between foods that are permissible and prohibited to eat and sacrifice. Just as Deuteronomy 20: 19 – 20 distinguishes which trees which one can and cannot cut down while waging war, so Jewish dietary laws distinguish between which animals Jews can and cannot consume. The restrictions on fish and animal consumption specified in the laws of the kashrut are not anthropocentric in the sense that only a few of the forbidden animals pose a threat to human health and obviously there would be no health hazard in sacrificing them. It is noteworthy that a significant number of the animals currently protected by either American or international environmental law and whose endangerment has become a focus on considerable public concern are also forbidden to be eaten or sacrificed by Jews. These include lions, tigers and the other animals of the cat family, elephants, bears, rhinoceros, dolphins (mammals), whales, eagles, alligators and turtles. This is obviously coincidental since the origin of the kashrut laws has nothing to do with animal protection; rather they stem from the divine compromise with Noah, which permitted humans to eat meat, but only under certain conditions. But what is not coincidental is that both the ancient Jews and contemporary environmentalists believed that many of God’s creatures do not exist for the sake of humans. The fact that much of the animal world was not created for man’s use is further made clear in Job, when God points with pride to the various magnificent creatures He has created, virtually all of whom are useless to people. This list includes the lion, the mountain goat, the wild ass, the buffalo, the ostrich, the wild horse, the eagle, the hippopotamus and the crocodile. Critical to the observance of the Shabbath is the prohibition against productive activity. Jews are enjoined from tinkering with or transforming the world, which of course also includes tinkering with or transforming nature. Indeed the commandment to observe the Sabbath is the only commandment which applies to nature as well as
people, or, more precisely, to the relationship of people to animals and the land. According to Exodus 20: 10, “ you are not to make any kinds of work, (not) you, nor your son, nor your daughter, (not) your servant, nor your maid, nor your beast, nor your sojourner that is within your gates,” (italics added) – a stipulation which is repeated in Exodus 23:12 and Deuteronomy 5: 12. According to one contemporary scholar, “The essence of the prohibition against melacha (productive work) on Shabbat is to teach that the productive manipulation of the environment is not an absolute right.”14 Thus on the Shabbath, one cannot slaughter animals (though one can eat them if they are prepared earlier), work them in the field, hunt them, harvest crops, chop down trees, pick fruit etc. In short, on the Shabbath nature also has a day of rest from human manipulation. This is also true of the observance of most holidays. As Schorsh notes, “an unmistakable strain of self-denial runs through the Jewish calendar. From the sacrificial cult of the temple to the synagogue of rabbinic Judaism, it is the absolute cession of work that distinguishes the celebration of Jewish holy days . . . spiritual renewal is effected through physical contraction . . . To spend oneseventh of one’s life in `unproductive rest’ is scarcely a mark of absolute power.”15 But it is equally important to note that the Shabbath only takes place one day of the week. The other 86 percent of the time (not counting various holidays) humans can not only tinker with and transform nature, but they are required to do so. Indeed, as the 20th century philosopher A.J. Heschel observes, “the duty to work for six days in just as much a part of God’s covenant with man as the duty to abstain form work on the seventh day.”16 During the former, nature can and should be used productively. Moreover the Sabbath and the six working days are interdependent: neither can exis t without the other. The same sense of temporal balance underlies the Sabbatical year, which is akin in some respects to a year long celebration of the Sabbath. During this year, which occurs every seven years, sowing, harvesting and the gathering of grapes and other crops is forbidden. (Leviticus 25) Thus every seven years the land has a year of rest. This law may have an ecological dimension. “In the days before crop rotation or the availability of chemical nutrients for the soil, the practice of letting the land lie fallow enabled it to regain its fertility.”17 But the Rabbinical commentary on the Sabbatical year does not refer to this instrumental explanation. Rather the exegesis on this commandment emphasizes that its central purpose is the reaffirmation of God’s ownership of the land.18 Thus while Genesis 1, Deuteronomy 20: 19-20, Deuteronomy 22: 6-7, and the rules of the kashrut limit which parts of nature one can consume, the commandment to observe the Sabbath and observe the Sabbath year places limits on when this consumption can take place. A similar principle underlies the various rules regulating the treatment of animals that appear sporadically in the Pentateuch and are echoed in the rabbinic tradition. On one hand, compassion for all of God’s living creatures is required: animals have feelings which man is
obligated to respect. The principle in rabbinic literature relating to the treatment of animals is zaar baalei hayim, “the pain of living creatures.”19 In addition to the fourth commandment’s explicit requirement that all creatures, human as well as animal, have a day of rest, Deuteronomy forbids the farmer to plough with an ox and a donkey yoked together because, according to one interpretation, this would impose greater hardship on the weaker animal. (Deuteronomy 22:10) . Likewise a farmer is not permitted to muzzle an ox during the threshing period to prevent his eating grain. (Deuteronomy 25:4) Nor can an ox or a sheep be slaughtered on the same day as its offspring. ( Leviticus 22: 28) (See also Deuteronomy 22: 6-7 discussed above). The Torah also explicitly instructs Jews not to extend their animosity to the animals of their enemy: “(And) when you see the donkey of one who hates you crouching under its burden, restrain from abandoning to him – unbind, yet unbind it together with him.” (Exodus 23: 5) Not only do the laws of kosher slaughtering (shehitah) seek to minimize the pain of the animal being killed, but the biblical basis for the talmudic separation of the consumption of meat and milk is based on a passage which speaks to compassion for animals, namely that a kid cannot be boiled in the milk of its mother. This passage is considered so important that it is repeated on three separate occasions. But on the other hand. it is permitted to kill animals for food and other purposes, subject to the restrictions noted above. Rabbinic law also permits hunting for food, commerce or the removal of animal pests. And of course it also permits the use of animals for farm labor and transportation. And even unclean animals can be killed for their skins or if they present a danger to humans, etc. That human life can take precedence over animal life is explicitly illustrated in one of the most dramatic and important biblical stories, namely the binding of Isaac. God instructs Abraham to substitute a wild ram for his son Isaac on the makeshift alter Abraham has been commanded to build. This passage makes explicit the Jewish prohibition against human sacrifice, but its environmental context is equally significant: the life of an animal is sacrificed so that a human being – one whose survival is central to the future of the Jewish people - may live. This principle is repeated in the story of the Exodus when the Israelites are instructed to slaughter lambs and place their blood on their door-posts so that the angel of death may pass over their homes and not kill their first-born as well as those of the Egyptians. Moreover, animal sacrifices are commanded throughout the Pentateuch and are a major component of temple worship. Yet once again, limits apply: only domesticated animals can be sacrificed, thus assuring species preservation. In this context, it is useful to note the historical context of Deuteronomy 20:19-20.
Ancient practices of warfare knew no limits; nothing was allowed to interfere with the achievement of military objectives, specifically in this case the conquest of a city. Presumably the besieging force stood to benefit in some way from the destruction of the fruit trees in the vicinity of the city being attacked, otherwise there would be no reason for invoking the concept of bal tashchit (do not destroy) in this context in the first place. The halachah (Jewish law) subsequently extended the principle of bal tashchit to prohibit the diverting of the flow of a river to cause distress to a besieged city. Thus even in the extreme case of warfare, Jewish law imposes limits on man’s use of nature. Perceptions of Nature A major difference between anthropocentric and eco-centric environmental ethics lies in their respective views of nature. The former ethic assumes the existence of a tension between the interests of humans and nature, while both radical or ecology and eco-feminism tend to regard nature as benign or at least innocent.20 Once again, the Jewish tradition incorporates both perspectives. It also views nature in both positive and negative terms. One finds a post-Biblical harbinger of the deep ecology or biocentric perspective that man does not enjoy a privileged place in the universe in the voice which (rhetorically) questions Job from the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Who set its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the divine beings shouted for joy? (Job 38: 4, 6-7). More than five centuries before the advent of radical ecology, the Jewish medieval philosopher Maimonides (1131-1205) wrote in Guide for the Perplexed, “It should not be believed that all the beings exist for the sake of the existence of humanity. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes, and not for the sake of something else.”21 The Jewish tradition is also both respectful and appreciative of nature. Thus “Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai . . . used to say: if you have a sapling in your hand, and someone should say to you that the Messiah has come, stay and complete the planting, and then go to greet the Messiah.”22 The philosopher Bakhya ibn Pekuda wrote that Jews should engage in “meditation upon creation” in order to sense God’s majesty” while a large number of Kabbalistic works considered “nature itself as a garment of the Shekkhina.” 23 “Perek Shira”, a mystical poem from 900, has verses from all kinds of creatures singing God’s praises while one tradition of Jewish mysticism included outdoor mediation. At the same time, the Jewish tradition is by no means uncritical of nature. This criticism has a number of dimensions. First, for all its paeans and testimonies to nature’s beauty and majesty, the Torah also
depicts nature as a malevolent force, one capable of wracking havoc, death and destruction. Indeed nature’s destructiveness plays a central role in a number of important biblical narratives. The first of these is the flood. God’s injunction to Noah to take two of every species into the ark has been frequently cited as demonstrating a Biblical commitment to species protection. This is certainly a plausible interpretation: having creating each of these species earlier in Genesis, God presumably did not want his efforts to be in vain. But what is equally critical is that the flood also destroyed countless millions of animals and plants. (The latter, incidentally, were not brought into the ark.), The most apocryphal contemporary visions of ecological catastrophe do not even begin to approach the magnitude of the destruction of nature described in Genesis 7: 21-23: “Then expired all flesh that crawls about upon the earth – fowl, herdanimals, wildlife, and all swarming things that swarm upon the earth, and all humans: all that had the breadth of the rush of life in their nostrils, all that were on firm- ground, died, He blotted out all existing –things that were on the face of the soil, from man to beast, to crawling things and to fowl of the heavens, they were blotted out from the earth.” Indeed, so great was the terror caused by this extraordinary destructiveness that God create the rainbow in order to assure people that such a natural catastrophe would not reoccur. Another example of nature’s destructiveness occurs in the story of Joseph. For seven years, the entire region is made barren, causing untold misery not only for the Egyptians but for the Hebrews who are forced to leave their ancestral land in search of food. A third example of nature’s destructiveness, which also forms a critical part of the Exodus narrative, are the plagues which are visited upon the Egyptians. Half of the plagues, namely frogs, vermin, wild beasts, hail and locusts, directly use natural forces to make the lives of the Egyptians miserable, though for the most serious plague, the killing of the first born, God intervenes more directly through the angel of death. The Egyptian army seeking to recapture the fleeing Israelites also succumbs to nature’s destructiveness: it is drowned. Other Biblical narratives also show nature as a life-threatening force. The Biblical woods are wild places filed with dangerous animals while the thirst and starvation routinely confront wanderers in the desert. Indeed God explicitly acknowledges the former danger whe n he tells Moses, “I will not drive them (the Canaanites) out before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wildlife of the field become-many against you. (italics added) (Exodus 23:29) In the Yom Kippur lituary, God decides which Jews will be eaten by wild animals during the coming year. And ine one of the most dramatic passages in the Tenach, God tells Moses in Deuteronomy that if the Jewish people do not follow his commandments, natural cataphose will follow.(Deuteronomy 27: 15 – 68) Obviously in the context of the Jewish tradition,these natural disasters are not “natural.” They are created by God in order to achieve various divine purposes. But it is surely significant that God chooses to reveal
himself through nature’s malevolence as well as through its beneficence. Both sides of nature appear throughout the Torah. Second, nature is not only a source of physical danger to human beings; it is also a source of moral danger. Recall that it is an animal, the serpent, that leads to the first sin. A more significant, and subtle example is illustrated by the setting of the revelation at Sinai, the defining event in the history of the Jewish people. Why does God chose to make his covenant with the Jewish people in a place only utterly devo id of the capacity for sustaining life? Sinai is among the most desolate and barren places on the face of the earth. Why did God not chose a more hospitable setting, one that would enable Him to display the myriad wonders of the physical world that He so painstakingly created at the beginning of Genesis? In other words, why not choose a setting of natural abundance to make his covenant with the Jewish people? My explanation is that God did not do so because seeing natural and abundance around them would have distracted the people gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It would have undermined God’s central message, namely that what is critical to the survival of the Jewish people is their relationship to God, not the abundance of the natural world. Indeed, it is the physical setting of the revelation at Sinai that marks Judaism’s decisive break with the pantheistic traditions of nature worship of other ancient religions. Because there is no natural abundance to worship or even admire at Sinai, there is no possibility of intermingling God with nature or of viewing nature as sacred. There is only God and the Jewish people; everything else, including nature, is secondary. The plausibility of this interpretation is suggested by the mummurings of the Israelites as they wander in the desert for forty years. What do they complain about? What makes them long for life as slaves in Egypt? What, in short, threatens to distract them from their obligations under the covenant? It is their memory of the abundance of nature’s bounty in Egypt – a land which at one point they ironically recall as one of milk and honey. The contrast is clear. In Egypt, a land in which nature’s abundance is manifold – and not incidentally where nature is also worshiped - Jews are slaves, while in the desert, where nature produces nothing of value to humans, Jews are free. Not until the Israelites reach and conquer the Promised Land will they be able to enjoy both at the same time. The notion of nature as a source of distraction is also echoed in this passage from the Mishna composed in the third century AD: “Whoever is walking along the road reciting [holy texts], and he stops his recitation and says, ‘How beautiful is this tree! How beautiful is this field!’ it is reckoned as if he had committed a mortal sin.”25 .26 Thus while the Jewish tradition encourages the appreciation of nature, it also recognizes that there must be limits on this appreciation: nature is not to be worshipped. Indeed, for many commentators, the
substitution of God for nature or the natural world as an object of worship is precisely what distinguishes Judaism from the pagan or pantheistic religions of the ancient world out of which it emerged. Practical Applications The Rabbis wrestled with the practical implications of Jewish environmental ethics in part through their exegesis on the principle of bal tashit, a variant of the Biblical phrase in 20:19 translated as “you shall not destroy,” or “don’t destroy wantonly” which many Rabbis consider one of the 613 commandments which Jews are commanded to observe. But what precisely does it mean to “destroy” or “waste?” While originally interpreted to place limits on the waging of war, bal tashit came to have more far reaching applications. The Talmud applies it to both products of nature and products of man: “Whoever breaks vessels, or tears garments, or destroys a building, or clogs up a fountain, or does away with foods in a destructive manner, violates the prohibition of bal tashhit 27 According to Maimonides, “all needless destruction is included in this prohibition; for instance, whoever burns a garment, or breaks a vessel needlessly, contravenes the command: ‘you must not destroy.’” The Gemara (a codified commentary on Jewish law compiled in the 4th and 5th century AD) instructs: “One who tears cloths in anger, breaks objects in anger, or squanders money in anger, should be in your eyes like an idolater.”28 According to the Babylonian Talmud, “anyone who does not properly adjust the air flow of a lamp, thereby causing unnecessary fuel consumption, has violated the bal taschit prohibition.”29 The general principle is expressed in the Shulkhan Arukh, (a major codex of Jewish law compiled in the 16th century): of Jewish law: “It is forbidden to destroy or injure anything capable of being useful to men.”30 Since the concept of ownership is irrelevant to its application, this principle clearly limits private property rights; after all everything belongs to God. Thus one is equally enjoined from wantonly destroying one’s own property as well as that of others. 19 Not incidentally, one is also forbidden from destroying resources which belong to the commons, e.g. the fruit tree, the river in front of a besieged city. However in another sense the Talmudic texts interpreted bal taschit more narrowly. Thus the Gemara in Bava Kamma suggests that even the protection of fruit trees may be overridden by economic need, while the Gemara in Shabbat, not only claims that destruction for the protection of health is permissible, but goes so far as to suggests that both a personnel aesthetic preference as well as the gratification of a psychological need constitute sufficient grounds to override the prohibition of bal tashchit.31 Moreover, the Jewish tradition does not regard the economically productive use of natural resources as wasteful. Thus, according to a contemporary interpretation of a Talmudic passage, “if the transformative use of any raw materials, including fruit-bearing trees,
will produce more profit than using it in its present form, its transformative use is permitted.”32 For Judaism, it is the wanton destructiveness of nature which is wrong. But by using nature productively, humans appropriately mix their efforts with God’s creation. The blessing recited before eating most meals – one of the most frequently recited Jewish prayers – thanks God for bringing forth bread – which requires the productive collaboration of humans with nature. The Non-Green Dimensions of Judaism While there are important differences between many contemporary environmental challenges and those which faced the world in which ancient and medieval Jewish writers lived, the latter do prefigure and incorporate many “green” elements. But it is equally important not to ignore the important ways in which Jewish texts dissent from a number of contemporary green values, especially those associated with radical ecology. 33 20 First, while Judaism clearly regards the preservation and protection of nature as an important value, it is certainly not the most important value. What is more important is performing mitzvot (commandments ) all but a small portion of which deal with the relationship of people to God and to each other. Of the Ten Commandments, only one – the commandment to keep the Sabbath – has even a remote relevance to the relationship of people to nature. A similar ratio likely holds for the hundreds of other commandments Jews are required to observe. For Judaism, how people relate to their God and how they relate to each other are more important than how they treat nature. Treating nature with respect and reverence is not incompatible with the former, but neither can it be considered a substitute for revering God and respecting other human beings. In this important sense, Judaism may contain “green” elements, but it is not a “green” religion. Second, the notion that humans are not just a part of nature, but have distinctive – and privileged - moral claims is an integral part of Jewish thought. Thus preserving and maintaining human life is more important than protecting or preserving nature. It is significant that none of the numerous restrictions on man’s use of nature in Judaism endanger human life or society, though some – such as the restrictions on which animals can be eaten - may at times make its maintenance more difficult. But Jewish concern for nature stops where the preservation of human life begins. While numerous commandments speak to the compassion for animal life, God did not hesitate to command the sacrifice of a wild ram to save Isaac or numerous lambs to save the lives of the Israelites in Egypt. Thus the Jewish tradition holds that while humans do have responsibilities for animals, these responsibilities should not come at the expense of human welfare. As 21 Berman notes, “It is not acceptable in Jewish law to make an assertion of the independent rights of nature.
The rights of nature need to be carefully balanced, calibrated against human interests; and in that balancing, it will be the human interests which will have the priority.”34 In short, in Judaism, nature does not have rights; rather humans have responsibilities for the natural world. Third, while it is certainly true that a strain of self-denial runs through the observances of many Jewish holidays – including the Shabbath - it is equally true that Judaism regards nature as something to be used. Recall that the Promised Land is described as one of “milk and honey,” and thus a place where nature is to be used to benefit humans. Indeed, in Deuteronomy 8: 7-9, God waxes eloquent in describing its abundance: “When YHWH your God brings you into a good land, a land of streams of water, springs and Ocean-flows, issuing from valleys and hills: a land of wheat and barley, (fruit of the) vine, fig, and pomegranate, a land of olives, oil and honey . . .. a land whose stones are iron, and from whose hills you may hew copper.” While man’s use or taming of nature must not be “wasteful,” the Jewish concept of waste does not preclude the economically productive use of nature’s assets or even the use of them to derive psychological benefits. As one commentator observes, “the biblical imperative requires finding a balance between transformation and preservation.”35 In this context it is worth re-examining the criticisms made by Jews of the activities of Pacific Lumber Company. This firm is owned by Maxxam Corporation whose major shareholder is a Jewish businessman, Charles Hurwitz. After Pacific Lumber began to increase the rate at which the ancient redwoods on its property were being logged following its takeover by Maxxam, a number of Jews, including several 22 Rabbis, publicly appealed to its CEO to make a teshuvah sheleymah (a genuine change of direction) and perform a great mitzvah by dedicating himself to the preservation of the Headwaters Forest. The company’s critics attempted to bring “Jewish wisdom and ethics” to bear on this issue as a way of pressuring the firm’s owner.36 Preserving the redwoods in the Headwaters Forest may be a good or wise idea. But it is unclear that it is either mandated or logically flows from the teachings of Judaism. According to talmudic interpretations of bal tashchit, natural objects should not be wasted or needlessly destroyed. But using the lumber harvested from the Headwaters Forest for commercial purposes is not necessarily wasteful. Rather it constitutes an alternative use – one which may be more or less important than letting the trees remain standing. While it is clear that the community does have a stake in what happens to the redwoods after all Hurwitz is a trustee for God’s creation – this does not mean that none of these trees can be cut down. for productive uses. What the Jewish tradition does require is that these trees be harvested in a sustainable, non-exploitative way – one that strikes an appropriate balance between the need to protect what God has created and the needs of humans to sustain life.
Finally, Judaism does not view nature as inherently benevolent. While recognizing the beauty and majesty of the natural world, it also perceives that nature can also be terrifying and threatening. According to Jewish thought, human efforts to discipline or subdue nature do not, as many radical ecologists claim, stem from the urge to dominate nature but rather represent a response to the real challenges to human survival posed by the natural world.37 Notwithstanding the achievements of modern science and technology, these challenges have by no means disappeared. 23 These four ideas – that protecting the natural world is not the highest imperative, that human life is more important than nonhuman life, that nature is to be used and enjoyed as well as preserved, and that nature can threaten humans just as humans can threaten nature – should not be viewed as the outdated legacies of a pre- industrial religion. They represent an important contribution to contemporary efforts to define and redefine the appropriate ethical relationship between people and the physical world in which they live and which God created. 24 1 . The author would like to thank the following individuals for their helpful
comments on earlier drafts of this article: Robert Alter, Eugene Bardach, Zev Brinner, Kenneth Cohen, Edwin Epstein, Claude Fisher, Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Christine Rosen, Eric Schulzke, Adam Weisberg.
2 Saul Berman, “Jewish Environmental Values: The Dynamic Tension
Between Nature and Human Needs, in To Till and To Tend, New York: The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life; Jeremy Benstein, “Leave Nature Out of the War,” The Jerusalem Report September 7, 1995, p. 32; Jeremy Benstein, “One, Walking and Studying . . .: Nature vs. Torah,” Judaism Spring 1995, pp. 146 – 168; Mark Bleiweiss, “Jewish Waste Ethics,” Jewish Spectator Fall, 1995, pp. 17 – 19; Eliezer Diamond, “Jewish Perspectives on Limiting Consumption,” in Ellen Bernstein, ed. “Ecology and the Jewish Spirit: Where Nature and the Sacred Meet, Woodstock: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1998, pp. 80 – 89; David Ehrenfeld and Philip Bentley, “Judaism and the Practice of Stewardship,” Judaism pp. 301 - 311; Eliezer Finkelman, “Kee Tetze: Do Animals Have full Moral Standing?” Jewish Bulletin of Northern California August 23, 1996; Eric Freudenstein, “Ecology and the Jewish Tradition,” Judaism: fall, 1970, pp.1 – 11; Everett Gendler, “The Earth’s Covenant,” Reconstructionist November-December, 1989, pp. 28 –31; Robert Gordis, “Ecology in the Jewish Tradition,” Midstream October, 1995, pp. 19 – 23; Robert Gordis, ‘the earth is the Lord’s – Judaism and the spoliation of nature,” Keeping Posted December, 1970, pp. 5 – 9; Ismar Schorsch, “Leaning To Live With Less – A Jewish Perspective,” unpublished talk, September 14, 1990; Eilon Schwartz, “Judaism and Nature: Theological and Moral Issues to Consider While Renegotiating a Jewish Relationship to the Nature World,” Judaism, Fall, 1995, pp. 437-447; Abraham Stahl, “Educating for Change in Attitudes Toward Nature and Environment Among Oriental Jews in Israel, “ Environment and Behavior, January, 1993, pp. 3 – 21; Daniel Swartz, “Jews, Jewish Texts, and Nature A Brief History,” in To Till and to Tend p. 1 – 14; Samuel Weintraub, “The Spiritual Ecology of Kashrut,”
in To Till and To Tend, pp. 21- 24. Ecology and the Jewish Spirit, Bernstein, ed op. cit; Judaism and Ecology, Aubrey Rose, ed, London: Cassell, 1992. 3 Ellen Bernstein and Dan Fink, Let the Earth Teach You Torah Philadelphia: Shomrei Adamah, 1992, David Stein, ed. A Garden of Choice Fruit Wyncote, Penn. 1991. 4 See, for example, Badley Shavit Artson, “A Jewish Celebration of Biodiversity,” Tikkun vol. 12, no. 5, pp. 43 – 45. 5 For a discussion of these two perspectives, see Avner De-Shalit and Moti Talias, “Green or Blue and White? Environmental Controversies in Israel,” Environmental Politics Summer, 1995, pp. 273 – 294. For a discussion of deep ecology, see Deep Ecology for the 21st Century, edited by George Sessions, Boston: Shambhala, 1995. 25 6 See for example, Lynn White Jr. “The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis, Science , March 10, 1976, p. 1207 7 Unless otherwise noted, all Biblical quotations are from The Five Books of Moses A New Translation with Introductions, Commentary, and notes by Everett Fox, New York: Schocken Books, 1995 8 Quoted in Bernstein, p. 32. 9 Quoted in Diamond, p. 85. 10 Quoted in Gordis, p. 20. 11 Quoted in Ehrenfeld and Bentley, p. 302. 12 Quoted in Stahl, p. 6. 13 Quoted in Meir Tamari, With All Your Possessions Jerusalem: Jason Aronson, 1998 p. 280 14 Berman, p. 15. 15 Schorsch, p. 6. 16 Quoted in Marc Swetlitz, “Living As If God Mattered: Heschel’s View of Nature and Humanity,” in Ecology and the Jewish Spirit, p. 247. 17 Gladis, p. 22. 18 Gordis, p. 8. 19 See, Gordis, p. 20. 20 See, for example, the various essays in Ecology: Key Concepts in Critical Theory edited by Carolyn Merchant, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1994 21 22 23 24 25 Quoted in Swartz, p 6. Quoted in Swartz, p. 4. Swartz, p. 5. Ibid. Quoted in Stahl, p. 7.
26 For a detailed exegesis of this text, which appears to admit of a variety of interpretations, see Berstein, “One, Walking, …” 27 Quoted in Gordis, p. 22.
26 28 29 30 31 32
Quoted in Bleiwiss. p. 18. Quoted in Diamond, “Jewish Perspectives,” p. 87. Quoted in Gordis, p. 22. Berman, p. 16, 17. Bernstein, p. 87.
33 A number of writers have pointed to the danger of “study(ing) the Sources with an eye for those particular teachings that are inspirational for – or at least compatible with – one’s own predetermined ‘green’ positions and thus avoiding challenging oneself with texts that don’t fit current environmental wisdom.” Benstein “ One Walking. . “ p. 147 34 Berman, p. 17. 35 Diamond, “Jewish Perspectives,” p. 82. 36 Arthur Waskow, “Redwoods, Tobacco, and Torah,” Tikkun, Vol. 12, no. 5, p. 35. 37 For a very different interpretation, see, for example, the claim made by a number of the contributors to Reweaving The World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein, San Francisco: Sierra Books, 1990.
BREASTFEEDING MEDICINE Volume 1, Number 1, 2006 © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
The Talmud and Human Lactation: The Cultural Basis for Increased Frequency and Duration of Breastfeeding Among Orthodox Jewish Women
ARTHUR I. EIDELMAN
Background: The relationship of cultural factors to the breastfeeding patterns has been documented.
Given previous reports of the increased frequency and duration of breastfeeding in Orthodox Jewish women, an analysis of the religious and cultural basis of this phenomenon was performed. Methodology: The published medical literature relating to the religious and sociodemographic variables in Jewish women was summarized. A review of the Talmudic references to the qualities of breast milk, patterns of breastfeeding, and status of the breastfeeding mother were presented. Results: The Talmudic references confirm a strong endorsement of the superior qualities of breast milk, the recommendation for a prolonged period of breastfeeding (2 to 4 years) and the unique economic and social rights of the breastfeeding mother. Conclusion: Because the Talmud—the 2000-year-old document that serves as the basis for the current Jewish religious legal code (Halacha)—explicitly focuses on the positive values of both breast milk and breastfeeding, it is understandable that Orthodox Jewish women have a deep religious cultural commitment to breastfeeding that is an integral part of their religious lifestyle. This positive religious dimension of breastfeeding is independent of any of acknowledged medical benefits per se. 36
REPEATED STUDIES of the multicultural Israeli population have provided a database for the analysis of the demographic, social, and perinatal medical factors that influence both the initiation and duration of breastfeeding.1–6 A consistent findings in all of these studies has been the correlation of a higher initiation rate and longer duration of breastfeeding in Orthodox Jewish women, independent of age, educational level, parity, mode of delivery, smoking habits, medical condition, or employment pattern. In fact, as reported by Birenbaum,2,3 maternal multivariate analysis by stepwise logistic regression has documented that the Orthodox Jewish belief was the variable with the highest correlation (p _ 0.001) with successful breastfeeding. Some investigators have argued that this finding reflects the fact that breastfeeding has an additional benefit (i.e., lactation amenorrhea), and thus provides a secondary gain as a religiously approved method of contraception. 7
Department of Pediatrics, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Hebrew University School of Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel; Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheva, Israel.
In fact, Rosner8 has recently confirmed that among Orthodox women in New York who do not use any medical birth control techniques, breastfeeding is perceived as an acceptable means to extend the birth interval.
In mothers who did breastfeed, the interval was 6 months longer than in those who did not nurse. However, there may well be a more basic motivation for breastfeeding in these mothers, beyond the contraceptive value; thus, it behooves the clinician to understand the cultural/ religious concepts that underlie the positive attitude and behavior to breastfeeding in this population. This is particularly relevant to caretakers who serve this population, given the fact that the Orthodox Jewish community currently conducts its lifestyle by a welldefined and highly legalistic code of behavior termed the Halacha. As such, this commentary has chosen to analyze the pronouncements about human lactation as cited in the Talmud, the nearly 2000-yearold text that serves as the primary source for the development of the Halacha. Reviewing these citations clearly allows one to understand the theological and cultural basis for the positive attitude toward breastfeeding in the Orthodox Jewish population and possibly assist in formulating concepts that can be generalized to broader and more culturally diverse groups of mothers. From a historical point one should note that Talmudic textural references to breastfeeding and the qualities of breast milk reflect both the evolving written Jewish legal system (Halacha) that began to be codified in the first centuries of the Common Era (200 to 400 AD) and the social and cultural environment of the then-existing GrecoRoman world. As is obvious from the perusal of the various Talmudic citations, both the legal and the homiletic (Agadah), it is clear that rabbinic authorities assumed that breastfeeding was the most natural and healthy form of infant feeding. In addition, it is equally clear that the Talmudic rabbis possessed a most sophisticated understanding of the physiology of breastfeeding, the dynamic psychology of maternal–infant bonding, and the unique characteristics of breast milk itself. In this review, a selected number of Talmudic statements and concepts are presented that confirm these conclusions, allowing one to understand more fully the cultural basis for the continuing success of breastfeeding among Orthodox Jewish mothers. In fact, the most recent national survey of infant nutritional practices in Israel confirms the persistent phenomenon of successful instantiation and prolonged duration of breastfeeding in these Orthodox mothers.9 TALMUDIC CITATIONS Breast As the human female was ordained with breasts that could provide breast milk, it was inconceivable to the rabbis that a woman would not breastfeed. The basis for this conclusion was the theological concept that it was impossible to believe that something that was created by God be without purpose or that man would counter God’s wishes by ignoring its purpose. Thus, Rabbi Elazar in his interpretation
of the prayer of the childless Hannah (1 Samuel, chapter 1, verses 12–17) expressed her plea to God as follows: Master of the universe, of all (the organs) you created in a woman you did not create a single thing for naught . . . breasts with which to nurse. Thus, give me a son that I may nurse with them.10 Rabbi Abahu11 noted that, in the humans, the breasts were created to be near the heart, the seat of insight (binah). Insight in turn nurtures the soul (neshamah) and leads to “understanding of the benefits” of God.12 In contrast, in ungulates the breasts are near the anus. As a result, in the words of Rabbi Masna and Rabbi Yedidyah,11 the human infant who breastfeeds is not exposed to either “the unclean space” (tinofet) of the anus, nor “gazes at the place of nakedness” (ervah) of the perineum. Of interest to note, is that the term nakedness/ervah of the perineum was Talmudic euphemism for sexual sin, confirming that the breast per se was not conceptualized as having a sexual purpose. Thus, the exposure of the breast was not considered to be either a sin or a lewd act. Breast milk The origin of breast milk was a matter of debate among various rabbis. Rabbi Meir13 believed (as did Aristotle and Galen) that menstrual (uterine) “blood is transformed (n’aseh achar) and becomes milk.” As such, when a mother breastfeeds, no menstruation takes place. Other authorities, such as Rabbis Yossi, Judah, and Simon, attribute the postpartum cessation of menstruation to the disjointment (disintegration) of the mother’s internal sex organs. 13 In the unusual circumstance when a lactating mother becomes pregnant, the internal sex organs regrow and expand and in turn lead to the milk turning murky (ne’achar) and becoming unpalatable to the infant. This process occurs only after the third postpartum month and usually only after the end of the first trimester of pregnancy.13,14 Thus, in these rabbis’ concept the production of milk is linked inversely to the presence or absence of the internal female organs (uterus). Breast milk is considered kosher for human consumption, even though it is derived from a non-kosher animal (i.e., a human being).15 Even though it is milk, it is categorized as “pareve” (i.e., neither dairy nor meat). Thus, breast milk can be mixed with all types of food, including meat products, and still meet the standards of the Jewish dietary laws. However, the rabbis cautioned against routinely mixing breast milk with meat products so as not to confuse people (ma’aris ayin) who might mistake the milk for bovine milk.15 Breast milk is considered to have unique chemical characteristics. This can be deduced from the rabbinic debate15 about the question
of when an infant can visually recognize its own mother as opposed to another female caretaker. Recognition of one’s own mother (or wet nurse) was considered critical for the success of nursing. Rabba concluded that infant– maternal recognition occurs at least 90 days after delivery. Rabbi Yitzchak in the name of Rabbi Jonathan felt that an infant can recognize its own mother within 50 days, whereas Rabbi Shmuel thought that this can happen in special cases as early as 30 days after birth. The Talmud concluded that there is no specific point of time post partum when this recognition process occurs and that the dynamic of each infant–mother dyad is different. Rav Ashi emphasized this point the by stating that even a blind baby could recognize its own mother in even less than 30 days by relying on the unique smell and taste of its own mother’s milk.15,16 In addition, the rabbis stressed that the diet of the mother can influence both the quality and the variety of taste of the milk, confirming that they understood the concept maternal plasma–breast milk transport.17 Duration of breastfeeding The Talmudic recommended duration for breastfeeding is 24 months, although some authorities, such as Rabbi Yehoshua, extend this period up to 4 to 5 years.15 If the infant is weaned before 2 years there is concern that this will lead to an undue risk to the infant’s health.10,17,19 The act of breastfeeding is considered to be an effective and natural contraceptive and the risk of pregnancy is small. However the risk is still large enough to justify the use of a female barrier contraceptive device (Moch).18 This concern stems from the belief that if a pregnancy does occur it can be expected that the milk production will be significantly reduced in quality and quantity after the first trimester unduly risking the health of the infant. Similarly, a nursing mother who is widowed should not remarry until her infant is at least 21 months old, so she not “risk” getting pregnant by her new husband, and, in turn, risking her living infant’s well-being.18 Clearly, the rabbis considered breast milk the vital nutritional source for the first 2 years of the infant’s life. Rights of the breastfeeding mother The nursing mother is categorized as legally “sick” in the sense that she has special maternity benefits. Thus, she must be allotted an enlarged food allowance to cover her and her infant’s increased nutritional demands. Furthermore, her work obligations (including housework), both as to effort and duration, must be reduced during the nursing period, so as to preserve both the quantity and quality of the milk.20 Not only is the mother obligated to minimize her work and be provided with an adequate diet, but also she is cautioned against eating foods that could affect the milk. Thus, the rabbis admonished mothers against eating unripe dates, small fishes, palm shoots, sour
milk, moldy bread, or excessive salt.14 These recommendations applied equally to wet nurses. Wet nurses are prohibited from concurrently nursing their own child or another infant so as to guarantee that an adequate amount of milk be available for the infant she is hired to nurse.14 Bottle feeding There is no mention in the Talmud of bottle feeding. The alternative to the desired breastfeeding from the natural mother is either a wet nurse, animals such as goats, or in extreme circumstances even nursing from a non-kosher animal.20 The bottle is not an alternative. CONCLUSION It is clear that the Talmud reflects a most positive attitude to breastfeeding and the principle that breastfeeding must be sustained for an extended period if one wishes to guarantee the optimal health and development of the newborn infant. In a sense, the cited Talmudic legal pronouncements are the practical and operational expression of Judaism’s basic tenets. The ultimate blessing is, as expressed by thePatriarch Jacob, “The blessing of the womb and the breast.”21 That these tenets continue, to this day, to sustain Orthodox Jewish women in their decision and commitment to breastfeed their infants can be confirmed by the various lay and rabbinic publications that are available to modern Orthodox Jewish women,22,23 and the results of ongoing surveys that continue to document the positive impact of traditional religious beliefs and mandates on daily nonritualistic behavior.9 REFERENCES
1. Bergman R, Feinberg D. Working women and breastfeeding in Israel. J Adv Nurs 1981;6:305–309. 2. Birenbaum E, Fuchs C, Reichman B. Demographic factors influencing the initiation of breast feeding in an Israeli urban population. Pediatrics 1989;83:519–523. 3. Birenbaum E, Vila Y, Linder N, et al. Continuation of breastfeeding in an Israeli population. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1993;16:311–315. 4. Ever-Hadani P, Seidman DS, Manor O, et al. Breast feeding in Israel: Maternal factors associated with choice and duration. J Epidemiol Commun Health 1994;48:281–285. 5. Shani M, Shinwell E. Breastfeeding characteristics and reasons to stop breastfeeding. Harefuah 2003;142:426–428. 6. Berger-Achituv S, Shohat T, Garty B. Breast-feeding patterns in central Israel. Isr Med Assoc J 2005;7:515–551. 7. Palti H, Vardi P, Palti Z, et al. Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of breast feeding in parturient women in Israel. In: Human Milk: Its Biological and Social Value, Frier S, Eidelman AI, eds., Excerpta Medica, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1980. 8. Rosner AE, Schulman SK. Birth interval among breastfeeding women not using contraceptives. Pediatrics 1990;86:747–752.
9. Nitzan-Kaluski, Ofir A, Amitai Y, et al. Israel National Breastfeeding Survey 1999–2000, Israel Ministry of Health, Jerusalem, 2001. 10. Tractate Berachot 31B, Talmud Bavli: The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 1997. 11. Tractate Berachot 10A, Talmud Bavli: The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 1997. 12. Tractate Bechorot 6B, Babylonian Talmud, Epstein I, ed., Soncino Press, London, 1948. 13. Tractate Nidah 9A, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 1996. 14. Tractate Ketubot 60B, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 2000. 15. Tractate Ketubot 60A, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 2000. 16. Tractate Ketuboth 59B, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 2000. 17. Tractate Yomah 75A, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 1998. 18. Tractate Yevamot 12B, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 1999. 19. Tractate Yevamot 42A, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 1999. 20. Tractate Ketuboth 65A, Talmud Bavli, The Schottenstein Edition, Art Scroll Series, Menorah Publications, New York, 2000. 21. Genesis, chapter 49, verse 25. 22. Abrams JZ, Abrams SA. Jewish Parenting: Rabbinic Insights. Jason Aaronson Publishers, Northvale, NJ, 1994. 23. Tokayer M. Created in Wisdom. The Symbiotic Relationship BetweenMother and Child: A Jewish Perspective. Feldheim Publishers, Nanuet, NY, 1995.
Address reprint requests to:
Arthur I. Eidelman, M.D.
Department of Pediatrics Shaare Zedek Medical Center P.O. Box 3235 Jerusalem 91031 Israel E-mail: email@example.com
This article has been cited by:
1. Rahul Malhotra, Amit Noheria, Omar Amir, Leland K. Ackerson, S.V. Subramanian. 2008. Determinants of termination of breastfeeding within the first 2 years of life in India: evidence from the National Family Health Survey-2. Maternal & Child Nutrition 4:3, 181-193. [CrossRef]
July, 2007 PROGRESS IN PHYSICS Volume 3
LETTERS TO PROGRESS IN PHYSICS
Zelmanov’s Anthropic Principle and Torah Betzalel Avraham Feinstein
Baltimore, Maryland, USA E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://chidusheibetzalel.blogspot.com According to Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, nothing is real except for Gd. In this brief letter, originally addressed to Torah scholars, we demonstrate how Zelmanov’s Anthropic Principle is consistent with this tradition by analyzing the famous question in philosophy, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” There is a famous question in philosophy: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Philosophers have been debating this question for centuries. The philosophers who answer “No”, called idealists, are of the opinion that reality is whatever we perceive it to be. And the philosophers who answer “Yes’, called realists, are of the opinion that reality exists independently of observers. In the 1940’s, the prominent cosmologist Abraham Zelmanov introduced his Anthropic Principle: “The Universe has the interior we observe, because we observe the Universe in this way. It is impossible to divorce the Universe from the observer. The observable Universe depends on the observer and the observer depends on the Universe. If the contemporary physical conditions in the Universe change then the observer is changed. And vice versa, if the observer is changed then he will observe the world in another way. So the Universe he observes will be also changed. If no observers exist then the observable Universe as well does not exist” [1, 2]. The Anthropic Principle answer to the above question is both “Yes” and “No”. “Yes”, since the observer is dependent upon the observable Universe for his or her existence, so it is possible for sound, which is part of the observable Universe, to exist without an observer. And “No”, since the observable Universe is dependent upon the observer for its existence, so it is impossible for sound to exist without an observer. So the Anthropic Principle seems to be logically contradictory. But Zelmanov’s Anthropic Principle is nevertheless consistent with Torah. How is this possible? According to our Torah sages of blessed memory, only G-d is real, since only G-d has an independent existence that is not subject to change from external factors._ The question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, is based upon the assumption that _One of the best references for the claim that Torah tradition says that only G-d is real is the book entitled Tanya, by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi . Book 2 of Tanya, entitled Sha’ar ha-Yichud ve’ha’Emunah (translated as The Gateway of Unity and Belief ) explains this principle in detail. either the observer or the observable Universe is real. Thus according to the reasoning of our Torah sages of blessed memory, the question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, is based upon a false premise, since both the observer and the observable universe are not real (according to the
sages’ definition of “real”). Hence, it is possible for the answer to the question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” to be both “Yes” and “No” and still be consistent with Torah. Submitted on May 16, 2007 Accepted on May 21, 2007 References 1. Rabounski D. Zelmanov’s Anthropic Principle and the Infinite Relativity Principle. Progress in Physics, 2006, v. 1, 35–37. 2. Zelmanov A. L. Chronometric invariants. Dissertation thesis, 1944. American Research Press, Rehoboth (NM), 2006. 3. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Lessons in Tanya. (The English translation of Tanya, with comments.) Translated by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun. Comments by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. Kehot Publication Society, New York, 1998, 1970 pages in 5 vols. B. A. Feinstein. Zelmanov’s Anthropic Principle and Torah 89
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