Friday, March 2 – OPEN TO THE CONGREGATION!
There is a Biblical tradition which could turn the modern health care debate on its head. The Talmud infers from a verse in this week’s Torah portion, “He shall surely heal,” (Exodus 21:19) that God has granted the physician the ability to heal. Rav Acha declared, “Blessed is the doctor who heals without payment.” Why shouldn’t a physician be paid?
Rabbi J. David Bleich explains that, unlike the western conception for which the doctor-patient relationship is “contractual,” and a doctor may refuse to serve a patient, Judaism regards the physician as not merely acting on behalf of the patient but in the service of God. He offers an analogy to a drowning person. There is an ethical (and Biblical) obligation to save the person from drowning. However, not everyone’s obligation is equal in this regard. A non-swimmer who tries to help may actually make the situation worse, whereas an expert swimmer would surely be obligated to intervene (with no compensation expected). Similarly, the doctor, having special lifesaving skills, has a religious-legal duty to heal the sick, even for no pay.
The respected Israeli rabbinic leader, R. Eliezer Waldenberg, wrote that it is unnecessary to allocate charity to pay doctors to provide medical care for poor people, because anyway the doctor is obligated to heal the sick. He adds, “However, in a place that has more than one doctor, it is unfair to throw this obligation on anyone of them in particular, therefore it is proper to establish a charity fund for this purpose.” (Ramat Rachel #24)
Our modern health care debate is focused on how to get people to pay (insurance mandate or not). Imagine if, instead, we approached the issue as being one of how will physicians get (fairly) paid?
Rabbi Mitch Levine
Saturday, February 17 – Jeffrey Cohan, Executive Director of Jewish Veg, will be delivering the D’var Torah on the topic of ‘Judaism and Animals: Restoring the Relationship.”
He will also be available after services to answer questions.
Cook Like a Babushka, an interactive cooking demonstration of Russian cuisine on February 18th from 2-5 PM at Agudas Achim is part of the Federation’s Russian engagement project. A $5 minimum donation to the Holocaust Survivors Initiative reserves a spot for this limited-space event.
Register at JewishColumbus.org/babushka. RuJew is a Russian Engagement initiative by the Jewish Federation of Columbus and has been made possible with the generous support of Genesis Philanthropy Group.
Parashat Yitro opens with “And Yitro Priest of Midian, the father-in-law of Moses, heard all that God had done for Moses and Israel his people when he took Israel out of Egypt” (Shemot/Exodus 18:1). The Talmudic rabbis understand this passage to signal Yitro’s decision to convert to Judaism. In answer to the question as to what precisely did Yitro hear that inspired him to join the Jewish community, we find three answers:
- He heard about our victory over the Amalekites
- He heard about the giving of the Torah
- He heard about the splitting of the Red Sea
The above answers reflect three different rabbinic perspectives on what each considered the most compelling rationale for valuing and pursuing a Jewish identity. Some of us find inspiration in the history of the Jewish struggle against anti-Semitism and the miracle of Jewish survival (Amalekites). Alternatively, some of us most highly prize Jewish intellectual achievement and the attraction of the opportunity for life-long learning (Torah). Thirdly, some of us are moved by the experience of Divine providence in our lives (Sea).
There are many valid reasons for cultivating and refining a Jewish identity, and nearly all of them can be best realized in the context of a caring and robust community. Following weekday morning services, we may be discussing the grave challenges to Israel or our concerns for the Jewish community of France over bagels and coffee. Shabbat afternoons at Woodchoppers Talmud we expand our Jewish knowledge and skills. And on Shabbat mornings we get in touch with the Holy spark within us through t’fila and song.
Rabbi Mitch Levine