Virtual Talmud

I appreciate Rabbi Grossman’s overview of Jewish texts pertaining to the mandate to heal. I would add Chapter 25 of Leviticus which, while not directly relating to health, speaks to the question of obligations to those in need that are borne on the individual level versus obligations that are born collectively–at the societal level. Chapter 25 of Leviticus speaks of the yovel or Jubilee year, which is the 50th year when all land that had switched hands for whatever reason in the previous 49 years reverted back to its original owner. Debts were forgiven and slaves were freed–in essence, whatever inequities had developed over the prior 49 years were wiped clean. By acknowledging God’s power rather than worshiping our own, yovel functioned as a check on society–a built-in mechanism to ensure we would not end up with haves and have-nots, and a recognition that sometimes wealth would need to be redistributed in order to make this happen.

I would also add that the injunction from Deuteronomy 15 gives the commandment to give freely to our neighbor who is in need–again recognizing that our goal is not simply to acquire as much as we can, but to ensure that all have enough. This idea was built into the yishuv, the pre-State settlements, in the Land of Israel through the institution of kupat cholim–-collective funds against which workers could draw if they became ill. These funds are the backbone of the Israeli health care system to this day.

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