R. Yohanan says that if the Jew will certainly die without the non-Jewish doctor’s medical attention, he should be allowed to heal him (or at least to try). While it is true that that the non-Jew might kill him immediately and thereby cause him the loss of the few hours/days/weeks he has left, we are not concerned with loss of such a short amount of time to live.
In this verse in II Kings the four lepers outside the besieged city prefer to go into the city where the enemy army might be located then die of starvation outside the city. This proves that one may put a short amount of time of one’s life at risk. In other words, if I know I will die in say 2 months, I may take a risk now even though it might kill me a lot sooner than 2 months.
The sugya continues to discuss whether one may receive healing from a non-Jew if he is about to die.
This statement, which will be explicated below, holds that a Jew may never be healed by a heretic (who is assumed at first to have the same status as a non-Jew). Thus we are concerned with the short amount of time a person may live before he dies, and we do not allow non-Jews to heal Jews.
Most scholars interpret Jacob of Kefar Sekaniah as being a student of Jesus. Jesus was often portrayed as having healing powers. Ben Dama wants to be healed, perhaps by some sort of incantation, which is often the way that Jesus heals. But R. Ishmael does not allow him to do so because of his heresy. This proves that the prohibition of being healed by a non-Jew is absolute.
The Talmud rejects the analogy between non-Jews and heretics. Jews may not be healed by non-Jews because they are violent. But if the Jew is dying, then why not be healed? Worst case scenario he dies a little earlier. But when it comes to heretics, the fear is that Jews will be drawn into their heresy. Therefore, Jews should have nothing to do with heretics. Note that this text, which appears in slightly different versions elsewhere in rabbinic literature, offers an interesting statement on the draw that Christianity had over Jews. The rabbis had to offer strict warnings to keep people away from Christianity. It is not that Jews wanted to become full Christians. Rather, we can see that they are attracted to some aspects of Christianity—here the healing powers of the Christians.
This sugya continues to discuss the story that appeared at the end of yesterday’s daf.
The irony of the story is that the rabbis say to him that he should be happy that he did not break a fence by being healed by a heretic, for such a person will be bit by a snake. But Ben Dama was bit by a snake! The Talmud answers by saying that the “bite of the snake” referred to in that saying is worse than the bite a real snake. The type of snake referred to in that saying is “the snake of the rabbis”—one bit by such a snake cannot be healed even in the world to come.
Ben Dama could have responded to R. Ishmael that the Torah demands that one live through observance of the mitzvoth, not die by them.
R. Ishmael holds that while one may worship idols in private to save one’s life, one may not do so in public for this would profane God’s name. Ben Dama’s act was in public, and therefore he did not have permission to be healed by the heretic.
There are two versions of what types of wounds should not be healed by a non-Jew. The first is the type of wound that may be healed on Shabbat—meaning a life-threatening one. The second is an internal wound.