How might we be sources of healing when we feel that so much around us is broken or sick? From a pandemic that afflicts people's bodies physically to all the various kinds of stress that people feel as a result, there is a need for what our tradition refers to as "healing of the soul and healing of the body." Jewish sources set up the Divine as the ultimate healer, and provides space and encouragement for all of us to follow in God's footsteps and do our part to rehabilitate and restore people to health and happiness.

וַיֹּאמֶר֩ אִם־שָׁמ֨וֹעַ תִּשְׁמַ֜ע לְק֣וֹל ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ וְהַיָּשָׁ֤ר בְּעֵינָיו֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֔ה וְהַֽאֲזַנְתָּ֙ לְמִצְוֺתָ֔יו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ֖ כָּל־חֻקָּ֑יו כָּֽל־הַמַּֽחֲלָ֞ה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֤מְתִּי בְמִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לֹא־אָשִׂ֣ים עָלֶ֔יךָ כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה רֹפְאֶֽךָ׃ (ס)
He said, “If you will heed the LORD your God diligently, doing what is upright in His sight, giving ear to His commandments and keeping all His laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I the LORD am your healer.”

In the book of Exodus, God is presented as our healer, a doctor to all. Commentators debated the meaning of this verse. Is there an implication that as long as we follow God's will, we will never get sick at all? Experientially, we all know that not to be true. Physical or mental illness can strike anyone, at any time. There references both to the plagues that were brought on Egypt as well as the need to live our lives in accordance with particular ideals tells us that God's healing is a reference to both body and soul.

...תָנֵי דְּבֵי רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל: ״וְרַפֹּא יְרַפֵּא״ — מִכָּאן שֶׁנִּיתְּנָה רְשׁוּת לָרוֹפֵא לְרַפּאוֹת.

...It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishmael that from the verse, “And shall cause him to be thoroughly healed” (Exodus 21:19), from here we derive that permission is granted to a doctor to heal. The practice of medicine is in accordance with the will of God.

On the other hand, a Rabbinic tradition teaches that human beings have permission to heal. A verse in Exodus speaks of what happens if two people fight and one is injured. The injurer must "cause" the other party to be "thoroughly healed." We are expected to use our power to act in this world in order to help others.

One aspect of the pandemic has been the celebration of those in the healing profession - doctors, nurses, and all those who have been working to save lives during a wave of illness unlike nothing we have experience before. Even as we pray that COVID-19 will be eradicated, we turn to those with the expertise to fight back against this disease. In raising up their work, we are also acknowledging the blessing of all the tools with which we are endowed that allow us to make changes in our flawed world.

Learn More with These Sefaria Resources:

A Prayer for Healing (or, doctors vs. God), by Robbie Medwed

Public Health, Plagues, Coronavirus, and COVID-19, by Matt Rosenberg

Check out Sefaria's topics page on #medicine for even more resources!