Tuesday, December 28, 2010

“The Book of Cures”


The reason why I am writing about “The Book of Cures” is not my present stay in Zfat (Safed) and the participation in a special “Healing Seminar”: The Medicine of the Rambam (Maimonides, 1135 – 1204). Anyway, I got to the “Book of Cures” by accident and I am glad that we don’t have it today and I will tell you why.

 Photo: Miriam Woelke

First, let me explain what exactly it is:

Talmud Tractate Berachot 10b teaches about King Chizkiyahu hiding away “The Book of Cures – Sefer HaRefuot”. The remedies written down in that book could heal anything and the chance of getting healed was extremely high or almost 100%.

It is unknown who wrote it. Some people claim that it was Shlomo HaMelech (King Salomon). The Talmud, however, teaches us that King Chizkiyahu decided to hide the book. Why ? Wouldn’t such a book be great and everyone would be able to get healed ? There are actually different opinions on why King Chizkiyahu hid the book away. For instance, Rashi says that Chizkiyahu wanted the Jews to rely on G – d and pray to Him when they are sick. People got so used to rely on the book and getting healed that they forgot thanking G – d afterwards.

The Rambam, on the other hand, commentated that “The Book of Cures” was used by astrologers to heal illnesses by placing certain images in certain places at certain times. The Rambam even mentions here “Canaanite Astrology”.
Today we call it “Talisman” and even today, there are people who believe in their own private “magic” stone they bind around their neck. Or a special ring or any other object which is supposed to bring luck. The Rambam said that people started using those particular object for idol – worship purposes.
To me it sounds a bit like voodoo.

Medicine and cures are mentioned in the Talmud quite a few times. You can even find a list on what kind of vegetables to eat. What is healthy and what causes your stomach to go wild. The Rambam used to be, besides being a famous Rabbi, astrologer and physician also a famous successful doctor. He wrote quite a few books on healing practises such as blood letting, surgery, hygiene, drugs, bathing, fevers or therapeutics.

Just imagine what would happen today if there was a rediscovery of “The Book of Cures”. You don’t necessarily need a mind like James Bond to figure out that anyone (good and evil) would try to get hold of this book, and G – d should have mercy upon us in case the books fell into the wrong hands.

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