Shabbat Parashat Devarim| 5770
Hemdat HaDaf Hayomi: The Prohibition to Use Verses from the Torah to Heal(15b)Rav Ofer Livnat
Tamuz 29- Av 6, Shevuot 14-20
This week in the Daf Hayomi we learn the source for the custom of saying various verses of protection before reciting Kriat Shema Al Hamitah (the Kriat Shema said before going to sleep at night). The Gemara (15b) states that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, would say several chapters of Tehillim, which deal with Hashem's protection of man, before going to sleep. The Gemara asks that this custom seems to contradict another statement of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that "it is prohibited to heal oneself with verses of the Torah." The Gemara answers that if a person is sick, he is not allowed to recite verses in order to be healed. However, if he is healthy, he may recite verses to protect himself from sickness.
The Rambam (Avodah Zarah 11, 12) explains that there is an essential difference between reading verses for healing and reading them for protection. One who reads them for healing believes that reading verses is a type of medicine, which has the power to cure the disease. This is a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Torah, and as the Rambam explains: "they make the words of the Torah into a cure for the body when they are really a cure for the soul." The verses of the Torah come to teach a person how to correct his actions and behavior, and not to cure physical diseases.
However, a person who reads verses for protection does not believe that the recitation of the verses serves as a physical protection, but rather, his intent is to increase his merits, so that Hashem will protect him from dangers. Therefore, reading for protection is permitted, and this was Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's custom to read verses before he went to sleep.
The "Tzitz Eliezer" (17, 30) was asked why we read chapters of Tehillim for a sick person. Isn't this a transgression of the prohibition to heal with verses of the Torah? His answer follows the Rambam's explanation as to the distinction between reading for healing and reading for protection. When we say Tehillim for a sick person, our intent is not that the recitation itself will heal him. Rather, we are praying to Hashem to heal him, and we wish to increase merits that will stand in the sick person's favor, so that Hashem will heal him. Therefore, it is similar to reading for protection which is permitted.
Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend
Hemdat Yamim of this week is dedicated
Yitzchak Eizik Ben Yehuda Leib a"h,
This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by