Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ancient Cures

The Maharsha (Gittin 69) asks: The Gemora in Brochos (10b) states that Chizkiyahu hid the book of remedies and the sages praised him for this. This book contained instructions on healing various diseases through the use of different herbs and plants. Rashi explains that the sages praised him for hiding the book, because people were relying upon these remedies and they were not praying to Hashem for healing. If so, why does the Gemora record all these remedies here?

The Maharsha answers: A doctor definitely has permission to heal the sick, and he therefore has the right to know the cure for all sicknesses. However, these should not be publicized to all people, for some people will not have faith in Hashem; rather, they will rely on these natural remedies. And just as it was permitted to write down the Oral Law, for otherwise, it would be forgotten; so too, it was permitted to write down these cures, for otherwise, they would all be forgotten.

The Geresh Yerachim answers: the book of remedies that Chizkiyahu hid contained cures that were accurate and functioned for any sick person. If that would have remained in existence, people would rely only on that, and not on Hashem. However, the remedies mentioned in our Gemora do not work for every person. There are many factors that would prevent a person from being cured, even if he followed the exact instructions. Therefore, even when these remedies would be applied, one would still need to pray to Hashem in order to be healed.