Obey the Doctor, for “A Small Hole in the Body
Causes a Large Hole in the Soul”

It pleased me to receive your letter of the 24th of Cheshvan in which you notify me of the doctor’s report regarding an improvement in the state of your health. May G‑d will it that your health continue to improve, and like our Rebbeim-Nesiim were accustomed to say: “[May it go] from good to even better.”

Understandably, I object to your not meticulously obeying the doctor’s orders, as “Permission was granted the healer to heal.”1

By granting this permission, healing becomes a mitzvah on the part of the healer,2 as well as a notable and great mitzvah on the part of the individual being healed, [i.e.,] “You shall scrupulously guard your health”;3 “It is part of the service of G‑d to insure that one’s body is healthy and whole.”4

Moreover, there is the caution of HaRav HaMaggid [of Mezritch] to his son, the “Malach”: “A small hole in the body causes a large hole in the soul.”5

There are also many other similar expressions and imperatives regarding the importance of maintaining good health. However, I surely don’t need to go on at length about something so simple and clear-cut.

.. This healing will, of course, be impossible to achieve if you do not strictly follow the doctor’s instructions.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 72)

Following Doctor’s Orders: A Command of Torah Origin

I was happy to be notified that the doctor has permitted you to return home. May G‑d will it that your health continues to improve.

Surely I need not remind you that the Torah granted “permission to the healer to heal,” and thus this directive is of Torah [and not Rabbinic] origin.

It is not similar to those who mistakenly say that if someone is G‑d-fearing, he need not listen to the instructions of a doctor [— when the doctor’s instructions seem to interfere somewhat with his religious conduct—] and may act as he understands. Indeed, the opposite is the case.

There is also the well-known aphorism of the Rebbe Rashab, who — pointing at his holy hand — said to his son, my father-in-law, the Rebbe: “See how precious [is the body of a Jew] — for its sake has [G‑d] poured forth so much [Torah and mitzvos].” There is also the well-known saying of the Alter Rebbe:6 “We have absolutely no conception of how precious a Jew’s body is to G‑d.”

May G‑d grant you success and may He speed your recuperation, [which will come about] through your conducting yourself according to the instructions of the doctor, the emissary of G‑d, the “Healer of all flesh and Performer of wonders.”7

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 200)

“G‑d Forbid” Not to Obey the Doctor’s Instructions

I have received a report that allegedly you are not — G‑d forbid — obeying the doctor’s instructions.

If this report is true, [that you are indeed not obeying the doctor,] then you will surely begin obeying him properly and will do so at the earliest opportunity, particularly as this is an explicit law in Shulchan Aruch — and may you convey glad tidings.

I will mention you in prayer at the holy resting place of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, of blessed memory, for good health.

(From a response of the Rebbe in 5732)

The Physician’s Divine Empowerment to Heal

I have been informed that your health is not what it should be and that you are entering the hospital — may it be in a good and auspicious time.

Surely you will follow the instructions of the specialists. There is the known ruling and comment of our Sages, of blessed memory, that “Permission was granted the healer to heal,”8 meaning that the Torah not only grants permission, but also empowers [the healer to succeed in his healing].

For when G‑d grants someone permission to fulfill a good and useful function, G‑d also — since He is the “Essence of Goodness” — surely desires that that individual will successfully fulfill this task, and He therefore provides him with both the ability and strength to do so.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVI, p. 2969 )

Healing Is From G‑d
Through the Medium of Healers and Medication

In response to your letter which I received in a timely fashion:

Be assured that the blessings you received from my father-in-law, the Rebbe, will be fulfilled in their entirety.

You write that you went to a doctor; surely you are obeying his instructions.

Healing and strength both emanate from G‑d. However, the Torah informs us that G‑d desires that healing should come about through an agent — through a physician and through the medication he prescribes.

You should also remember always that the mitzvos and good deeds that G‑d commanded us all to fulfill are the true healing and medication; it is they which provide health and strength, in keeping with the Rebbe’s blessings to you, and the blessings of a holy individual, a tzaddik, will surely come to fruition.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. III, p. 298)

Doctor’s Orders Are to Be Followed With the Joy
Of Being Able to Fulfill G‑d’s Command

It has been some time since I received a letter from you. I hope to G‑d that this is a sign that everything is well. Nevertheless, it would be appropriate for you to expressly write [to me] about this.

During these days of Kislev, the “Month of Liberation,” you should act in accordance with the statement of our Sages, of blessed memory, who commanded us to follow doctor’s orders and do so with a sense of joy.

It should make no difference to you in what manner and through which means you fulfill G‑d’s will — what is of primary importance is that you do so without reservation. Thus, when G‑d commands youto obey the doctor, you should do so and be satisfied at the opportunity presented to you to fulfill G‑d’s will.

Consequently, you should do so with a sense of joy. And when you will act in this manner, G‑d will assist you to see with your own eyes that there is indeed much to be satisfied about.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VIII, p. 39)

Importance of Following Doctor’s Advice

.. A patient may well have his doubts about the efficacy of a drug prescribed by his physician. Will he refuse to take it until he has been able to attend medical school and learn all that his doctor has learned during his lifetime of study and experience? Will he not rely on the authority of the medical specialist?

If he has doubts about the expertise of one doctor, he can obtain a second opinion, and a third; but when all agree that he needs a particular medicine or a prescribed regimen, would he refuse to take that expert advice even if he still has “strong doubts” about it?

(From a letter of the Rebbe)

Use Natural Channels — Seek the Advice of a Physician

In reply to your letter ... in which you state your heartfelt desire to be blessed with additional healthy and viable children — in addition to your daughter shetlita. You also write that your husband does not want to ask a doctor why several years have gone by without your having children:

It is well known that although G‑d is the Creator and Conductor of the world, “Healer of all flesh and Performer of wonders,” the Torah demands that we also do what we can via natural channels — in the words of our Sages: “Permission was granted the healer to heal.”

You should therefore speak to your husband sheyichye again [and try to convince him] that both you and he should visit a fertility specialist and follow his advice.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 383)

Obeying the Doctor — G‑d’s Conduit for Healing

.. Thank you for informing me about the good news regarding your health. No doubt you are obeying the Torah directive which informs us that “Permission was granted a healer to heal,”10 meaning that [not only does Torah grant permission, but] it also empowers the healer to succeed in his healing.

In fact, the doctor serves merely as a channel through which we receive the power and additional strength to be able to “maintain a healthy and robust body — an integral part of Divine service”— as explained by the Rambam in Hilchos Deos beginning of ch. 4, and in many chassidic discourses.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 131)

Following the Instructions of the Doctor’s Dispatcher

.. Regarding the instructions of the doctors:

All Jews are enjoined to conduct themselves according to the Torah’s directives. Since our Sages, of blessed memory, inform us that “Permission was granted to a healer to heal,” this clearly indicates that a doctor is an agent [of G‑d to heal].

Even though the agent may not always know the inner intent [of his Sender,] nevertheless, that which the agent states with regard to how a patient is to conduct himself emanates from the Sender. This, then, is a Torah matter.

We understand from the above that even when one does not completely understand the emissary, or even has questions about him — similar to that which you write in your letter — this should not affect his obeying the doctor’s instructions.

I am therefore confident that as soon as you receive this letter, you will begin obeying the doctor’s instructions. May G‑d grant that your obeying and acting according to the doctor’s directives be met with tremendous success in all aspects.

It is also self-understood that the conduct of not eating at the proper times, eating but once a day and the like, is completely contrary to the path of the Baal Shem Tov and of our Rebbeimand Nesiim who instruct us that our Divine service is to be in a manner of “you must come to its aid,” i.e., to serve G‑d with one’s body, but not with fasts and mortifications.

I hope to receive a speedy response from you in which you notify me that you are complying with the above. May G‑d grant that your actions meet with success.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 505)

Follow the Doctor’s Instructions — But Do Not Worry

.. With regard to your question about your health:

[You should] completely cease thinking [and worrying] about it. Rather, go to a doctor and make sure to follow his instructions exactly regarding your daily schedule, etc. Do all the above but without involving your thought process, [i.e., worrying about the results and your general health]. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIII, p. 308)

Following a Psychiatrist’s Advice

Your letter of ... reached me this morning. Though it is erev Shabboserev Purim, I hasten my reply because of the subject matter, especially as it also involves a mother’s concern for her daughter.

To begin with the essential point: my answer to your daughter’s question was that she should follow the psychiatrist’s advice. It was not, G‑d forbid, an attempt at evasion. It was based on common sense, since the psychiatrist is, in my opinion, the only qualified person to give advice, given his knowledge and experience.

My answer was based on the directives of the Torah that one should be aware of one’s responsibility to give the proper advice after due deliberation of all the factors involved.

In light of the above:

1. Insofar as I know your daughter from her correspondence as well as from her husband, it is my opinion that the solution you presently suggest (a) will certainly cause shock and trauma, probably accompanied by feelings of guilt on the part of your daughter; (b) [and] as to how long this traumatic state would last — this would be difficult to assess, even for a psychiatrist.

2. I am surprised to note from your letter that [you believe that] your daughter knew nothing about the health of her husband. I beg to differ, for I have reason to believe that although she may not have been aware of all the specific details, she was aware that he had a health problem, etc.

3. No doubt you know, and certainly doctors know, that the health condition in question affects people in different ways: With a great many people it is a temporary [condition]. In the case of many others, it takes the form of “highs and lows,” with wide-ranging variables regarding the duration of the “lows.”

4. From what your daughter has written to me — although I am not at liberty to divulge anything of a confidential nature — I can say this much, that she “still” has good feelings towards her husband, and moreover, still loves him.

Therefore, even assuming that her traumatic state and guilt feelings would eventually be overcome..., it is very likely that when she hears that her husband has recovered, or, at any rate, that the “low” state improved substantially, it would reawaken her guilt feelings with all its untoward consequences.

All the above takes on even greater gravity in view of the fact that your daughter is presently carrying her husband’s child, which, of course, adds an additional factor to the entire situation.

5. Much more can be said in regard to the whole situation, but I trust the above will suffice to help you understand why I cannot undertake the responsibility of advising her to pursue the solution that you suggest in your letter.

It also explains why I think a psychiatrist is the only suitable person to assess the situation and to recommend the most advisable course of action, as he is best able to take into consideration all the factors.

(From a letter of the Rebbe)

Chizkiyahu’s Hiding the “Book of Cures”

.. It is known that regarding the Talmudic statement, “Chizkiyahu hid the Book of Cures,”11 the Rambam has already [explained and] forewarned that this should not be understood as a condemnation of the medical arts, but that the “Book of Cures” contained segulos [consisting of forms of healing based on astrological charts].12

Truly, “Permission was granted the healer to heal,”13 (and according to Chassidus, [this verse not only grants permission, but] also empowers the healer to succeed in his healing).

Although the Ibn Ezra maintains14 that this [permission to heal extends] only to healing the external organs and not the internal organs,15 the widespread accepted ruling and prevailing conduct among all Jews is in accordance with the Rambam — that medication is used [even for healing the internal organs], as well as to have trust in G‑d that He will send His “healing words” through [the channel] of “this specific doctor and this particular medication.”

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 444)

Think Healthy — But Follow Doctor’s Orders

.. I fail to understand why you are in a total panic once again with regard to your health. I have already told you and have already written to you numerous times my clear-cut and unambiguous opinion regarding this matter, [that you are in fact well].

I also stressed that in my opinion you should pay no attention to, and stop thinking about, your health situation, for you are — with G‑d’s help — healthy. However, concerning your actions, you are to fulfill all the instructions of the doctors.

Rather than your doing so, I observed that even when you were here you acted in an opposite manner: you delved into depressing thoughts that are entirely baseless (without any reason for doing so), and you absolutely refused to maintain a proper schedule for eating and drinking, and so on, (also without any rational reason for acting in this manner).

It seems that you continue to conduct yourself in the above manner presently as well. So what will my writing to you help, when you desire to do the very opposite [of what I tell you]? Realize that this matter depends entirely on your desire [and decision]. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XII, p. 217)

Do Not Run From Doctor to Doctor

With regard to the suggestion in your letter about being checked by other doctors:

After begging your pardon, I must say that ridiculous behavior must also have limits, [so stop running from doctor to doctor. Rather,] ask Dr. ..., whom you mention in your letter, to prescribe a diet of those foods and beverages that are best for you in your current state of health, approximately when you should eat during the day, how many times a day [you should eat,] and the like.

Having done so, see to it that you actually carry out his instructions!

Also cease your travels for several weeks in order to best be able to follow the doctor’s instructions. If you but so desire, you will succeed in doing so.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVI, p. 28816 )

Leave the Healing to the Healer

In reply to your letter of Thursday, Parshas Vayechi, in which you notify me that you have had several operations [and that you are poring over medical books], etc.:

It is regrettable that you are fixated and poring over medical books regarding that which you imagine to be your ailment. In my opinion, you should be doing only that which the Torah commands — to obey the instructions of the doctors.

With regard to your health, concentrate your mind and heart — i.e., your thoughts — on firm bitachon in G‑d, Who “heals all flesh and performs wonders.”

You should not dabble in medical science. This is not your province, particularly if this upsets your peace of mind and rouses within you feelings of gloom and doom. Furthermore, there is also the celebrated adage voiced by many Rebbeim of Chabad: “Think positively, and you will see positive results” (“Tracht gut, vet zain gut”).

With regard to your healing: a) You are surely obeying doctors’ orders. b) You will — as much as possible — avert your thoughts from agonizing over the state of your health. c) Be firm in your bitachon in G‑d, for Whom there are no limitations and “who can tell Him what to do.” d) Bind yourself to an even greater degree to the study of Toras HaChassidus. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 130)

“Doctor’s Orders” are Torah’s Orders

I was pleased to receive your letter in which you describe your conduct — particularly your eating habits and those matters relating to your physical health and well-being.

We are commanded in our holy Torah, the Torah [of Life, emanating] from “the Living G‑d,” that concerning our health we are to meticulously obey “doctor’s orders,” since “Permission was granted the healer to heal,”17 and the doctor serves merely as an agent [of G‑d to achieve healing].

Understandably, it is perfectly fine to voice your protests and opinions regarding the doctor’s [prescribed] course of healing — including the notion you wrote to me. However, after the doctor hears you out [and then renders his final opinion], you are to follow his instructions whether you logically agree with them or not.

For, as stated above, the doctor is no more than an agent who heals at the behest and with the permission granted to him by the Torah; [and] since this [power to heal] emanates from the Torah, [the doctor’s orders] are equally beneficial to body and soul.

[The above is true] even when one does not understand the [Torah’s] reasoning [for following doctor’s orders] or thinks differently — which in itself is also not surprising, as Torah is G‑d’s Divine will and wisdom, and thus it is no wonder that not everything the Torah states is comprehensible to man.

However, [it is quite clear that] man must follow all the dictates of the Torah, even when they are not understood — and understanding will eventually follow.

I trust that you will abide by all the above, and moreover do so with joy and gladness of heart.

With blessings for glad tidings regarding all the above.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 160)

Follow the Concurring Instructions of the Specialists

In reply to your letter, ... in which you describe your [poor] state of health and the [negative] impact this has had on your Torah studies:

Since you are under the care of a number of specialists who are — as you write — in consultation with one another, you should follow their instructions.

May G‑d will it that you see the fulfillment of the saying of our Sages: “Permission was granted the healer to heal” — and as a result, the remedy is therefore appropriate and effective.

With regard to your studies: For a certain amount of time, try to establish an easier course of Torah study (l’girseh) and see how that study affects you, [i.e., whether you will be able to grasp these studies].

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIII, p. 104)

Continually Obey Doctor’s Orders

.. There is the known directive of our holy Nesiim that we are to obey the instructions of competent physicians. This [directive] applies to you as well. However, it seems that you only follow their instructions intermittently, i.e., for a lengthy period of time you stop listening to them and you conduct yourself in a manner that opposes their instructions.

The preciousness of a Jew’s body has already been made clear both in the revealed and mystical portions of Torah. Accordingly, one must make an effort to keep the body healthy and well, whereby one can serve G‑d without distractions [stemming from the consequences of ill health].

On the contrary, in accordance with the directive of the Baal Shem Tov,18 [Divine service must be in a manner of]: “You shall come to its aid — [serve G‑d] with the body.” In present times, conducting oneself in an opposite manner is most often a result of desiring to be too clever (veizen kuntzen), or for even worse reasons. So abandon this path.

From now on, at least, receive from your doctor precise instructions concerning how to conduct yourself with regard to eating, drinking, etc. — and conduct yourself so. This can surely be accomplished in a manner that will not conflict — G‑d forbid — with the Shulchan Aruch.

[When you follow the above,] this will result in rapid healing and you will return to sound health.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XI, p. 84)

Follow All Particulars of the Doctor’s Instructions

I was pleased to receive your letter from the eighth of Elul where you write that you are feeling much better. May G‑d grant that it be totally good — not only that the doctor should think so, but you as well should actually feel that this is so.

It is self-understood that you should take the vitamins that your doctor has prescribed. Moreover, if the doctor tells you what and when you should eat and drink, you should follow that as well. For inasmuch as a Jew’s body is sacred and the Torah states: “and he shall heal,”19 the doctor is thus Torah’s agent to bring about healing.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XI, p. 379)

Eat the Foods the Doctor Instructs And a Rabbi Permits

It is my strong hope that your health has improved.

Based on the saying of our Sages, of blessed memory, that20 “Permission was granted the healer to heal,” you are surely following the instructions of your doctors. [By this I refer] not only to the medicinal and therapeutic aspect of your healing, but also regarding [their instructions about] your diet, which also plays a part in the healing process.

Do not be overly inflexible regarding the foods you eat, for all Jews were commanded to guard their bodies and health. Thus, you should be meticulous in listening to the doctor and eating those things that according to Jewish law you are permitted to eat inasmuch as the doctor told you that you should eat them. This is particularly true in light of the saying of the Alter Rebbe:21 “We have absolutely no conception of how precious a Jew’s body is to G‑d.”

Therefore, those foods and liquids that the doctor tells you to consume — and a rabbi who issues halachic rulings permits them — you should eat and drink them accordingly. May it be “to your health!” (zol zain tzu gezunt) materially and spiritually.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIII, p. 473)

Healing Within the Confines of Nature

.. No doubt your wife received instructions from the doctor and is obeying them. ... For although G‑d is the “Healer of all flesh and Performer of wonders,” it is still expected that something be done within the realm of nature — even if this is but very slight.

[In relation to this,] there is a story that I once heard from my father-in-law, the Rebbe, that once a very sick person came to the Alter Rebbe and he healed him with a piece of shemurah matzah and half a glass of water. We thus see that some basis in nature is required. May G‑d hear your prayer and request, and may you be able to convey glad tidings.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IV, p. 352)

When to Convince the Doctor

In reply to your letter of the twenty-first of Menachem Av, in which you write that the basis and reason for not participating lately in the work of N’shei u’Bnos Chabad and other similar organizations is connected to the view of your doctors [who want you — for reasons of health — to ease up on your activities]:

It is understandable that doctor’s orders are to be followed, as our Sages, of blessed memory, have said:22 “Permission was granted the healer to heal.”

However, when you know that your work brings you in contact with others, and you also know that it benefits a particular group of people — spiritually, materially, or both — then not only will this work not weaken you, but on the contrary, it will strengthen you.

Moreover, this will not only provide you spiritual satisfaction, but will literally improve your physical health as well; physicians also recognize this and therefore advise people to remain active, each individual according to his state of health.

Taking into account the above, my opinion with regard to your question is the following:

You should take an active and diligent role in the work of N’shei u’Bnos Chabad, as well as activities that will benefit Yeshivah Achei Temimim in Tel Aviv, and other similar activities. Surely you can arrange that your work will not involve climbing stairs, since, as you write, this is difficult for you.

I believe that when you consult with the doctor whose diagnosis was more accurate than that provided by the first doctor you visited (for which reason it is advisable to follow his instructions), he will surely be in complete agreement with the above.

This is particularly so since we know that doing good things for others increases G‑d’s blessings regarding those matters that the person or his family needs. In addition, I surely need not draw your attention to the directive of Toras HaChassidus that everything should be done with joy, in which case one is more successful as well.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIII, p. 415)