“A Healthy Spirit in a Healthy Body”

Physical health is so greatly dependent on spiritual health.

If, in the past, emphasis was placed on “mens sana in corpore sana,”1 in our days it is an accepted principle that even a small spiritual defect can cause grievous physical harm. The healthier the spirit and the greater its influence over the physical body — the greater its ability to correct or overcome physical shortcomings.

This is so true that even in many instances that involve physical healing, prescriptions and drugs are considerably more effective if they are accompanied by the patient’s strong will and determination to cooperate [and become well]. ...

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated the 2nd day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5715)

Principles of Physical and Spiritual Health
And Their Interrelationship Should Be Observed

There are those [medical] issues that have already been well [researched and] established as either beneficial or detrimental to one’s health: [Consequently,] even a person who is strongly inclined to perform research and experimentation will surely choose [other areas of research] — areas that have not been previously researched.

This generally accepted attitude is quite understandable and logical:

Since experts have amply researched these particular areas and have already determined what is good and what is harmful to physical health — moreover, they have also established the best method to further technological advancements in this area — it would be, at best, a waste of time to repeat these already proven experiments.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that mistakes will not be made in the [repetitive] research and one will thereby arrive at erroneous conclusions, with disastrous effects, as has already transpired.

What has been said above in regard to physical health is also true with regard to spiritual health and well-being, as to how the Divine soul can attain perfection and fulfillment.

This is all the more so since spiritual health is generally related to physical health, particularly as far as a Jew is concerned.

(From a letter of the Rebbe)

The Relationship Between The Physical and the Spiritual

I was pleased to receive your letter of May 15th. I also enjoyed reading there about your interest in Chassidus, as well as some of your comments and views regarding the above, particularly in reference to the quality of joy.

[To comment on] that which you write, that the feeling of joy is related to the glandular excretion of hormones, etc., that reach the brain together with the flow of blood, and so on:

Since body and soul are totally connected and united, forming one entity, it follows that every phenomenon in the spiritual realm will also result in a physical phenomenon.

I trust that you will agree with me that such a unity within the microcosm [of man,] serving as it does as an analogy and illustration of the true unity found within the macrocosm [of the universe as a whole], is not at all similar to the philosophy of pantheism — which posits that everything is natural and physical — but [that the true definition of unity] is the very opposite: that all is spirituality, and moreover, that all is G‑dliness.

In keeping with this, on the verse2 “one nation on earth,” the Alter Rebbe briefly comments:“This means that even in mundane [‘earthly’] matters [the Jewish people] will not be separated — G‑d forbid — from G‑d’s true unity [and oneness]” (Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle IX, p. 114a).

It is worth noting that followers of the philosophy of materialism would rejoice — as if they found a great treasure and as if they found proof to their approach — whenever they would find something relating to the psyche [which they felt to be wholly] related to physical phenomena, such as electronic responses, [e.g., brainwaves, etc.].

In truth, not only is there no contradiction between [spiritual and physical phenomena], the contrary is true — that this is the logical result of the absolute truth of G‑d’s unity, that G‑d is One and there is nothing besides Him [which also causes the unity between [spiritual and physical phenomena].

[This means,] not only is there no G‑dliness — Heaven forbid — aside from Him, there is also no true existence other than His — this being one of the fundamental concepts of Toras HaChassidus, as explained in the Alter Rebbe’s Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah. ...

You do not write about what area of medicine you practice, and I would like to know what it is. In any event, it is my hope that when you heal the physical ailments of your patients, you also take into account aspects of their spiritual healing — particularly for those who do not know that they are ailing spiritually, which makes them in even greater need of healing.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIII, p. 233)

A Healthy Soul — A Healthy Body

In reply to your letter of the 2nd of Sivan in which you describe your health situation:

I was surprised that you failed to mention anything at all regarding the health of your soul: sessions of Torah study, performance of mitzvos, and the service of prayer, [all of which are vital for the soul’s good health,] inasmuch as the health of the body and the health of the soul are interdependent. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XI, p. 187)

Jewish Spiritual Heredity

.. Considering the fact that even secular knowledge now realizes the importance of heredity to a person’s life, you should therefore explain to the medical students that the health of a Jew’s soul is connected with its inheritance of the Torah received at Mt. Sinai.

A Jew cannot possibly be mentally and spiritually whole if he is — Heaven forbid — sundered from the source to which his parents and grandparents were so closely connected for countless generations.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 38)

“All Is in the Hands of Heaven Except for the Fear of Heaven”

.. You write that you do not know what it is that you want and what you are lacking:

This seems to contradict what you wrote at the beginning of your letter [about members of your family who are not well and in need of healing, etc.].

Since you write there about family members who are ill and in need of healing, etc. — and there is the known saying of our Sages that the 248 organs and 365 veins of the body correspond to the 248 Positive Commandments and the 365 Negative Commandments — it is thus understandable that illness of the body is also remedied by health of the soul.

Thus, adding in vitality in matters of the soul enhances one’s physical life as well and increases the success of medical treatment.

Moreover, while when it comes to physical health we beseech G‑d to heal us, for “All is in the hands of Heaven,”3 however, when it comes to the soul’s health the Torah has informed us that this is left up to our free choice — “[All is in the hands of Heaven,] except for the fear of Heaven.”4

From this we understand that nothing can stand in the way of your fierce and powerful desire to ascend spiritually and increase in Torah, going from strength to strength. May G‑d will it that you convey good news concerning all the above.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVII, p. 242)

Improving One’s Physical and Spiritual Health

.. It is well known that according to our Torah, the Torah of Life, whenever there is something within the body that needs improvement, it is accomplished both through physical as well as spiritual remedies. ...

(From a letter of the Rebbe)

Achieving Harmony Between Body and Soul

It pleased me to receive your letter of the 15th of Shevat, the “New Year for Trees.” There are many well-known passages in books of homiletics (drush) regarding the inspiration that can be drawn from this day, based on the phrase in the verse:5 “For man is a tree of the field.”

When someone becomes spiritually healthier he automatically becomes physically healthier as well, for Jews are “the one nation on earth,”6 which is to say that wherever they are, they implement the concept of oneness, and included in that is the conception of the overall unity of matter and spirit, body and soul.

This, too, is one of the explanations of the philosophical system of the Baal Shem Tov, that of serving G‑d joyfully together with the body — not by afflicting the body, but by using the body as an active partner in one’s Divine service.

We readily observe that when the body is healthy — understandably, in a Jewish manner, by eating kosher foods, etc. — the body does not hinder the study of Torah and performance of mitzvos, should the person truly desire to do so.

According to the well-known saying of our Sages, 7 of blessed memory, regarding achieving peace between body and soul, and within the soul as well: peace between the Divine soul and the animal soul,8 this peace also leads to peace in one’s own immediate and close surroundings, as well as to peace in distant places, and ultimately to world peace.

All the above leads to the true state of peace [that will take place with Mashiach’s arrival,] concerning which time the prophet Yeshayahu states:9 “Nation will not lift sword against nation, and they will study warfare no more.” ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXI, p. 335)

Making Vessels for G‑d’s Blessings

.. It pleased me to hear today the good news that your operation was successful. May G‑d help that your condition consistently improves so that you are able to convey the tidings that you are fully recovered.

However, in order to receive G‑d’s blessings one must prepare the proper vessels to contain these Divine blessings. For a Jew these vessels are Torah and mitzvos; I hope you will undertake to increase — bli neder their performance.

The more intense and frequent your actions, the greater will be the blessings G‑d sends you and the speedier will you receive them.

I want to suggest that you scrupulously observe putting on tefillin daily, and following the prayers recite a few chapters of Tehillim. Prior to putting on tefillin, give a few francs to tzedakah.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 183)

Increasing Torah Study, Performance
Of Mitzvos and Service of Prayer

You write to me about the state of your health:

There is the known directive of our Torah, the Torah of Life, on the verse “and he shall heal,”10 that “Permission was granted the healer to heal.”11 You should therefore fulfill the instructions of a physician who specializes in healing your ailment.

However, at the same time, you must clearly know that G‑d is the “Healer of all flesh and Performer of wonders”;12 the individual physician and specific medication are merely His agents and instruments.

Therefore, first and foremost you should improve and strengthen your spiritual health. In turn, this will enhance13 “your cleaving to G‑d,” through which “you are all alive today,” with manifest life and good health, extending to all your bodily limbs.

Increase your diligence and assiduousness in your study of Torah and performance of mitzvos in a most beautiful and meticulous manner (b’hiddur), as well as your service of prayer.

Understandably, all the above can be done without taking away from your health; there is enough time in the day to occupy yourself both in increasing the health of your soul and the health of your body. When you do so, [i.e., increase your Torah study, performance of mitzvos, and service of prayer,] you will feel physically better as well.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 36)

“Be Whole With the L‑rd, Your G‑d”

.. We readily observe that improving one’s spiritual health literally improves one’s physical health as well.

Thus the verse commands: “Be whole with the L‑rd, your G‑d”14 — “whole” in one’s spiritual and physical 248 bodily organs and 365 veins, corresponding as they do to the 248 Positive Commandments and the 365 Negative Commandments,15 and as the Alter Rebbe explains this verse.16

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XV, p. 150)

Feeling “Better and Healthier”
Is a Combination of Body and Spirit

I was sorry to hear that you have not been feeling up to par recently.

I trust that this letter will find you in improved health; may G‑d grant you a speedy and complete recovery so that you will be able to continue your good work for a better and happier environment, in good health and with joy and gladness of heart.

If you suspect that by saying a “better and happier environment” I have not only your professional and scientific work in mind, but also something that has to do with Torah and mitzvos, you are quite right — for Torah is the true good, the source of true happiness.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, in the year 5724)

Interdependency of the
Spiritual and Physical Aspects of the Jew

Surely you will not withhold glad tidings from me and you will inform me about the health of ..., as well as the spiritual health of everybody [in the community].

This is in keeping with the saying of our Sages, of blessed memory, that the 248 Positive Commandments correspond to man’s 248 bodily organs and the 365 Negative Commandments correspond to the person’s 365 veins.

You understand no doubt that this is not a mere similarity of numbers, but that a person’s organs receive their life-force through performing positive commands. So, too, a person’s veins are clear and healthy and the blood flows through them properly by not transgressing the 365 prohibitory commands.

For it is readily understood that the spiritual and physical aspects of the Jew are not two distinct and separate entities, but are truly one; [and] one is dependent on the other.

All the above is hinted at in a concise manner in Likkutei Torah17 of the Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VII, p. 19)

Preparing Vessels for G‑d’s Blessings

.. As you may know, in order to receive G‑d’s blessings, it is necessary to prepare proper “vessels.” While it would have been impossible for us to know on our own which are the proper vessels for His blessings, G‑d in His infinite mercy and kindness revealed to us in His Torah that Torah and mitzvos are the proper vessels for us to receive His blessings.

Not knowing you personally, it is difficult for me to indicate how you can make such additional vessels for yourself in order to receive G‑d’s blessings; the important thing, however, is to enhance your religious observance. This will surely result in an improvement in your condition.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated the 4th of Shvat, 5713)

Creating Vessels for Divine Blessings
Should Be Done Unconditionally

I received your letter in which you notify me about Mr. ... and his wife sheyichyu. [You write to me that] he is suffering from a number of ailments and his wife is also not well. You ask for a blessing on their behalf:

Explain to them that G‑d, the King of kings, is the sole Master of the entire universe, and that He is the Essence of goodness, kindness and mercy. We on our part have merely to make the proper vessels in order to draw down and receive His blessings from on High. The appropriate vessels for a Jewish man and woman are matters of Torah and mitzvos.

When someone is physically hungry or thirsty, he stills his hunger with bread and quenches his thirst with water; it does not matter whether or not he understands how the bread and water are able to satisfy his hunger and slake his thirst.

The same is true regarding one’s spiritual life. When the soul hungers and thirsts for the bread and water of Torah and mitzvos, the most important thing is the actual deed — that its hunger and thirst be slaked through the practical performance of Torah and mitzvos.

Once the soul becomes healthier and stronger, it will be much simpler — and a lot less time-consuming as well — for it to understand [the significance of] Torah and mitzvos. Moreover, this will [not only be apprehended by his soul, but] even by his [inherently] limited physical intellect.

However, one should not change the order and declare that only after he understands the why’s and wherefore’s [of the necessity of observing Torah and mitzvos] will he be ready to observe them.

All the above also applies to Mr. ... sheychye. G‑d will surely return him to good health. But he on his part should not make conditions that first he must get well and only then will he use his free time to understand the necessity of performing Torah and mitzvos, and only [then] begin increasing his practical performance of Torah and mitzvos.

To act in the above manner is similar to someone who is unwell and yet insists that he will not take any medication until he concludes studying the science of medicine and understands exactly how the medication promotes his healing.

In point of fact, it is quite the contrary: Taking medicine will strengthen his intellect, making it much easier for him to understand the science of medicine [and how the medication promotes his healing].

Mr. ... should begin performing mitzvos, particularly wearing tefillin and observing kashrus, and his wife should begin conducting a scrupulously kosher home and lighting candles prior to Shabbos and Festivals, and before lighting them she should give to the charity of R. Meir Baal HaNes.

[When they will begin doing so,] they will merit to be able in a short amount of time to convey glad tidings about an improvement in their health.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 314)

Seek Spiritual Remedies as Well as Physical Remedies

In reply to your letter in which you write about [the poor health of] your daughter tichye:

With regard to a Jew — as a member of our nation termed “a unique nation on earth,”18 which as the Alter Rebbe notes (Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 9), means that “even ‘earthly’ matters do not separate them from G‑d’s unity” — concurrent with actions done via natural means [to bring about healing,] one must engage in spiritual actions as well. Generally speaking, this means that one is to increase his performance of Torah and mitzvos.

My intent in “engage in spiritual actions as well” is that first and foremost you should ascertain whether your daughter was born in purity, i.e., whether you and your wife observed then the laws of family purity and immersion in a mikveh.

I trust you will not be offended by this comment of mine, for since I do not know you personally, and with regard to the health of a Jewish person there is no room for misplaced embarrassment, I have therefore mentioned the matter cited above.

If, G‑d forbid, something was lacking in your observance of this matter, then in addition to being scrupulous in your observance of the laws of family purity in the future, you are to encourage others as well to increase their observance of family purity. This will rectify, at least to some extent, the above matter.

Whatever the case may be, it would be appropriate for your wife tichye to set aside some coins before lighting candles every erev Shabbos and erev Yom Tov, and you should also do the same prior to your morning prayers on Mondays and Thursdays.

Following the morning prayers, recite the daily portion of Tehillim as divided by the days of the month; also check the mezuzos in your home to ascertain their kashrus.

May G‑d grant that you be able to convey glad tidings with regard to all the above, particularly about the improvement in your daughter’s tichye’s health. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IX, p. 91)

Two Forms of Spiritual and Physical Healing

.. It is known that in general, healing only cures an illness from the moment of the cure and on (Kesuvos 74b), [but we cannot say that the person was not previously ill]. However it is possible for healing to be so potent that it is as if the illness never occurred in the first place (see Chulin 48a, Responsa of the Tzafnas Panei’ach 1:14).

The life and health of the body are dependent on the soul, and the life and health of the Jew’s soul depends on his performance of Torah and mitzvos, as per the saying of our Sages, of blessed memory: the 248 bodily organs correspond to the 248 Positive Commandments, and the 365 veins correspond to the 365 Negative Commandments (Zohar I, p. 170b).

This [above correlation between the number of commandments and the organs and veins of the body] is not merely a quantitative similarity; on the contrary — because of their inner relationship their number is the same as well (see Tanya, ch. 51).

When it comes to the person’s spiritual healing, the “healing of the soul” — from which emanates man’s physical healing — these two manners of healing are to be found as well: [One is] whether the person rectifies [through his repentance] his situation, [i.e., his spiritual malady,] from that point on only, [and the other is] whether he uproots [his spiritual malady] from the very beginning, [i.e., that it did not exist at all].

The difference between these two forms [of repentance and spiritual healing] depends on whether the person’s service [and repentance] is out of fear [of G‑d,] or out of love [for Him] (Yoma 86a).

When one serves out of love, then no vestige of his former improper spiritual state remains and the person returns to his full spiritual and physical strength and vigor, for the aspect of the “strength of the soul,” [i.e., his soul’s essence,] also assists the body in returning to its full and undiminished strength (see Kuntres Acharon in Tanya, titledU’Tzedakah K’Nachal Eisan, and Likkutei Torah, the discourse titled, “I am placing a blessing before you today,” the beginning of the section Re’eh).

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VII, p. 47)

Lesson of Tefillin For Spiritual and Physical Health

.. Rabbi ... informed me that you are a doctor. Surely then I need not impress upon you that a person’s physical health is connected with his spiritual health. You also, therefore, don’t need elaborate explanations about how important it is for a Jew’s soul to receive what it requires, i.e., matters of Torah and mitzvos. Only then can the physical body be healthy as well.

This is also one of the explanations and meanings of the mitzvah of putting on tefillin, which are placed on the head wherein is found the brain, and upon [that part of] the hand [which is] opposite the heart. All the nerves of the body are connected to the brain and the entire body receives its blood from the heart.

The tefillin contain four sections of the Torah, beginning with the verse: “Hear O Israel, G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is One.” This is the call to every Jew that he hear and remember that G‑d is the sole Master of all, including the person’s private life.

When this knowledge permeates and pervades one’s mind and heart, then the person’s entire body and soul are healthy. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IX, p. 105)

Keep Your Promises and Fulfill Your Pledges

.. It would be beneficial to motivate your son-in-law to fulfill the pledge that he willingly made regarding improving his performance of Torah and mitzvos if her19 health improves. Why should he wait for warnings from Above [to do so?] ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXI, p. 135)

Special Efforts by Women To Receive G‑d’s Blessings for Health As They Can Accomplish More Than Men

.. You should, however, explain to her that in order to receive and retain G‑d’s blessings, she must make the proper vessels for them — vessels that G‑d has said bring life, health and sustenance for Jews, both for men and women, old and young.

These [vessels] are the commandments that G‑d gave us on Mount Sinai, commandments that are to be performed at all times and in all places — particularly by women, who in many areas can accomplish more than men.

It is therefore very important for her to possess those vessels — mitzvos — that she is still lacking, and enhance and beautify those vessels — mitzvos — that she already has.

That is to say she should now begin observing those mitzvos that she did not observe until now, and that those mitzvos that she does observe should be observed with greater vitality and pleasure from now on.

This will hasten G‑d blessings for herself and her family.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VI, p. 304)

“Heart to Heart”

In response to your letter of Tuesday, where you write to me about your general state of health and about your heart condition:

There is the well-known saying of our Sages, of blessed memory, that the 248 Positive Commandments correspond to a person’s 248 bodily organs, and the 365 Negative Commandments correspond to the person’s 365 veins.

The import of this statement is that a Jew’s physical body, its various aspects and its general health, are dependent on the condition of his spiritual body — his level and standing in performing Positive Commandments and refraining from transgressing Negative Commandments.

G‑d desired that the world we are in be created in a lowly state, clothed in physicality, and whose external conduct — as seen by the human eye — is of a natural order. Consequently, many matters in this world [such as healing and good health] require [not only a spiritual approach, but] a physical approach as well.

It is understood from the above that we should obey the instructions of our doctors, in accordance with the saying of our Sages: “Permission was granted the healer to heal.”

At the same time, however, we must always be aware that it is G‑d Who creates, sustains and enlivens the world and all of its creatures, especially the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, concerning whom the verse states: “You are children to the L‑rd, your G‑d.”20

Since G‑d is the “Essence of goodness”21 and “it is the nature of one who is good to act benevolently,” there is no reason — Heaven forbid — for worry, and thus a person can carry out his work and service with great joy and with true joy, [i.e., not only immense joy but joy based on principles of truth, that there is truly something to be joyous about].

All the above applies to you as well. Be assured that your heart is receptive and responsive to G‑d and His Torah and mitzvos — thus you will merit many long and pleasant days and years.

Nevertheless, in order to merit an increased measure of Divine blessings and success, you should increase your generosity to others — increasing your actual charitable giving, as well as acting benevolently toward others, physically as well as spiritually, by drawing them closer to Torah and mitzvos. And [you should know that] “There is nothing that stands in the way of one’s desire.”22

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XII, p. 353)