25 Kislev 5778 / Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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Doctors and Meds, Yes or No?    

Doctors and Meds, Yes or No?

From one standpoint, Rebbe Natan stayed far away from doctors and medicines. One the other hand, Rebbe Naftali did take medicines; on a practical level, how should we act?


We are all aware of the many instances when Rebbe Nachman gave us the general rule of doing our utmost to avoid doctors and medicines. Yet, many great tzaddikim – Rebbe Nachman included – sought the help of doctors and medicines at some point in their lives. As such, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender of saintly and blessed memory said that no one can tell another person how to act in this matter. He cites differing practices within Breslev itself, stemming from Rebbe Nachman's closest students, Rebbe Natan of Breslev and Rebbe Naftali of Nemirov. From one standpoint, Rebbe Natan stayed far away from doctors and medicines. One the other hand, Rebbe Naftali (who was one of Rebbe Nachman's two witnesses when Rebbe Nachman made his famous promise about the power of the Tikkun Haklali) did take medicines. As such, when asked about whether to go to doctors and use medicines or not, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak answered, "I can't put my head between these two giant mountains; and anyway, I can't tell anyone not to take medicines, because I myself take them."


In light of the above, the zealous attitude within Breslev that forbids doctors and medicines is not the attitude of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, from whom my esteemed and beloved teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit”a received the classic Breslev tradition that goes back in an unbroken tradition of rabbi to pupil all the way to Rebbe Natan and Rebbe Nachman.


Yet, the zealots react and say, "But Rebbe Natan was adamant about avoiding doctors and medications!" True, they are correct. Yet, how many people are on Rebbe Natan's level? How many people spend their entire lives in Torah and prayer, completely clinging to Hashem? How many people are on Rebbe Natan's level of emuna with the absolute belief that Hashem alone heals? Indeed, if a person is not on that level, yet acts in a presumptuous manner as if he were, he invokes stern judgments on himself, Heaven forbid.


Rabbi Arush in several of his books and CDs quotes Rebbe Nachman who says that all emotional problems stem from a deficiency of emuna. Many people, after reading or hearing this idea, discarded their medicines without consulting their doctors. I want to use this forum to stress that no one should discard any medicines on their own without consulting the physician who prescribed them. Sure, by strengthening emuna, one can gradually wean himself off of medication. But, such a program, which many people have succeeded in implementing, must be done with the guidance of their physician.


A person who is not yet on meds can surely avoid them if he or she makes a dedicated effort to read Rabbi Arush's book and internalize and implement their advice.


Does Rabbi Arush use doctors and medicines? When he had a severe cardiac issue some seven years ago, he asked the advice of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef osb"m. Rabbi Ovadia told him to see his personal cardiologist. Ultimately, whereas most of the doctors wanted to do open-heart surgery on Rabbi Arush, he merely had a routine stent performed. According to Rabbi Ovadia, this was Rabbi Arush's hishtadlut, his effort on his spiritual level. Surely, this would not have been prudent advice for a person who isn't a Rabbi Shalom Arush, who stands for hours in personal prayer and teshuva every day, even at the expense of his sleep.


On a practical level, Rabbi Arush avoids traditional medicine and uses the services of naturopathic doctors, alternative medicine and herbal remedies. I follow this same path; my efforts in avoiding doctors include regular exercise such as walking, calisthenics, Pilates and strength training as well as a completely natural diet that avoids all manufactured food and chemical additives. A year ago during a stress test at Israel's Wingate Sports College, doctors discovered that I had severe atrial fibrillation. They told me that my life was at risk and rushed me to the cardiac ward of the nearest hospital. The doctors wanted to put me on Coumadin – a blood thinner, which is incompatible with many leafy vegetables that are a mainstay in any natural diet. Then, they wanted to do electrical cardioversion and try to reestablish my heart's normal rhythm by giving it electrical shocks. This traditional medical protocol would have turned me into a doctor/med-dependent cripple.


I spent my three days in the hospital in teshuva, in personal prayer and in encouraging the other patients. These were my main efforts in regaining my health. With Hashem's loving mercy, Racheli Reckles was sending me fantastic information on alternative solutions to the traditional medical protocol during my stint in the hospital. Ultimately, thanks to her and thanks to the advice and guidance of two expert chiropractors – Dr. Randy Davis in Chicago and Dr. Reuven Bekermus in Ramat Beit Shemesh – I overcame the cardiac issue and thanks to Hashem, am functioning today full throttle.


Every decision I made in regard to doctors and meds was made in consultation with my beloved rabbi and spiritual guide, Rabbi Arush. This is the key point: before deciding anything about doctors and medicine, consult your own rabbi and spiritual guide. That way, you're bound to be blessed no matter what decision you make. May Hashem help us all be healthy, amen!



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