Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Medical or Magic

Gavriel Horan

Could complimentary and alternative medicine involve Torah prohibitions against sorcery, divination, and avodah zarah?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

 Mishpacha image

Assuming these practices work, do they operate utilizing some yet-undiscovered law of nature, or do they make use of a supernatural power or spiritual energy?

B ack in 2005, Rav Rephoel Szmerla of Lakewood decided to write a short kuntrus on the halachic permissibility of various types of alternative healing. In the end, what he thought would be a six-month project took him a decade of intense examination: Do these practices utilize some yet undiscovered law of nature, or do they harness a spiritual energy that could involve transgressions of sorcery and avodah zarah?

Day after day, three-year-old Chaya’s behavior deteriorated, leaving her parents, who live in the Jerusalem suburb of Beitar, beside themselves with grief, exhaustion, and worry. Whenever they tried to dress or bathe her she would go into hysterical fits that would last for hours. And although they made the medical rounds, no doctor could find anything wrong with her physically or psychologically.

Finally, after much urging from friends, they finally decided to see an alternative practitioner specializing in health kinesiology. He tested Chaya’s muscles for signs of weakness while touching her with vials containing various foods and minerals. After testing dozens of samples, he turned to Chaya’s anxious parents with a smile. “Your daughter is allergic to the laundry detergent you’ve been using.” They immediately switched laundry detergents and her tantrums subsided completely.

Most readers know someone who swears by at least some form of alternative healing — known collectively as CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine). These practices consist of a wide array of modalities that include such practices as homeopathy, acupuncture, reflexology, kinesiology, tapping and EFT, acupressure, dowsing, flower essences, geobiology, hypnotherapy, yoga, Reiki, TAT, and feng shui (harmonizing your body, not your home decor), to name a few.

Some techniques, such as acupuncture, date back thousands of years, while others, such as applied kinesiology, are just 50 years old or less. According to the National Institute of Health, 38 percent of Americans spend $33.9 billion out-of-pocket every year on CAM products and practitioners. Over the past 20 years, the NIH’s National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health has spent tremendous resources to research the effectiveness of countless nonconventional medical treatments.

Eastern medicine focuses on treating the whole person by addressing the root cause.

While some practices, such as acupuncture, have been proven to work well in certain conditions, others, such as energy healing, have not been verified. But that hasn’t stopped millions of people from continuing to use alternative healing techniques that have not passed the rigors of scientific scrutiny.

This is not a forum for discussing the merits and pitfalls of the various CAM disciplines — people who have had success aren’t really interested in statistics anyway — but one question within the Torah community (which seems to have a special affinity for many of these methods) keeps coming up: Assuming these practices work, do they operate utilizing some yet-undiscovered law of nature, or do they make use of a supernatural power or spiritual energy? And if this is the case, does harnessing those energies involve the Torah transgressions of sorcery, divination, avodah zarah, or other prohibited behaviors, since it appears that some of these modalities are rooted in pagan rituals and philosophies? (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 683)

Related Stories

The Courage to Start Again

Avigail Rosenberg

Four women tell their stories about how they were able to believe in a new relationship again, after...

Lasting Links on Linkedin

C. Rosenberg

A guide to networking on what is probably the most effective social media for career promotion

Keeper of the Stories

Barbara Bensoussan

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz won’t let the struggles of frum Jews in early America fall into oblivion

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Drink to Eternity
Rabbi Moshe Grylak Redemption doesn’t simply mean being let out of jail
Klal Yisrael Is Always Free
Yonoson Rosenblum "In that merit will Klal Yisrael continue to exist”
Home Free
Eytan Kobre My baseline for comparison is admittedly weak
Believe in Your Own Seder
Rabbi Judah Mischel Hashem is satisfied when we do our best
Picture Perfect
Yisroel Besser Take a picture — and this time, send it to yourself
Flying Solo
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman As Pesach loomed closer, his resentment was growing
Hanging on by a Hair
Jacob L. Freedman MD “Do you still think that I’m not completely crazy?”
A Song for Every Season
Riki Goldstein Influencers map out their personal musical soundtracks
Subliminal Speech
Faigy Peritzman The deeper the recognition, the deeper the effect
The Big Change
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Spelling things out clears clouds of resentment
The Count-Up
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz Tap the middos of Sefirah to recreate yourself
The Baker: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP with Zivia Reischer "She can't get married if she can't build a relationship...
Know This: Infertility
As Told to Bracha Stein There was no place for me. I didn’t belong
Dear Shadchan
The Girl Here's the thing: I need time