May 31, 2022
The Rambam (Maimonides) begins his magnum opus on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, with health advice. After all, if one is ill, weak, or in pain, he will be greatly limited in his ability to study the Torah, perform the mitzvos, and reach spiritual heights.
The Rambam was an ideal person to offer health advice in this context. Not only was he one of the greatest Torah scholars who ever lived, he was also a Renaissance man and the preeminent physician of his time. If the Rambam ran our health system without learning a thing about modern science, we would still be better off.
In chapter 4 of Hilchos De'os the Rambam outlines his primary rules for being healthy and strong. He advises us on diet, sleep, exercise, bathing, eliminating waste, and marital relations. The overall theme is to maintain equilibrium through proper diet and being attentive to our body's needs. Illness is caused almost invariably by eating harmful foods, overeating, or otherwise failing to care for oneself.
The Rambam then makes a remarkable guarantee (De'os 4:20): “Anyone who conducts himself in these ways that we instructed, I guarantee him that he will not become ill all his days, to the extent that he will become very old and die without needing a doctor, and that his body will be complete and retain its health all his days. [This is true] unless his body was bad from the beginning of its creation, or if he conducted himself with one of the bad habits from his early days, or if a plague of pestilence comes or a plague of famine to the world.”
He adds one further disclaimer in the next law: “All these good practices that we mentioned are only appropriate for healthy people. However, a sick person, or one who has an illness in one of his limbs, or one who conducted himself with bad habits for many years – for each of these there are other ways and practices according to the particular illness, as explained in the medical books. And a change to one's routine [or environment] is the beginning of illness.”
There are several key conclusions from the Rambam's words, which remain true to this day:
1) Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the only way (short of miraculous intervention) to prevent illness. There are no shortcuts and no alternatives.
2) The overwhelming majority of illnesses are caused by malnutrition and poor habits that weaken the body. Under normal circumstances, a person should never get sick. If he does get sick, he almost certainly brought it upon himself in one way or another. It is not part of God's natural order for people to become ill; the world He created is not our enemy.
3) This being the case, the proper remedy for most illnesses is to restore harmony to the body and rectify the behavior that brought about the illness. In other words, proper medicine involves identifying and addressing the root cause of the illness, not merely treating the symptoms.
4) The Rambam did not recommend pharmaceutical products of any kind as a preemptive measure to ward off illness. Medical treatment is only advised after the onset of an illness, and medical treatments should be tailored to the individual and his illness.
5) By definition, all pharmaceutical products impact the equilibrium of the body, and should never be introduced unless there is an overriding need that cannot be addressed another way. Obviously, healthy people should never take pharmaceutical products; it can only harm them.
6) There is no such thing as a “public health policy” mandated by the authorities, nor any one-size-fits-all approach to medicine.
7) Forcing healthy people to take pharmaceutical products should be considered assault and battery. (Mandating, pressuring, coercing, or any other such linguistic attempts to split hairs are all forms of forcing.)
All these conclusions based on the Rambam's words are consistent with the Torah's general approach to doctors and medical intervention. The job description of a doctor is to advise people on healthy living, treat injuries, and restore bodily equilibrium in the event of illness. He is not a ruler or a god; he is a repairman and a coach for those who can't do it themselves.
Modern science, by contrast, downplays healthy living as merely a good idea. At best it may reduce your odds of getting sick, but it's not essential. In the event of illness (which modern science believes is inevitable, because God's nature itself causes illness) we must worship the new god of modern science. Natural remedies are dismissed as “not real science”, and the Rambam would be mocked for believing that “food is medicine”. The first reaction to every illness – or even the mere threat of one – is a pharmaceutical product, if not a permanent regimen of them.
Of course, this perspective did not develop organically, through a process that could be called “scientific”. It parallels a corporate takeover of the entire medical system. The purveyors of pharmaceutical products wield enormous leverage over medical schools, hospitals, doctors, medical journals, the media, regulatory agencies, lawmakers, and entire countries. They seized this control over a few generations, during which thousands of years of combined human wisdom was quickly marginalized as “alternative medicine” and its practitioners as quacks, while people in lab coats became godlike authorities whose edicts must be obeyed.
It is no wonder that the first instinct of the vast majority of doctors is to turn to a pharmaceutical product for every problem, real or theoretical. It is not even actual health problems or the potential for them, but anything in your life that isn't quite right. Feeling upset about something? They have a drug for that. Your child isn't docile? Standardized classroom indoctrination isn't working out? It's never too early to make him chemically dependent.
The big bucks are spent on developing new drugs, promoting them, and, if possible, forcing people to take them. That's where the money is. There is little profit in encouraging people to follow the Rambam's advice, especially if it means they never have to see a doctor until the day they die. The Rambam readily offered “the secret” to never requiring his services, more than happy to lose business if people stayed healthy.
The pharmaceutical industry does not want people to stay healthy, happy, and independent.
According to the Torah's view, as articulated by the Rambam, a doctor's services should be enlisted on an as-needed basis for a specific issue. Ideally, one should never need to see a doctor in his entire life.
According to the modern view, it's the exact opposite. Only doctors can keep us healthy with their tests and drugs. Ideally, we would be constantly monitored by doctors, controlled by “health authorities” like marionettes, and automatically regulated with pharmaceutical products. (They're working on it.)
The Rambam's bold guarantee 800 years ago has aged well. The pompous proclamations of modern “health experts”, by contrast, rarely weather a few news cycles. Modern scientific “fact” today will almost inevitably be a meme tomorrow.
It is high time we recognized that the modern scientific establishement, for all its achievements, is totally corrupted, at odds with God, and is committed to preventing us from being healthy so that we will be completely dependent on their products.
Everything about the way we view doctors, medicine, and “the experts” has to change – everything. Pharmaceutical companies will have to severely downsize. Governments will have to relinquish power.
The Rambam was willing to sacrifice profit and control so we could be truly healthy and independent. Are they?