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Health Care from a Jewish Perspective

While congress is on its break, the health care debate is being taken out of Washingtonand brought into our back yards. I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss several concepts briefly in relation to health care from a Jewish perspective.

While I do not advocate a specific plan, I do advocate further research on this topic especially with a Jewish lens. I want to briefly outline and define several concepts which help us frame our response to specific questions regarding healthcare.

First and foremost we are all created in the Divine Image – Betzelem Elohim. This concept helps remind us to always be respectful to all persons no matter their origination or economic situation.

The idea of Hatzalat Nefashot – the saving of a human life is a positive commandment. It is such a powerful concept that the Talmud states Pikuah nefesh doha et ha-shabbat, (Yoma 85b) that saving a life permits us to break even the commandments regarding Shabbat.

The concept of Shemirat Ha-bruit or preventative care helps us understand how to best take care of our bodies. Maimonides understood the verse in the Torah “take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously” (Deuteronomy) that we must scrupulously guard our health by living a balanced life and seeking medical care when warranted.

Tzedaka — Communal Obligations to Meeting Basic Human Needs is insisted upon by the rabbis. Communal subsidies for the poor to assist to pay for medical coverage, clothing and food have long been present in the Jewish Law.

Bikur Holim – visiting the sick is a value that is incumbent upon us all. It is not that the person is physically sick only, rather being sick can cause feelings of isolation and a true need for support to complete doctors orders to return to health.

In the coming weeks as the health care debate in this country increases, I encourage you to refer to the following websites and books which might be able to provide more information – including rabbinic responsa, Jewish Law, break downs of the legislation and opportunities for you to access more resources

Reform Action Center’s webpage on healthcare which includes Jewish and legislative resources

http://rac.org/advocacy/issues/issuehc/

An article published in Reform Magazine on healthcare

http://reformjudaismmag.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=1421

A book that examines modern day issues in healthcare and historic Jewish sources

Matters of Life and Death: A Jewish Approach to Modern Medical Ethics by Elliot N. Dorff

Written from a scientific prospective, this book briefly summarizes Jewish law in response.

Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics by Avraham Steinb

May this conversation further elevate the debate.

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