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Preventative Medicine

The 20th century will no doubt be remembered in history as the “century of science.” The rapid developments in all fields, especially medicine and technology, were intoxicating. We were led to believe that it was only a matter of time before science would solve every human problem. Belief in the power of science became almost a religion for the modern era.

Fast forward two decades, though, and some of that confidence has eroded. It has become obvious that the technological advances have come at a heavy cost. We are realizing that while science and technology can provide us with unimaginable comforts, they do not give us the answers we need to live a life of stability and peace of mind. In fact, in many ways technology is responsible for a host of human woes: pollution, global climate change, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, with excessive consumption of fat and sugar. It is clear that the keys to good health do not come from sophisticated medical technology, but from simple, common-sense habits. We are now taking a closer look at ancient wisdom discarded in our haste to achieve “modernity.”

One example is the writing of Maimonides, one of the most famous Jewish philosophers of all time. Maimonides was also a physician, and one book of his well-known “Mishneh Torah” is devoted to a healthy lifestyle. His advice is as relevant now as when it was originally written: Good health depends on moderation in food and drink; sufficient sleep and exercise; and achieving emotional balance, avoiding extremes.

Our rediscovery of the principles of sanity found in Maimonides and similar writings reflect an underlying change in the practice of medicine: From being focused on how to treat and cure illness, there is now a shift towards wellness. The clinician’s role is to practice preventative medicine, to keep patients in a state of health.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was once asked what the job of physicians will be in the days of Moshiach, when all illnesses will be eliminated. His response was, to practice preventative medicine. We have the tools in our hands. We know what we need to do to keep ourselves healthy, physically, emotionally and spiritually. However, there are psychological obstacles that keep us from living up to our ideals. Soon those barriers will evaporate, when G-d will “remove the spirit of impurity,” and we will enjoy ultimate health and peace of mind.


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