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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Spiritual Healing

Daf Yomi Kesubos 74

A colleague of mine recently embarked on a new idea to get to know his congregants a little better.  He calls it the ‘spiritual checkup.’  Just like you go to see your doctor for an annual physical checkup, he encourages his congregants to meet with the rabbi once a year for a spiritual checkup.  That gives him the opportunity to touch base, particularly with those he only sees a couple of times a year at High Holy days and simchas.  Oftentimes, the rabbi might not even hear when a congregant is unwell or has a family simcha or crisis – this way, he gets updated on what’s going on in his congregants’ lives; he’s able to share their joy and advise them in their time of need.

The Mishnah states: If a man betrothed a woman on condition that she has no pre-existing vows of abstinence and then discovered that she did have vows upon her, the marriage is void.  Similarly, if they were betrothed on condition that she had no physical blemishes and he then discovered her blemishes, the marriage is void.

The Rabbis taught: If she went to a sage who released her from her vows, they remain married.   But if she went to a doctor who healed her, the marriage is still void.  What is the difference between a sage and a doctor?  The sage has the power to uproot the vow from its inception; the doctor can only cure the malady going forward.

Rashi explains: When a sage annuls a vow, he seeks an opening for the abstainer to express remorse at having uttered the vow, thereby uprooting it from the beginning.  Thus, there was no vow present at the time of marriage.  A doctor, however, can only cure a malady going forward, which means that at the time of betrothal, the groom was deceived.  

When you sin, you blemish your soul.  Just like a physical wound, a spiritual blemish is painful and dangerous, and you’re going to want to cure it as quickly as possible.  The way to cure a spiritual wound is through teshuvah – repentance.  When you sincerely regret your misdeed, confess your iniquity to G-d, and promise never to do it again, you cure the blemish on your soul.  In Judaism, you can generally achieve that healing on your own; but if you feel you need assistance, you can always ask a chacham (sage or rabbi) for advice on achieving spiritual healing.

Here’s the incredible power of spiritual versus physical healing.  When you go to see a doctor, all they can do is cure your malady going forward.  Actually, they might not even be able to remove all evidence of the original wound – an operation might result in a lifelong scab, and medication might result in side-effects.  In contrast, when you achieve spiritual healing, you can completely uproot the problem from its origins, such that it’s as if it never happened!  What’s more, the Talmud tells us, an incredibly potent teshuvah has the power to transform the sins into merits!  Not only do your spiritual blemishes heal, they become jewellery for your soul! 


The power of teshuvah is unparalleled. In Judaism, when you turn over a new leaf, you completely eradicate the previously leaf that may have been a little rotten.  Sometimes you can do this by yourself; other times you might need to seek spiritual advice.   Just like you wouldn’t hesitate to ask a doctor about your physical ailments, don’t be shy to discuss your spiritual ailments with your rabbi.  May you merit transforming all your spiritual blemishes into jewels adorning your soul!