A tale of two stones: the impact of medical history on contemporary medical Halakhah.

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Abstract

The advances in modern medicine have spawned a myriad of ethical and halakhic dilemmas. Modern day poskim (rabbinic authorities) address these issues by relying heavily on the works of their predecessors, works that often refer to contemporaneous medical theories and practice. While the principles of Halakhah have remained unchanged since the giving of the Torah, the principles of medical theory and practice have changed radically over the centuries. Therefore, when approaching any pre-20th-century medical halakhic text, it is imperative to realize that the medical theories and practices discussed therein can only be understood in their proper historical context. This essay analyzes two rabbinic sources from the 18th century which discuss a particular disease and its treatment. The contemporaneous history of this disease is presented for the purpose of clarifying the ambiguities of the text and preventing possible anachronistic interpretations and halakhic misapplications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalBDD : be-khol derakhekha daehu : ketav-et le-inyene Torah u-mada
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

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title = "A tale of two stones: the impact of medical history on contemporary medical Halakhah.",
abstract = "The advances in modern medicine have spawned a myriad of ethical and halakhic dilemmas. Modern day poskim (rabbinic authorities) address these issues by relying heavily on the works of their predecessors, works that often refer to contemporaneous medical theories and practice. While the principles of Halakhah have remained unchanged since the giving of the Torah, the principles of medical theory and practice have changed radically over the centuries. Therefore, when approaching any pre-20th-century medical halakhic text, it is imperative to realize that the medical theories and practices discussed therein can only be understood in their proper historical context. This essay analyzes two rabbinic sources from the 18th century which discuss a particular disease and its treatment. The contemporaneous history of this disease is presented for the purpose of clarifying the ambiguities of the text and preventing possible anachronistic interpretations and halakhic misapplications.",
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