The Torah is an expert medicine book given to us by the Almighty to heal our souls and psyche from the pain and bitterness that we carry around. Most of all, the health that the Torah seeks to give us is the ability to see the Divine, and experience Divine Providence in every aspect of our lives.
In one of his many deep parables, Rabbi Isaac of Homil, one of the greatest thinkers in Chabad, draws a parallel between the 6 stages by which the Torah heals the soul and the 6 increasingly powerful types of medicine practiced in the medical world to heal the body. In the following article we will go through the 6 types of physical medicine that Rabbi Isaac lists and explain how they correspond to each of the 6 levels of the soul (which are healed by the Torah).
A more complete discussion of Rabbi Isaac’s Kabbalistic model appears in Rabbi Ginsburgh’s book on medicine: Body, Mind, and Soul: Kabbalah on Human Physiology, Disease, and Healing.
Level 1: An Expert Physician
The first level of true healing, lowest yet most fundamental in the six-rung ladder of healing about to be constructed, is that of an expert physician. The skilled and accomplished practitioner knows the proper medicine to prescribe to treat the specific ailments of the body. His expertise in prescription relates to the natural level of the body, the level on which the body “lives”-the life-force of the soul as it enclothes itself within the body. The power of the correct medicine is actualized by contacting this lowest level of the soul and drawing it into the body Nonetheless, the consciousness of the physician is primarily, if not solely, directed to the body and its ailments.
This level corresponds to the lowest level of the soul, the nefesh, whose function is to bind the soul to the body through the medium of the “connective intermediate” the blood, as is said, “The blood is the nefesh”
The Hebrew word for blood “dam” has the same root as the word for “likeness”- “d’mut”. This level of healing relates to the Divine likeness in which man was created. Adam (whose name means, “I shall become blood,” as taught in Chassidut) represents the secret of the expert physician. Eve is the patient; the primordial snake is both the disease as well as the secret of the medicine.
The second level of healing is through the power of “charms” Although in it’s origins this is a most authentic science, over the generations it has degenerated to a large extent and become identified with various superstitious practices.
By the power of “charms,” one may draw the form of a man on a wall so that whatever is done to the form will actually take place in the body of the pictured man to be healed. The wisdom employed here is suggestive by nature.
The second level of the soul, the spirit-ruach, above the aspect of the soul’s direct association with the body (the nefesh), is touched by the charm. The act is “spiritualistic” by nature. A spiritual happening takes place at the level of the ruach, (that level of the soul associated with the emotive powers of man– his passions, anger; etc.) and when positive (constructive) the ruach becomes sufficiently energized to effect and heal from above the body to which it relates.
The third level of healing is through the power of Holy Names, such as those inscribed within an amulet carried on the body or retained in another conspicuous place. The Name has the power to draw Divine influx to the suprarational aspects of the soul, producing a supernal Divine experience which strengthens the soul and provides it with sufficient power to heal the body.
This type of healing relates in particular to the third level of the soul-the neshama, which initially is super-conscious, for man’s initial consciousness is that of his nefesh (physical, material consciousness) and his ruach (spiritual consciousness), as taught in Kabbalah. However; one can merit to draw the level of neshama into his consciousness in the state of abstract intelligence, pure awareness of Holy Names.
The fourth level of healing is that referred to by our Sages: “If one’s head aches he should delve into Torah… if one’s whole body aches he should delve into Torah. “Similarly, in the words of our Sages, “Whoever delves into the light of the Torah, the light of the Torah enlivens him.” To draw physical vitality from this light, one must actually be in a state of true binding of his soul to the Torah, the Word of God. Then transcendent strength spontaneously enters the soul imbuing it with the power to heal the body. Here, the soul does not experience Divinity (even at its most sublime levels) as a separate entity, but rather merges into the Divinity of Torah (“Torah and God are one.”)
This is analogous to the law that an impure (sick) body of water becomes instantly purified when brought to “kiss” the waters of a pure mikvah. In the same way, when the soul touches (“kisses”) God’s light in the Torah, it “blends” into its living waters, thereby receiving sufficient life-force to heal the body. Nevertheless in the above quote, the term “aches” is used, implying that the inner limbs remain intact even though an ache or minor ailment has taken hold of some viable limb. The “problem” is due to the impure spiritual influence of “shells” (klipot) which attack and then attach themselves to the body. The “light” of the Torah blinds the eyes of the “shells” and nullifies them. However; when the inner limbs are mortally impaired, the light of the Torah is not sufficient to miraculously heal them (i.e., return them to their previous complete state of being.)
This type of healing relates to the fourth level of the soul, the chaya-“the living one,” identified with the origin of wisdom, higher even than the pure consciousness of intellect described above. “Wisdom (of Torah) gives life to its possessors.” The chaya resides in the “air fluid” above the brain, beneath the skull. In Divine service it corresponds to a true state of selflessness (related to the secret of immersion in a pure mikveh) infused with a sense of infinite serenity.
The fifth level is yet another level above this. Although it may be physically impossible to heal a mortally ill person, even by the Divine light of Torah, nevertheless it is possible for one’s soul to “take over” and “replace” the body by enacting all of its physical functions. The body remains mortally ill as before (to the extent that the Torah law defines the person as a “traifa”–one who is about to die), but somehow continues to live. Of this level it is said, “As though The Holy One dwells in his guts.” “The Holy One” in one’s guts make the body appear to be functioning normally although it is virtually dead. The transcendent sanctity of The Holy One is existentially separate and removed from the physical body; thus the body is in no way affected by the presence of The Holy One dwelling within it and “living” for it.
This level relates to the fifth level of the soul – the “single one”, – the yechida. Here its essential “singularity” is reflected in the ability to function independently (i.e., by itself) as “another” (i.e., the body) “The tzadik (righteous one) lives in his faith.” The yechida, the power of the faith of tzadikim “lives in itself” (in contrast to the chaya which “gives life,”) yet spontaneously “lives” for another (i.e., in place of the body.)
The sixth level of healing is the one for which the word “miracle” in its truest sense is reserved for. Though all of the above levels of healing (from the second on), appear to be supernatural in nature, it is at this level that the mortally ill body itself undergoes a miraculous, existential metamorphosis, and the physical body is reborn. Our sages teach that at the time of the resurrection of the dead, bodies will come to life from the grave in exactly the same state of being and physical (as well as psychological) condition as they died. Then, instantaneously, they will be healed. The state of the first moment of resurrection corresponds to the fifth level of healing explained above.
The second moment of resurrection corresponds to the sixth level. An example of this sixth type of healing is the miracle of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah as related in the Book of Daniel. When thrown into the furnace upon order of the Babylonian king, the fire did not burn their bodies, although it did burn those of others around. The state of the body in the fire is a physical example of a mortal, terminal disease. To survive and emerge physically unaffected exemplifies the existential power of spontaneous rebirth-the Divine “Holy of Holies” imbuing the soul of the would-be martyr with the power to metamorphose his body.
This level corresponds to the actual “spark of God” within the yehida of the Jewish soul. This spark derives from the essence of the Infinite Light above (“preceding”) the primordial contraction”-tzimtzum. The secret of tzimtzum excludes, from the perspective of creation, the possibility of an absolute miracle as described above. The “spark of God” enclothed within each Jewish soul allows for the manifestation of such a miracle. This is ultimately the secret and purpose of the presence of the Jewish soul in creation.
Based on a Chassidic discourse by Rabbi Isaac of Homil (1770-1857) from his book Chanah Ariel on the torah, Parashat Emor