Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Segula, the Sefer Harefuos, sharing too much and receiving a gentle correction

Some of you who follow my blog and articles, I'm sure, may have found the concept of Segula new, and some may have been uncomfortable with it. Be that as it may, I want to share with you a little more information as to the source of what a segula is, and a remarkable, loving correction that I received from Ha-Shem yesterday.

First, let us consider the original source of the word segula: Shmos (Exodus) 19:5. The verse says: "And now, if you will listen diligently to My voice, and keep My covenant, then you will be for Me a "Segula" (meaning a special treasure, apart) from all the nations, for all the world is Mine." From this verse, our sages teach us that Jews have the responsibility to act differently, and in the merit of our acting differently, as moral role models for the nations of the world, we, ourselves, will have be given a tremendous power to heal, just as a Segula does, and our prayers will be potent, promptly answered and effective.

A Segula, therefore, means a special treasure put aside as a gift from the King, to be used appropriately as a means of connecting to Him, and certainly not for any other purpose.

As I related to you, last week I had the privilege of performing a segula to help three different patients of mine to become healthier. Interestingly, a couple of days later, I was visited by a sincere young man, who, hearing about the treatments, offered a business proposition to me: He knew of a number of very sick people, who suffered from the same infirmity as my patients and suggested that we form a partnership, charging a large fee to heal these people, and split the profits. Though my initial reaction was equivocal, I asked him to write up a proposal which I would consider.

One day later, I received a call from a colleague who "just happened" to be in Sacramento for hearings before the State Board of Acupuncture, and he informed me that he heard that a complaint had been lodged against me for practicing outside of the scope of my licensure. He advised me to immediately take down any reference to this segula, and assured me that by doing so, I would not be censured.

My immediate reaction was one of indignation--here I was, acting as a messenger of Ha-Shem to help people feel better, improving the quality of their lives and even possibly extending their lives, and people with an agenda were coming along to stop this noble practice. Furthermore, what about my freedom of religion to practice as I chose? But then it hit me--Everything that happens to us is Ha-Shem speaking to us, and we need to really work on focusing on the message being delivered. It dawned on me, as I took steps last Friday to remove information about the Segula from my website, blog and Facebook page, that Ha-Shem was displeased with my actions, and was giving me a gentle reproach. Why? Because a segula is a special gift and a hidden treasure intended to remain that way, not be publicized and certainly not to be used to make big money, nor to treat patients mechanically.

We have a precedent for this as well:

Our sages tell us that up until the time of King Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah)approximately 2,500 years ago, there existed a remarkable text called Sefer Harefuos (The Book of Remedies) which, we are told, King Chizkiyahu hid away. When it was composed , and by whom, is subject to controversy, but, nonetheless, all agree that it existed and was used extensively for at least 300 years until King Chizkiyahu's time.(The Ramban, in his introduction to the Torah, tells us, for example, that it was composed by King Solomon.) Why did he hide it away? Was it because the remedies were ineffective? On the contrary, they were TOO effective! According to Rashi, the reason that King Chizkiyahu felt it necessary to hide the Sefer Harefuos was because, "when a person became ill, he would follow what was written in The Sefer Harefuos and be healed. As a result, people's hearts were not humbled before Heaven because of illness." According to Rashi, resorting to The Sefer Harefuos turned illness into nothing but a mechanical process. Yet, King Chizkiyahu understood that people are not machines, and though the remedies it contained would heal and resolve bodily illness, he wanted people to understand, that a human being is made up of a body as well as a soul. He understood, in his wisdom, that when the body is sick, the soul is also going to be sick as well, and vice-versa. (According to the Rambam, incidentally, there was a different problem: The Sefer Harefuos was a speculative reference book based upon Canaanite astrology. It was only to be used as a text for acquiring theoretical information, and was never intended by its author, nor permitted by the Torah, to be used for actual healing. Hypothetically, when patients would draw certain "shapes" at specific hours, and corresponding to particular constellations, they would be healed. However, though this knowledge was permitted to study, it was absolutely forbidden to apply practically. When people began to engage in this forbidden healing art, Chizkiyahu felt it necessary to take action. How pitiful to consider that even back
then, desperate people would pursue any means, even the occult to alleviate suffering. Might we perhaps apply the same caution today when confronted with "New
Age" occultists who offer us "the moon"?)

It is these insights that form the basis with which Judaism views the role of the healer throughout history: First, all healing emanates from G-d, second, the physician, as his agent, must do everything in his power to try to heal the whole patient, body and soul, while doing him no harm, and third, in order to prevent illness from occurring in the first place, the physician needs to educate his patient to honor and cherish both his body and soul, protecting them from harm.

We must always remember that illness is a message and a gift (Yes, a gift!) sent by G-d to motivate us to stop and examine our lives. By concealing The Sefer Harefuos people were encouraged to, in a non-mechanical manner, to take responsibility for their lives, actualize their latent spiritual healing potential, and take an active role in their own healing process. The late Biala Rebbe of Jerusalem, Rabbi Yechiel Yehoshua Rabinowicz, used to point out, that when we are really in touch with our spiritual selves, then physically we become much more connected to Ha-Shem as well. The Hebrew term "mesiras nefesh,"(usually translated as self-sacrifice) actually means much more than giving up one's lives. The Rebbe, ZT"L tells us that when we make our primary focus pleasing Ha-Shem by our actions, then any related physical actions take on new meaning and are also considered "mesiras nefesh!"--connecting body and soul as one!

These then, is the messages that I was given: Healing must never become mechanical, and segulas are not meant for public consumption. I pray that we can always have the wisdom and the vision to correctly understand the messages that are delivered to us.

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