Tehillim as a Cure?
This week, an interesting debate over Tehillim surfaced on the Internet. One side of this debate claimed Tehillim should be used as a means to restore health to those who are sick. They felt that Tehillim is a true cure. I submitted the following arguments against that position…
It’s vital that this conversation doesn’t lose sight of the Torah fundamentals, which must guide all our opinions. I refer to “Reward & Punishment”. Let’s apply this to our context:
One becomes physically sick or harmed through either 1 of 2 means:
1) “The SELF”: as in harmful substances - that one ingests or contacts. This includes rotten foods, sharp objects, dangerous persons, dangerous chemicals, overeating, disease, viruses, etc.
2) “God”: as in His deliverance of sickness as a punishment.
If the former #1, medical treatments and distance from further contact is the only cure. If the latter #2, repentance for the sin is essential. In neither case will words address the cause. It is therefore foolish to value “A” (words) for something “B” (viruses or sin) caused.
Reciting words cannot remove existing harm. But as the Rabbis teach, if we are yet healthy, we can study Torah or perform mitzvos and seek God’s assurances that we are kept from harm’s way. Torah words are inanimate, and therefore have no affect on physical issues. But God’s providence to keep us in His shelter can be sought by aligning ourselves with His system.
The following I addressed to the group the next day, as more support was posted in favor of Tehillim recital as a cure:
Question for all: Does anyone have proof that reciting anything - Torah or otherwise - can re-grow a severed limb? If not - which is the case - then reciting anything at all cannot do the opposite...for no relationship exists between ‘words’ and ‘health’. I am certain no person or Rabbi in their right mind would recite Tehillim if in a car accident, and they were bleeding profusely. And the author of Tehillim did not recite Tehillim when faced with his approaching enemies. He used steel swords. And when his first child from Batsheva was dying, he prayed to God.
Again, no Tehillim.
If Tehillim’s author - King David - did not endorse this foolish belief, and if God’s Torah teaches Reward and Punishment, where man must repent to remove his ailments...Tehillim recitation is clearly unveiled as ineffective, not the Torah way, and a practice that is akin to incantations.
In general, people are very insecure, and seek amulets and quick fixes for their woes. The Talmud and the Prophets state that we are to reflect and repent in order to remove our problems. Or, we must cease from self-destructive behavior.
I fail to see why people do not follow reason in “this” area, while in all other areas, people use reason. They work to pay bills, look before crossing the street, and analyze stocks before purchasing them. Either use Tehillim for protection in all areas, or live in reality in all areas, and address physical symptoms as successful doctors prescribe. I will quote a Torah source in support.
The prohibition against employing charms (Sefer Chinuch, Mitzva 512)
[That] We were restricted not to make incantations about any matter. In substance, this refers to a man who will say words, then tell people that those words helped or caused harm in any particular matter. About this it is stated, “There shall not be found among you...a charmer (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).” In the language of the Midrash Sifre: It is all the same thing, whether a person casts a charm on a snake or casts a charm on a scorpion — in other words, he says words over them so that they won’t bite him, according to his opinion. So too if one says words over a wound in order to be relieved of the pain (i.e. recites a pasuk to cure a wound).
Now perhaps, my son, you might pose a question to me from what we read in the Talmud Shevuos 15b: The Psalm against evil occurrences is with lutes and lyres (Psalms 91), and then he says Psalm 3. In other words, the recital of these Psalms is of use to provide protection from harm. And it says in tractate Brachos 3a: R. Joshua b. Levi would say these verses and go to bed.
However, this matter is not similar (perish the thought) to the business of a charmer that we mentioned. Long ago, the Sages of blessed memory said in this regard (Shevuos 15b): It is forbidden to heal oneself with words of Torah. Yet they mentioned to say these Psalms, since they contain words that inspire the soul that knows them, to shelter in the Eternal Lord, place all his trust in Him, establish a reverent fear of Him firmly in his heart, and rely on His kindness and goodness. As a result of his awareness about this, he will be protected, without any doubt from every harm. This is what was answered in the Talmud in this regard. For it was asked there, but how could R. Joshua do this? Here R. Joshua said it was forbidden to heal oneself with words of Torah! And the reply was given: To secure protection, it is a different matter. In other words, the Torah did not forbid a man to say words of Torah so as to arouse his soul in a good direction, so that this merit should shield him to protect him.”