Rabbinic, Medieval, and Early Modern History of Healing

The evolution of attitudes towards physicians, beliefs connecting illness and sin, prayers for healing, and the use of folk healing traditions.

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The tzadikim ["righteous ones", used to refer to leaders of particular streams of Hasidism] of the later Hasidic tradition were also considered great healing practitioners. Some relied upon the curing remedies of the Baal Shem Tov, while others focused primarily on prayer. Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav was unusual, however, in banning the intervention of doctors and relying solely on prayer.

In addition to Hasidism, other developments enriched the connection between Judaism and mental healing. Musar [moral instruction], a 19th-century European-Russian Jewish movement stressing ethics and self-scrutiny, witnessed a proliferation of ethical-psychological texts that promoted the cultivation of certain behaviors and values in the quest for a balanced life. Such a balance, the proponents believed, could prevent and/or even cure mental illness.

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Laura J. Praglin received her Ph.D. in religion and the human sciences from the University of Chicago Divinity School. She holds master's degrees from Chicago and Yale in religion and social work, and is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa.