This week we read the double portion from the Torah, Tazria-Metzora, describing in excruciating detail of how to address leprosy, the leper, the caretaker and what rituals must be preformed to cleanse all from this disease.
This portion speaks of the priest who must attend to the leper. There were no doctors or medical professionals in Biblical times and all illnesses were seen from a spiritual perspective.
In my work as a rabbi, I visit people many times a week in hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, and psychiatric wards and many other venues. I see the difference a good bedside manner can make in the healing process for the patient. And I have seen, too often sadly, the rushed doctor who cannot even look the patient in the eye when talking because she or he are taking notes on the ipad or computer.
Six months ago, I needed a cortisone injection in my back to relieve some constant pain. I checked in at the front desk. The receptionist brought me to the procedure room and gave me a gown. The nurse came in and did not introduce himself to me. He told me to lie on my stomach and wait for the doctor. Ten minutes later, the doctor walks in and I hear him preparing. The first thing he said to me was, “This is going to sting.”
I replied, while immediately sitting up before he injected me, “It may sting, but not until you introduce yourself to me, will I allow you to inject me. I would like to see the face of the man who is going to put a needle near my spinal chord.” Needless to say, my healing process was not helped by the lack of “spirituality” in that procedure room. A simple “Hello, I am Dr. So and So, how are you feeling today Rabbi?” would have been all it took to put me in the right frame of mind to heal well.
Health care is not just about the procedure; it is about the whole person. We must demand a more holistic approach of our health care providers and we must be full participants in that approach as well.
We are truly blessed with so many amazing health care professionals in our world whose talents for making people healthy are remarkable and I am grateful for their presence in my life. And I thank them. I understand their pressures are immense and overwhelming from insurance hassles to seeing pain every day – it can take its toll. Health care professionals and patients will all benefit from the Biblical approach of a healing with science, spirituality and kindness. May it be so.