Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
Health and healing are sanctified in the earliest of Jewish writings. "Therefore choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19) established the fundamental attitude. The ancient historian Josephus expressed a widely held belief that King Solomon had received knowledge of healing directly from God and had written a text of medicine. The Talmud, also considered to be indirectly the word of God, has substantial amounts of advice on health, hygiene, and medicine
Biblical writers were skeptical, if not disdainful, of secular healers. Their stories highlighted miraculous cures brought about either directly by God or by God's prophets. Despite these inauspicious beginnings, however, the second century BCE scholar Ben Sira advised "Honor the physician," and the Talmud urged scholars to settle in a town that had a physician. By the Middle Ages, many rabbis were physicians, some, like Moses Maimonides, educated in the literary mode of Galen and Hippocrates. In the early Middle Ages in many areas of Europe, Jews entered the profession of medicine in disproportionate numbers, and a few achieved high status not only within their own communities but in the larger Christian world as physicians to popes, kings, and other notables. Following the Enlightenment, Jews in Europe were allowed to enter medical schools, and by the early 20th century, Jewish doctors comprised a high percentage of the medical profession in Germany and Austria, where many were innovators and leaders in their fields. Still in America and Israel, medicine remains a favored profession, and many Jews have had distinguished careers as scientists, educators, writers, and practitioners.
Jews and Medicine. JAMA. 1998;280(12):1109-1110. doi:10.1001/jama.280.12.1109