Sin and Redemption
Sin and Redemption
This chapter discusses how sin is viewed and how it affects health. The existence of an extrasensory dimension perceptible only to a select few through visions and other mystical experiences was not called into question. The two spheres — the visible and the invisible — were bound up in a tightly woven mesh of interdependencies. Not only did they influence each other in matters including human health, but they were also reflections of each other. The notion of sickness as punishment recurs several times in the Talmud. The causes of ailments were interpreted using a combination of conceptions drawn from various traditions. The motif of punishment was a perennial subject of study in rabbinic Orthodoxy and Hasidism alike. The Jews living in eastern Europe believed that there were seven things which made life shorter: anger and envy, greed and pride, gossip, debauchery, and idleness. Anyone who lived to a ripe old age was considered fortunate and blessed. Those who died prematurely were thought to have to live out the rest of their years in another incarnation. In the popular understanding, the bond between the human soul and body was so strong that even the smallest flaw in the former would immediately manifest in the latter. Sickness presented an opportunity to purify oneself from sins. To the traditional Jewish community, prayer could have a bearing on health primarily as a regular form of fulfilment of divine service. The sin of neglect affected not only the human soul but also the body.
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