What are the halakhic guidelines and limitations for using psukim from the Torah to heal illness? Does it make a difference if the psuk is being used to heal a "spiritual" malady which is believed to be causing the physical one? What if the psuk is being used as part of tikkun to rectify a sin which is causing the ailment?

  • I assume the question is that the physical ailment indicate a spiritual issue which you wish to resolve and not that you are trying to indirectly heal the medical issue?
    – YDK
    Commented Nov 15, 2010 at 2:00
  • Not necessarily. Again the question is what are the halakhic ramifications for any of the above. Actually I would say the opposite. In my experience the majority of the people are more worried about the physical malady, especially when stricken by a serious illness, and that will often lead them to seeking out tikkunim and segulot of various kinds. So my interest was in looking into the varying halakhic opinions and ramifications of that. Commented Nov 15, 2010 at 8:23
  • kolhalashon.com/New/… see lecture #20 Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 3:39
    – TwoOs
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 3:28

3 Answers 3


Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 179:5 (citing Sanhedrin 90a and 101a), states:

הלוחש על המכה או על החולה ורוקק ואחר כך קורא פסוק מן התורה אין לו חלק לעוה"ב ואם אינו רוקק איסורא מיהא איכא ואם יש בו סכנת נפשות הכל מותר.

תינוק שנפגע אין קורין עליו פסוק ואין מניחין עליו ס"ת.

"One who whispers over a wound or over a sick person, expectorates, and then reads a verse from the Torah, has no share in the World to Come. Even if he doesn't expectorate, it is still forbidden. But if the person's life is in danger, all of this is permitted.

"If a child [or an adult - Shach ibid. :12] has been injured, one may not recite a verse over him, nor place a Torah scroll on him."

Shach (ibid. :10) says that this primarily refers to using a verse containing G-d's name, because it is grossly disrespectful to associate that with spitting. So using a verse that doesn't contain any Divine name may just be forbidden (without incurring the penalty of losing his share in the World to Come).

Taz (ibid. :7) concurs. He goes on to say (ibid. :8) that the general rule is that "words of Torah were not given for the healing of the body, but for that of the soul," and that this is why this practice is prohibited, unless the person's life is in danger.

Finally, Shulchan Aruch (ibid. :10) says that all of this applies only when the person is already injured or ill, but that "a healthy person may recite verses to protect himself from destructive forces" - which, as Taz (ibid. :8) points out, is indeed the reason we recite the bedtime Shema.

  • Interesting... it goes against the Ma'aseh Rav of a great number of Rabbanim. Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 16:29
  • Can you provide details? One obvious possibility is that in those cases the person's life was in danger, in which case the sources above say that it's fine.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 21:31
  • 1
    The sefer Shiur Komah, published by Rav Shmuel Shmueli with haskamot from the Eida, Rav Kaduri, and a few others I can't remember right now, comes immediately to mind. Granted it states that the purpose is to make tikun so that the spiritual cause will be healed, thus allowing the body to be healed... I am not sure if that is a difference however. Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 12:08
  • Does it have you saying the relevant verses right next to (or over) the sick person, or elsewhere? It's possible that על המכה or על התינוק, etc., are indeed meant in their narrowest sense - and in that case, saying them in another room wouldn't be a problem. (After all, it is pretty much a universal custom to say Tehillim for a sick person, and it's pretty hard to say that this would violate the above halachos.)
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 17:48
  • @RabbiMichaelTzadok Soooo, haskamot from the Eida and Rav Kaduri make it kosher even though it goes against Shulchan Aruch?
    – Yehoshua
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 22:26

The Rambam in Hilchot Avoda Zorah, Chapter 11, Law 13 (or 12 depending on edition) states:

יג [יב] הלוחש על המכה וקורא פסוק מן התורה, וכן הקורא על התינוק שלא ייבעת, המניח ספר תורה או תפילין על הקטן בשביל שיישן--לא דיי להן שהן בכלל חוברים ומנחשים: אלא שהן בכלל הכופרים בתורה, שהן עושין דברי תורה רפאות גוף, ואינן אלא רפאות נפשות, שנאמר "ויהיו חיים, לנפשך" (משלי ג,כב). אבל הבריא שקרא פסוקין או מזמור מתילים, כדי שתגן עליו זכות קריאתן, ויינצל מצרות ונזקים--הרי זה מותר.

"A person who says an incantation over a wound and recites a verse from the Torah, who recites a verse over a child so that he will not become scared, or who places a Torah scroll or tefillin over a baby so that it will sleep, not only is considered to be a soothsayer or one who cast spells. Furthermore, such people are included among those who deny the Torah, because they relate to the words of Torah as if they are cures for the body, when, in fact, they are cures for the soul, as [Proverbs 3:22] states: "And they shall be life for your soul. It is, however, permitted for a healthy person to read verses [from the Bible] or chapters from Psalms so that the merit of reading them will protect him and save him from difficulties and damage."

It would seem according to the Rambam, that to recite Pasukim (verses) to heal a person would be prohibited at all times. I would assume a כופר בתורה, would have no portion in the world to come as well.

It would further seem that to say Tehilim for a sick person would be problematic as well. Unless the person is learning the Tehilim to raise their level, and then engages in prayer. This is probably why we are accustomed to saying a Mishaberach after saying Tehilim on behalf of a sick person. In other words, the Tehilim function as a precursor or preparation for the person engaging in Prayer. Much like we do for Mincha by saying Ashrei before the Shmoneh Esreh.

  • I don't know if that's necessarily so. Both Rambam and Shulchan Aruch refer to saying a verse "over a wound," or "over a child," etc. - so perhaps it's only a problem if you're right there in the room with them.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 17:44
  • Good observation. I would assume that to say it over the wound would be a problem of לוחש על המכה. However, to say pasukim to heal someone, even someone not present before you, would still be a problem of עושין דברי תורה רפאות גוף, making words of Torah into "cures for the body". Fundamentally you are reducing the words of Torah which are there to convey ideas, to some verbal formula to heal someone. What do you think?
    – RCW
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 2:29
  • Saying Tehillim without understanding it doesn't do anything -- not in terms of making "zechusim" for someone (who says this should work anyway? Just daven to HaShem to send them a refuah!) And certainly doesn't work for limud haTorah if you don't understand at all...
    – Yehoshua
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 22:29

I have a Shiur from Rav Asher Weiss Shelit"a and from Rav Meir Eliyahu Shelit"a that discuss this. Here: is the R' Meir Eliyahu Shiur and here is the Rav Asher Weiss.

The discussion really is about saying Tehilim for the sick. Rav Asher Weiss (a Posek) rules that it is Mutar because "Minhag Mevatel Halacha." Rav Meir Eliyahu also discusses the prohibion of Tammim Tihye in regards to going to fake "mekubalim" for them to check your hand (Orhot Sadikim Shaar Yirat Shamayim at least 800 years ago as Rambam quotes him says we lost this practice as brought down in Zohar 1:170), and he also rules that this Asur Mideorayta as brought down in Wayashob Yam 2:12-13.

  • Rav Asher Weiss is wrongly applying the idea of "minhag mevatel halacha" (or minhag oker halacha as we find the lashon in the Yerushalmi and Rishonim.) It can only be applied to Choshen Mishpat (as I believe the Sdei Chemed and others point out), not Orach Chaim or Yoreh Deah. Halacha is halacha in those cases and you can't be matir an issur.
    – Yehoshua
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 22:28

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