I am trying to understand the concept of describing G-d's role as a רופא- loosely translated as "healer" and how it relates to His connection with sickness or ailments.


Exodus 15:26:

וַיֹּאמֶר֩ אִם־שָׁמ֨וֹעַ תִּשְׁמַ֜ע לְק֣וֹל ׀ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ וְהַיָּשָׁ֤ר בְּעֵינָיו֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֔ה וְהַֽאֲזַנְתָּ֙ לְמִצְוֺתָ֔יו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ֖ כָּל־חֻקָּ֑יו כָּֽל־הַמַּֽחֲלָ֞ה אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֤מְתִּי בְמִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לֹא־אָשִׂ֣ים עָלֶ֔יךָ כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה רֹפְאֶֽךָ׃ (ס)‏

and He said: ‘If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His eyes, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the sicknesses upon thee, which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD that healeth thee.’

Here, it seems to mention that because G-d is your healer, he will not place any of the sicknesses upon you. If you have no sickness in the first place, what is there to "heal"?

Then, later it says:

Exodus 23:25:

וַעֲבַדְתֶּ֗ם אֵ֚ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵרַ֥ךְ אֶֽת־לַחְמְךָ֖ וְאֶת־מֵימֶ֑יךָ וַהֲסִרֹתִ֥י מַחֲלָ֖ה מִקִּרְבֶּֽךָ׃

And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.

In the 2nd verse, G-d is described as removing sickness that is already there. Note, that in both places, the word מַחֲלָ֖ה is used.

So regarding sickness as well as G-d's role as a "healer", which is it - preventing getting the sickness or removing the sickness?

I am aware that the term רופא in modern Hebrew means "doctor". Some doctors perform both roles - curing and preventing sickness (such as pediatricians.) However, I'm not sure if this dual role is what is being implied in the Torah's usage. Also, the word in the Torah seems to translate better as "healer" and not "doctor" which leads to the question of how you can heal something that isn't there.

  • Kramer: Jerry, as the Bible says; Thou who cureth, can maketh ill.
    – Loewian
    Feb 2, 2016 at 21:54

2 Answers 2


As you mentioned, "רפואה" can mean both things: healing an existing disease, or preventing a future one.

Rashi himself asks your question. He brings the midrash, which reads the passuk as "I will put none of the sicknesses upon thee... (yet if I will, it will be as though I didn't), for I am the LORD that healeth thee." The Siftei Chachamim explain that Rashi had your same difficulty (if He will not put the disease, what is there to heal?). So according to this explanation, one can read it this way: If you heed Me, I will not put the disease. Otherwise, I will, but it will be as thought I didn't, because I am your healer.

But Rashi doesn't think this enough, so he goes on and says that "פשוטו" is that Hashem teaches us Torah and mitzvot so as to prevent diseases, and this is what "אני ה' רפאך" means.

So in one Rashi you can see both concepts of "רופא" as you mentioned.

The Malbim goes another way and explains that when Hashem put the disease on Egypt, its objective was to "להכות, לא כדי לרפאות". But the objective of putting a disease on Israel is to heal them, like a doctor who cuts a patient in order to heal him. So according to this, one can read the passuk this way: the type of disease that I put on Egypt, the one with an objective of harming, and not healing, I will not put on you. (If I put a disease on you, it will be) because "אני ה' רפאך" - with the objective of healing you.

  • 1
    Interesting. Sounds almost like the concept behind placing the disease into the vaccine that prevents the disease. +1
    – DanF
    Feb 2, 2016 at 22:04

Rav Shternbauch explains in Taam Vadaas that Hashem will heal you spiritually so that you don't need the physical ailment as a punishment or to make you improve.

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