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A Case of Gout

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The Jewish view on healing is that while all healing is in God’s power, the Almighty works His will through human hands. This being the case, it is interesting to note the tone of rebuke in the case recorded in II Chronicles 16:12: “In the 39th year of his reign, Asa was diseased in his feet; his disease was exceeding great; yet in his disease he did not seek God, but [went] to the physicians.” Asa, the third monarch of the Kingdom of Judah, was a righteous king who waged war against idolatry. As a known righteous man, why did he not pray for healing?

What was wrong with King Asa’s feet? According to Sotah 10a: Rav Judah said in the name of Rav, Podagra [gout] attacked him [Asa].” In a similar statement in Sanhedrin 48b, Gout is further defined “He was afflicted with gout. Mar Zutra the son of Rabbi Nahman asked Rabbi Nahman; What is it [gout] like?–He answered: Like a needle in the raw flesh.”

Gout is actually a form of recurrent inflammatory arthritis that most often strikes the big toe. A too rich diet is considered to be a major trigger for gout. Thus, for much of history, it was known as “the disease of kings” or “a rich man’s disease.”

At the end of his days, King Asa was stricken with what must have been perceived by him as a disease common to one in his position (an old, rich king). And while neither the Tanach nor the Midrash delve into his reasoning, one could imagine that he turned to the physicians rather than to prayer because he was only seeking pain management. But the Jewish view on healing means that one should both visit the physician and pray to God.

August is national foot health month.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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