Jun 1 2010

My Son, The Doctor

A few years ago, Sherwin B. Nuland  published an insightful and intriguing article in the The New Republic entitled “My Son, The Doctor”, discussing the topic of Jews and medicine from a unique historical perspective. We feel Mr. Nuland makes a compelling case for culture as a driver of Jewish involvement in medicine, including referring to the biblical link between physical and moral purity while emphasizing that maintenance of health is maintenance of life. We wish to share this distinct perspective with you today.

‘though the medieval Muslims called both Jews and Christians the people of the book, Jews are in effect the people of the body as well.’ – Sherwin B. Nuland

Why is it, in fact, that so many Jews have become doctors? Here follows a twice-told tale that bears telling once again.

Imprisoned in a tower in Madrid, disabled by syphilis and further weakened by an abscess in his scalp, the French king Francis I asked of his captor, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, that he send his finest Jewish physician to attempt a cure. At some point after the doctor arrived, Francis, in an attempt at light conversation, asked him if he was not yet tired of waiting for the messiah to come. To his chagrin, he was told that his healer was not actually Jewish, but a converso who had long been a baptized Christian. Francis dismissed him, and arranged to be treated by a genuine Jew, brought all the way from Constantinople.

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