‘When the Rabbi Meets the Doctor’: Differing Attitudes to Medical Diagnosis Among Halakhic Authorities in Eastern and Central Europe in the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Century

  • Eliezer Sariel
Part of the Religion, Spirituality and Health: A Social Scientific Approach book series (RELSPHE, volume 3)


The purpose of this study is to assess the significance of changes in the attitudes of halakhic authorities in Poland to medical diagnosis during the transition from the early modern to the modern period, as reflected in the case of “Attribution of a sighting of blood to a lesion”. In the eighteenth century the halakhic discussion migrated westward to the German states, where a variety of approaches developed, most of them tending to rely on medical diagnosis. The differences between the attitudes of authorities in different geographic spheres can be explained by the differing status of the physicians: whereas in the German states physicians enjoyed an important status in Jewish society, in early modern Poland the quality of medical training was poor and they did not enjoy the prestige of their German counterparts. In the first half of the nineteenth century, we find a discussion of this matter among the authorities in Posen, a region that passed into the hands of Prussia and experienced an accelerated modernization process. Their approach lending legitimacy to medical diagnosis can be explained on the background of the shift among the authorities in the German states in combination with the increasing connection between Posen and Prussia and the improvement in the professional level of the physicians. The findings can facilitate a clearer understanding of the central processes in the development of Jewish Law and medicine in Jewish society in Poland.


Halakha Female period Rabbinic rulings Medical diagnosis 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eliezer Sariel
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Shaanan CollegeHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Ohalo CollegeKatzrinIsrael

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